Red Means Stop, but not Always Stay

Red Traffic SignalThere is a mid-block pedestrian controlled light in our neighborhood and drivers frequently proceed through it after stopping if no one is in the cross walk. Is this legal?

Ask most drivers in B.C. and they will tell you that when you are facing a red traffic light, you must stop and stay stopped until the light turns green. The exception that may be raised is when you are making a permitted left or right turn and have come to a complete stop first and yielded as necessary.

This is correct if the traffic signal is at an intersection. Section 129(1) MVA says that a driver will stop and remain stopped until the traffic signal instructs the driver to proceed. There are two parts to the rule, stopping and remaining stopped until instructed otherwise. Here in B.C., that instruction would have to be a green signal.

Section 129(5) MVA covers a red light exhibited at a place other than an intersection. In this special case, the driver must stop and a pedestrian may proceed across the highway. There is only one part to this rule, and that is the stop. Once you have stopped and yielded to any pedestrians as necessary, you may proceed, even though the light is still red.

I agree, this seems contrary to what we usually practice and is not mentioned in Learn to Drive Smart or Learn to Ride Smart. None the less, if done with care, this is legal and can save time and fuel by reducing the wait. It is also safe because it is not at an intersection and there is no vehicular cross traffic to interfere with.

Reference Links:

Comments

Submitted by E-Mail

You quote Section 129(5) MVA pertaining to stopping at a red light that controls a pedestrian crosswalk. The one in question is at Comox Avenue and Rodello Street and services not only the hospital but an elementary school up the hill. My concern is that because most of us stop at red lights and expect other drivers to as well, that pedestrians trying to make the walk light will get hit by either this person or another reading this article when they carry on through the intersection thinking it is still clear. I have read section 129(5) in particular and it does not state that you can proceed even thought the light is still red. The crosswalk in my neighbourhood is on a corner and not mid-block, so I don't know if this makes it a bit different. In any case, it makes me very worried for anyone trying to "catch" the light in the future.

The Word "Intersection" is Critical to This

As you can see from the Google street view below, the place that the person making the comment is talking about is at an intersection. I've gone back to the article above and highlighted the text that explains that this can only occur where the traffic signal is NOT at an intersection. At this intersection drivers must stop and remain stopped for the duration of the red light unless they intend to turn right, in which case they must stop, yield and then proceed only if it is safe to do so.

what about 2 red lights?

On king st,and cranbrook st,  When heading south on king st,approching cranbrook st,,you are faced with 2 lights, and 2 lanes. The first light,is at the railway crossing,(with arms and flashing lights,if there were a train) then there are 2 tracks to cross,Left lane can turn left,or go stright,after the tracks,at the 2nd light,(with room for 2 cars,from the 2nd light back to the tracks,,the 3rd car,if it were to follow,would be partially on the tracks) The right lane,can fit 2 cars as well,but also has an island,with a right turn lane,So it spits to 3 lanes after the tracks.the right turn lane has a yield sign,

I had the driver Examiner from town here,in my taxi,and I was in the right lane.As me and the car in the left lane beside me,both just missing the green light,stopped at the first light,I looked both ways,no train comming,so I proceded to the 2nd red light and stopped.He could,nt answer me if I could get a ticket for not waiting till the first light had changed to green,before I proceeded to the second red light.He said no one had recived one yet,so we will have to see what would happen in court,if someone got one and fought it.

In heavier traffic,2 cars,moving up(after stopping) frees up the 3rd car to turn right. so better flow of traffic.

So is this legal,to proceed through the first red,after comming to a stop,and Obviouslly if there is no train comming?

With one caveat

"Once you have stopped and yielded to any pedestrians as necessary, you may proceed, even though the light is still red."

Non-intersection pedestrian controlled lights are typically marked as crosswalks. The one caveat to proceeding on a red light at a pedestrian controlled light is that the driver does not overtake another car that is slowing down for or stopped at the crosswalk of the light.

What about 2 red lights

It appears you are talking about Kings Street and Hwy 95 (at some locations called "Cranbrook Street").  From Google Maps it appears you are talking about travelling South bound on King.  Unless there are new lights, (Street View indicates in their photo's taken Oct 2018), the first set of lights are railway crossing lights and Street view does not show additional traffic lights.

None the less, the law is basically the same, although a different MVA section, this time Sec 185(6). After stopping at railway crossing lights one may proceed if he/she can do so safely.

