Q&A - To Turn Left or Not to Turn Left

Q&A ImageOn the East side of this intersection there is a parking lot with apartments, a hotel, shopping etc. On the West side there is a 7-11 gas station, grocery store, bank etc. The West side has a meridian for entering/exiting. The only signage is for merging & do not enters. There is no signage that states you cannot turn left to go Northbound on the Highway. And technically there is no signage stating that while travelling Northbound on the Highway, you cannot make a left turn to go West to the parking lot.

There is a debate as to whether or not left turns are legal here because : A) this is a double solid yellow line B) it's a Highway C) the merge lane to go Southbound on the Highway

I looked for clarification online and I was able to find some information :

"There is only one exemption to the requirement to keep right and that is when a driver is entering or leaving a highway. The onus is on the driver making the turn to exercise "a very high degree of care" and to keep a "sharp lookout" when crossing a double solid line."

"The ICBC driving guide, "RoadSense for Drivers", has summarized these provisions as follows: "Most drivers expect other traffic to turn at an intersection. Sometimes you may wish to turn left in the middle of a block, such as a driveway. While it is safer to plan your route so that you can make a right turn, you may turn left-including turning left over a solid double yellow line-provided you do this carefully and safely and don't impede other traffic, and there are no signs prohibiting such turns."

"Can a motorist cross a double solid yellow line to turn left onto another Highway or Street? Yes, crossing the solid double yellow lines to turn left at an intersection is legal"

Everything that I have read makes me feel stronger in my belief that is it legal to turn left going either a West or North as you are exiting or entering the Highway - as long as you're not impeding traffic, you are using a high degree of care and it is of course safe to do so.

However, there is still arguments as it's "not a driveway" (as stated as an example in the driving guides) and that it is merge lanes, not turn lanes.

In my opinion, if you are trying to turn left going Northbound, you can stay left of the merge lane, allowing traffic behind you to still go right, and you can wait for a safe time to cross the Highway. If you are travelling Northbound on the Highway and wanting to turn left to go in the West entrance of the parking lot, you could as well as long as you are safe and you're not impeding traffic behind you.


Maybe legal, definitely silly.

As a legal exercise I tend to agree, there doesn't seem to be a language in the law that would explicitly prohibit what you describe.

However, you'd have to be a special kind of special to think that such maneuver would be OK in everyday driving.

1) Driver's expectations: The intent of the engineering department is obvious in this regard. The raised island is there to prevent exactly the kind of turns you describe. Drivers around you would have no clue as to what you are doing and that is inherently unsafe. You have to be predictable as a driver.

2) Convenience: There are two full featured intersections that you have direct access to just a couple of hundred meters either way. You have to be cognizant of hazards and take a safer option whenever one is available as a driver.

At the core of driving lies a fundamental duty of care, and I think you should exercise discretion as a driver to the benefit of other road users and habitually avoid creating unnecessary hazards of your own, even if they appear to be legal on paper. Especially when a safer option is literally right around the corner.

In the case of turning left to go Northbound from the merge lane:
- Drivers going North/South on the highway do not expect you to appear there.
- Drivers pulling out of the Super 8 to go North/South on the highway do not expect you to appear there.
- Drivers merging right onto the highway would have their vision blocked by your vehicle and could not safely proceed, so you would be impeding traffic.

In the case of turning left to go into the merge lane:
- Drivers on the highway would not expect yout to left turn there, coupled with vehicles pulling out of the Super 8 this could create a no escape route for the traffic behind you on the highway.
- Drivers finding themselves in the merge lane may decide to change their mind about turning right and would be looking to get back into the left lane on the highway, and the person they may cut-off may collide with you head-on.

In-case of a high speed collision - the raised island may serve as a launching ramp to a vehicle that may inadvertently hit it, launching it into the air, causing it to rip off the roof of an unsuspecting vehicle decapitating the innocent driver and the passenger.

Not just silly, but stupid

It's obvious that there should be a short solid yellow line leading up to the triangular island (actually, the solid line on each of the curved sides should be yellow, not white) defining that you're on a two-way street, as well as a white arrow on the road surface pointing you toward a mandatory right turn.  Perhaps even a white regulatory sign with a right-angled black arrow within a green circle to make it really clear.

The high speed collision scenario, well I find that a bit unlikely, to be honest. Besides, those raised islands allow for fire trucks or particularly long or wide semi-trailer units to use the area to help them turn, same reason they use those aprons around the middle of some traffic circles and roundabouts.

Not so much editing, but adding an idea here.

It would seem likely to me that the design and execution of that there intersection is down to the local government in Osoyoos; 'amateur hour' is the term that comes to mind. Highly doubtful they even have a proper Traffic Engineer on staff.

But jurisdiction is probably under Provincial Highways, and if they are properly notified and asked to investigate, their authority and responsibility will rule over any local City Council, as well as fudiciary responsibility; in other words, they'll fix it, quickly and properly.

Look here for info, or simply call (or email, but the phone call is free anyway) Enquiry BC and ask them to connect you with the local provincial authority.



Answer From MOTI

I asked the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to comment on the configuration of this intersection. Here is the response I received from a traffic operations engineer:

To answer your question regarding the access on Highway 3 in Osoyoos, with its existing condition and signing, it is determined that it is legal to make left turn out of the access.

However, when such accesses are marked with regulatory signs such as ‘right turn only,’ it will only be legal to make right turns.

Also as MVA section 156 suspends section 155, vehicles are allowed to enter the highway when safe to do so where it implies crossing a solid double lines.

So, absent the signage, this intersection may be used as if it were a common 90 degree intersection even though it appears visually to require otherwise.

I followed up the response with a question about why the signage was not posted to require the obvious intent of the intersection design. Stay tuned.

Out of curiosity, I had a look at ICBC's Southern Interior crash mapping. This intersection has seen 6 reported crashes from 2011 to 2015, 1 of which caused a casualty. That places it 12th on the list, but of the 12, Main Street and Highway 3 appear to be general, non-specific locations.

June 18, 2019

The stop sign at this location now has a No Left Turn sign mounted below it.

Better than no improvement.

However, in my opinion there are too many traffic engineers who eagerly put up signs that say 'Don't do this, that, whatever' instead of signs that simply indicate what you should do.

As a wise man once remarked ...

Perhaps even a white regulatory sign with a right-angled black arrow within a green circle to make it really clear.

It's just a matter of one's mind-set.

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