Q&A - Right Turns After the Turn Lane

Q&A ImageA few of us have recently been discussing whether a certain type of turn is legal or not, with differing opinions. I'm hoping someone here might be able to settle the matter.

There are many intersections with a channelized right turn lane, where drivers turning right are separated by a small island from through and/or left turning traffic. Here's an example of one of these intersections:

Obviously, if someone was planning to turn right, they would use the channel at the far right. Now, what if a driver pulled up to the stop line planning to go straight through the intersection, but then changed their mind and wanted to make a right turn. Would it be legal to do so? Does the presence of the channelized right turn lane imply that right turns beyond that point are illegal?

I've seen a few intersections with signage or lane markings explicitly prohibiting right turns in such a situation (or at least implicitly, like an "only straight through" arrow), but most don't have any signage or lane markings prohibiting it. Personally, I always thought it was legal to make a right turn at the intersection. Am I wrong?


Good question!

On the face of it, Section 165 (1) seems cut and dried, as it were:

165  (1) If the driver of a vehicle intends to turn it to the right at an intersection, the driver must cause it to approach the intersection and then make the turn as close as practicable to the right hand curb or edge of the roadway.


Let's get our definition of 'intersection' understood.

"intersection" means the area embraced within the prolongation or connection of the lateral curb lines, or if none, then the lateral boundary lines of the roadways of the 2 highways that join one another at or approximately at right angles, or the area within which vehicles travelling on different highways joining at any other angle may come in conflict;

So we had better know what a 'roadway' is ...

"roadway" means the portion of the highway that is improved, designed or ordinarily used for vehicular traffic, but does not include the shoulder, and if a highway includes 2 or more separate roadways, the term "roadway" refers to any one roadway separately and not to all of them collectively;

... and, of course, a 'highway'

"highway" includes

(a) every highway within the meaning of the Transportation Act,

(b) every road, street, lane or right of way designed or intended for or used by the general public for the passage of vehicles, and

(c) every private place or passageway to which the public, for the purpose of the parking or servicing of vehicles, has access or is invited,

Now I'm pretty darned certain that if you're in the curving roadway with the white arrow pointing you to turn right, you gotta turn right there.

But, is that in fact a separate intersection of two roads meeting from the one a few metres to the left?


Good Answer!

This is a good question for examination.

If your intent to turn right is formed prior to the intersection, you are guided by section 165 and approach close to the right curb. In doing so, you are then bound by the right turn arrow painted on the pavement surface and must turn right.

If your initial intent is to travel straight through, you find yourself in the through lane instead and once past the start of the island separating through and right turn traffic have another curb on your right (curb: an enclosing frame, border, or edging).

So, if your intent changes once you are no longer legally able to move into the right turn lane because you have moved past the entry, your next opportunity to turn right is at the intersection and you can again be as close as possible to the right hand curb to accomplish it.

If there are no signs or markings above or on the through lanes requiring a specific movement, I cannot see where the law prohibits making a safe right turn from this position.

As an aside, I would say that extra caution is required as traffic in the right turn lane probably isn't expecting you to do this and in some phases of the traffic signals may even fail to check for your presence at all.

I suspect that this might be a case of the Motor Vehicle Act not being kept up to date with highway design practice. When originally enacted, I'd bet that right turn lanes like this were not a feature that one found at intersections. Once they became common design, should the legislation have been updated to mandate right turns occurring only from the available right turn lane? I guess that's the next question to think about...

I think we're on the same page with this one.

I also had this thought - give a read to MVA Section 173 Yield Signs, this bit in particular:

(2) Except as provided in section 175, if 2 vehicles approach or enter an intersection from different highways at approximately the same time and there is a yield sign, the driver of a vehicle facing the sign must yield the right of way to all other traffic.

To my mind, this implies that Yield signs will only be placed at intersections (even if it's the intersection of a short highway access ramp and the highway itself).

That being the case, then the place where the Yield sign is placed must in fact be an intersection, in and of itself, and separate from the 'main' intersection where the roads meet at right angles to each other.


In most cases arrows are painted on the ground at intersections which should simplify the illlegality of the manoeuvre 


At an intersection like that, it would be highly unusual for them to paint white arrows on the dark road surface, to indicate that the 'straight', or through, lanes were mandated to only go straight, or through.

Unlike the arrows painted in the left-turn chute and the right turn channel.

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