The circumstance as you described was present on Clement Street in Kelowna. (the tracks has since been taken out)  A railway line crossed Clement a short distance before an intersection controled by a traffic light.  Where the railway crossed Clement there was a traffic signal that activated to match the traffic signal at the intersection (I think it was Gordon) 100 or so feet further on.  In that case the signal at the railway crossing, was a regular traffic signal.  After stopping, since it wasn't at an intersection of two highways, a vehicle could proceed through the red light when safe.

Is there a definition ...

... of what constitutes a red light AT an intersection?

The situation on Comox here, near the hospital, deserves consideration, in this respect. Because there is an adjacent cross street. So although proceeding 'against' that red light once all is clear is sensible, so long as the pedestrians have completed their crossings, and there is no potentially conflicting traffic on Rodello is clearly a safe action.

But I think my5cents might want to clarify his statement, in this respect, as I don't think that Section 185 was written with this situation of a flashing green light / amber / solid red (sequentially) was designed with this typically pedestrian control in effect. 

None the less, if there's a mid-block red light and a stop line, you must stop there. But once you've given right of way to crossing pedestrians,  bicycles, whatever, you can then drive through that red light. Why not? If you think about it.

People need to realize, traffic laws are designed both to prevent collisions with other road users AND to keep everything moving as efficiently as possible.

As an aside, I think that drivers turning right on a red, without any attempt to actually stop and look and think about all the possible conflicts - real or pending - should be clobbered by waiting police enforcement, on a regular basis.  But this does not happen and it will not happen, unless the practical policing of our roadways once again becomes a priority in society.

And sorry, I also just took this subject off topic.

Is there a definition...

The Motor Vehicle Act (MVA) does define an "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;

Section 185 pertains to Railway Crossings.

Perhaps there is some confusion as to when a vehicle can drive through a red light after stopping and yielding.  The criteria is "When a red light is exhibited at a place other than an intersection by a traffic control signal

The criteria does not involve a pedestrian activated signal it involves a signal not at an intersection.

As for Rodello St, and I gather Comox Ave in Comox.  Comox is an East/West through street, controlled at the intersection of Rodello St. by traffic lights.  Rodello St. is a side street controled by stop signs.  Rodello is offset by about 50 feet at this location forming two "T" intersections with Comox Ave.  The two streets intersection at a 90° angle.

Although this is an offset intersection, it is never the less is two intersections as defined by the MVA.  At these intersections there are basically two locations at which a vehicle must stop, in each direction.  Travelling in either direction, East or West bound a vehicle first arrives at a marked stop line.  If, on a yellow light a driver can't safely stop before that marked stop line it is not an offense to continue, however facing the same light, 50 feet along is a marked crosswalk at the second intersection of Rodello Street, where the vehicle would have to stop.

If a vehicle does stop at the marked stop line, and since this is a "T" intersection to the left, and Rodello Street is a two way street and there is no continuation of Rodello to the right (Rodello continues to the right about 50' further along), a vehicle must stop and remain so until a green light is exhibited.  (you can't turn left on a red light unless the street being turn onto is a one way)

Section 129 (5) doesn't apply because it is an intersection. 

Not quite convinced

This came up on reddit recently. I want to start by pointing out that I am not a lawyer and none of this is a legal opinion in any sense.

The question seems to center on the highlighted text below, seemingly implying that drivers can proceed on red at locations that are not at an intersection because the same text is not found in 129 (5):

129 (1) Subject to subsection (2), when a red light alone is exhibited at an intersection by a traffic control signal, the driver of a vehicle approaching the intersection and facing the red light must cause it to stop before entering the marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if there is no marked crosswalk, before entering the intersection,and subject to the provisions of subsection (3), must not cause the vehicle to proceed until a traffic control signal instructs the driver that he or she is permitted to do so.

(3) Despite subsection (1), and except when a right turn permitted by this subsection is prohibited by a sign at an intersection, the driver of a vehicle facing the red light, and which in obedience to it is stopped as closely as practicable to a marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if there is no marked crosswalk, as closely as practicable to the intersection, may cause the vehicle to make a right turn, but the driver must yield the right of way to all pedestrians and vehicles lawfully proceeding as directed by the signal at the intersection.

(4) When a red light alone is exhibited at an intersection by a traffic control signal,

(a) a pedestrian facing the red light must not enter the roadway unless instructed that he or she may do so by a pedestrian traffic control signal,

(b) except when a left turn permitted by this paragraph is prohibited by a sign at the intersection, the driver of a vehicle facing the red light at the intersection of not more than 2 highways, and which in obedience to it is stopped as closely as practicable to a marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if there is no marked crosswalk, as closely as practicable to the intersection, may cause the vehicle to make a left turn into a highway on which traffic is restricted to the direction in which he or she causes the vehicle to turn, but the driver must yield the right of way to all pedestrians and vehicles lawfully proceeding as directed by the signal at the intersection, and

(c) a pedestrian proceeding across the roadway and facing the red light exhibited after he or she entered the roadway

(i) must proceed to the sidewalk as quickly as possible, and

(ii) has the right of way for that purpose over all vehicles.

