Left Turn on Red

No Left Turn SignWhen I was relatively new to police work I was patrolling behind a car that had stopped at a red light with the left turn signal blinking. The next thing I knew, this car had turned left against the red light! Well, on went the lights and siren and I chased down this alleged red light runner. This would be an easy ticket, or so I thought.

"What do you mean officer?" asked the driver. "I'm allowed to turn left on a red light if I turn onto a one way street!"

I collected his documents and went back to the police car. Out came my copy of the Motor Vehicle Act and I read the section on red lights carefully. This driver was absolutely correct! I gave his documents back and apologized with a face that was likely just as red as that traffic light had been.

My lesson for the day was that in British Columbia, if I was turning left in the proper direction onto a one way street, I could do so after I had stopped at the red light and yielded to traffic as necessary. However, this type of turn may be prohibited by a sign at the intersection and may be prohibited entirely in other jurisdictions.

A great travel reference is the Digest of Motor Laws published by the American / Canadian Automobile Association.



Driver Training

Back in the day when I still taught newbies how to drive, I liked to introduce them to the left turn potential presented when southbound on Burrard, turning eastbound into Nelson. It would be made clear of course that however the turn gets made, it should be from the left-most lane to the left-most lane available, per MVA Section 165(3).

Take a look, here's an overview. That there left turn can be accomplished in any of three different ways!

  • Left on advance green arrow - referred to as a 'Protected Turn'. Northbound traffic continues to face a solid red light, pedestrians in the east side crosswalk continue to face a 'Don't Walk', so that a bunch of vehicles will get to turn unimpeded.
  • Left on solid green light. The end of the green arrow phase simply turns this (clever play on words, there) into a typical left turn, where it is incumbent on the driver to yield to both oncoming traffic and pedestrians in the east side crosswalk before making the turn.
  • Left on solid red light. Suddenly the possible conflicts have changed! The driver has to ensure that he/she won't interfere with or affect the behaviour of the pedestrians in the immediate, north side crosswalk - or, the eastbound traffic on Nelson. Probably more potential for making this maneuver at 1:00 am than 1:00 pm, given the traffic volumes.

Street view, here. I wonder if the driver of that red taxi knows what's possible, whilst still being legal?


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