(5) When a red light is exhibited at a place other than an intersection by a traffic control signal,

(a) the driver of a vehicle approaching the signal must cause it to stop before entering the nearest marked crosswalk in the vicinity of the signal, or if there is no marked crosswalk, before reaching the signal, and

(b) a pedestrian may proceed across the roadway.

(Emphisis mine)

I think that's a mistake. I'd suggest that this wording is missing from 129 (5) because "the provisions of subsection (3)" are to do with turning on a red light which obviously does not apply at a non-intersection with nowhere to turn. I'm not so sure the highlighted text should be applied beyond the exceptions noted in section (3).

To further support this view, 129 (4) also exists with respect to signals at an intersection and does not have any language about having to wait on red after stopping.

Right Turn on Red

Your highlighted section permits a right turn on red at an intersection. This is not what is under discussion here.

I guess that's what I'm

I guess that's what I'm missing. This is the only part I see that discusses a need to wait for a seperate signal to proceed, and it seems specific to the right turn on red provisions. No such wording exists in subsection (4) or (5) even though subsection 4 also talks about red lights at a signal.

More

Subsections 1 to 4 deal with red lights at intersections. Subsection 5 deals with red lights in a place other than an intersection.

Understood. I just don't see

Understood. I just don't see wording in these sections that clearly requires you to wait when at an intersection and not when anywhere else. The closest I can find is within that highlighted section which I feel means something else.

It Does Mean Something Else

Subsection 1 says when you at at an intersection controlled by a red light you stop and stay stopped until permitted to go. That would be a green light.

It goes on to say (your highlight) that if you are going to make a permitted right turn, you stop, yield and proceed when safe to do so, even if the signal is still red.

Subsection 4 is essentially the same thing as 3, but allows for a left turn on red onto a one way street.

Finally, subsection 5 says that when the red light is not at an intersection, you stop, the pedestrian crosses and following that there is no instruction requiring that you remain stopped as the general case (1) requires. So, having yielded, you may continue.

I guess I just don't see

I guess I just don't see anywhere that says you must stay put in the section the before my highlight? Here is that section by itself up to but not including the part I originally highlighted. Nothing in this excerpt says you must stay in place at a red:

129 (1) Subject to subsection (2), when a red light alone is exhibited at an intersection by a traffic control signal, the driver of a vehicle approaching the intersection and facing the red light must cause it to stop before entering the marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if there is no marked crosswalk, before entering the intersection,

Back to my highlight now:

and subject to the provisions of subsection (3), must not cause the vehicle to proceed until a traffic control signal instructs the driver that he or she is permitted to do so.

Note my highlight is not actually the part that covers right turn on red as you indicate. It's within my highlighted excerpt (underlined) that we see the only reference suggesting one needs to wait until a traffic control signal instructs them to proceed. Where I'm stuck is on whether the omission of this same wording ("must not cause the vehicle to proceed until a traffic control signal instructs the driver that he or she is permitted to do so") later in subsection (5) is really intended to allow one to pass a red signal after the pedestrians are clear when not at an intersection which is the crux of this article. There are a few reasons to wonder this:

  • It's conceivable to me that they included the extra text about not proceeding until instructed for the "at intersection" case in order to create the left and right turn on red exceptions, never intending to imply that in the "non-intersection" case drivers don't need to wait.
  • Section 128 on steady yellow lights states you must stop (if you can), but does not include any wording on waiting for a device to instruct a driver to proceed. I don't think anyone would interpret that omission that to mean you can proceed after stopping at a steady yellow light (a legal loophole maybe?)
  • Pedestrian signals are actually a small minority of non-intersection red lights. What about at smaller Ferry loading docks with loading lights, temporary signals on construction sites, lift/one way bridges, etc.? All of these use red lights not at intersections and not all of them have additional devices like gates.
  • The sections on flashing red lights provide wording to explain when you can pass the (flashing) red light.
  • Section 186 of the act only says that you shall stop at a stop sign similar to Section 5, but the regs add in Division 23 Schedule 1 that you must come to a complete stop and then proceed when safe (where other sections of the Act covering yielding presumably kick in).

So, this gets us to the question that only a legal interpretation (or some case law) could truly answer. Subsection (5) stays silent and neither provides the conditions for when a driver can pass the red signal as we see in other sections, nor does it explicitly say a driver must wait until instructed to proceed by another signal.

Sorry

I guess you are going to need help from someone other than me.

Logic

Y'know, traffic laws are usually based on logic.

And if you stop at a mid-block pedestrian crosswalk, and allow the pedestrian(s) to cross, there's no logical reason to remain there, staring at the red light, now is there?

Perhaps more to the point, there's no law that requires you to remain stationary either, is there?

Incidentally, pedestrian controlled lights were invented about sixty years ago, and were intended only for mid-block use. Think about that, and it becomes obvious that expecting drivers to remain until the red light goes out makes little sense, does it?

The article and these

The article and these comments focus on Pedestrian Signals, but they are by no means the only place one might see a stand alone red indication not at an intersection. In fact, they are a slim minority.

The province has signals for tunnel closure systems, temporary/construction, one way bridges, lift bridges, fire halls, ferry terminals, etc. that would also fall under this section. All of these applications have very good (logical, even) reasons why one shouldn't just stop and then proceed on a red light just because it isn't at an intersection.

"Subject to" muddles the water

"I guess I just don't see anywhere that says you must stay put in the section the before my highlight? Here is that section by itself up to but not including the part I originally highlighted. Nothing in this excerpt says you must stay in place at a red."

Your highlighted portion is still part of 129(1).  You are being confused by the “subject to” the legal jargon muddles the water.

If you removed all the “subjects to” it's much clearer.  The "subjects to" talk about other circumstances other than just arriving at a red light at an intersection, when you are not intending on turning or doing anything other that drive up and stop.  Without them you get….

129(1)When a red light alone is exhibited at an intersection by a traffic control signal, the driver of a vehicle approaching the intersection and facing the red light must cause it to stop before entering the marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if there is no marked crosswalk, before entering the intersection, and, must not cause the vehicle to proceed until a traffic control signal instructs the driver that he or she is permitted to do so.

When a red light alone is exhibited at an intersection by a traffic control signal...-

  • "Red light alone",,,, not a red light and a flashing green arrow to the right left, or whatever
  • "At an intersection" (see the definition of an intersection in the Motor Vehicle Act), ie not mid block, not at a railway crossing (which would change things)
  • "traffic control signal" .... not another type of red light on a building, on another vehicle, etc

the driver of a vehicle approaching the intersection and facing the red light must cause it to stop

  • "the driver", not the passenger, not the owner, the person driving
  • "of a vehicle" ...this law applies to vehicles as defined in the Motor Vehicle Act
  • "approaching the intersection and facing the red light"... this law applies to a red light in front of the vehicle, and the vehicle is coming up to it.
  • "must cause it to stop",,,, not slow down, not change lanes, not speed up, STOP.  Unlike a yellow light that provides "unless the stop cannot be made in safety", with a red light you stop, period.

before entering the marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if there is no marked crosswalk, before entering the intersection

  • this section of the act requires "the driver",,, "to stop", now it's tell the driver where to stop,   If it just said must stop before arriving at the intersection, that could mean three blocks away, at home.  This specifies where to stop in relation to the intersection being described

and, must not cause the vehicle to proceed until a traffic control signal instructs the driver that he or she is permitted to do so

  • "must not proceed" ,,, remain stopped, unlike other circumstances contained in the "subject to's" that have been removed
  • "until a traffic control signal" - this section pertains to traffic signals, all instruction comes from them, not "stop for 15 seconds", "until safe" etc.
  • "instructs the driver to do so" - there is no option, the "do so" refers to "proceed"

The only thing that

The only thing that "confused" me is this:

DriveSmartBC

Subsection 1 says when you at at an intersection controlled by a red light you stop and stay stopped until permitted to go. That would be a green light. [TRUE]

It goes on to say (your highlight) that if you are going to make a permitted right turn, you stop, yield and proceed when safe to do so, even if the signal is still red.[...]

[commentary mine]

...because as you point out, my highlighted excerpt is part of (1) and is not the content that covers the allowance to turn right on red as this reply suggests. I assert that my highlighted text is the subject of this article because it is the part (and only part) that talks about not proceeding until instructed. All I wanted was a clarification on that point and I tried a few ways to get it but it does not appear it will ever happen.

As for the rest, my discussion is about whether this language missing from (5) [and to a lesser extent (4)] is really intended to permit drivers to pass a red signal after stopping. I don't deny the highlighed part says what it says and means what it means. I am just suggesting the reason it may have been included is to set up the right turn on red exception and its omission from (5) is not intended to create a situation for permission to pass a red signal after stopping when not at an intersection.

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