Left Turn on Red

Left Turn on Red

Understanding a Left Turn on Red

When 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 section 129 on red lights carefully. This driver was absolutely correct! I gave his documents back and apologised with a face that was likely just as red as that traffic light had been.

The Law

While we are looking at the Motor Vehicle Act, section 165 says that left turns on red must be made from the left most lane of the street you are leaving to the first available lane of travel on the street that you are entering.

Unless you are turning from a one way street, remember that you will have to look further across the intersection for other road users when shoulder checking before making a left turn on red. Traffic will not be right beside our vehicle as it is when you make a right turn on red.

The right of way rules for left turns apply. Drivers turning left on red must yield to both cross traffic and right turn traffic on the other side of the intersection as necessary.

Some drivers will be upset that you make this turn and some will be upset if you do not. As always, you need to choose to do what you are comfortable with to be safe and that choice may be to wait for the light to change.

Left turns may be prohibited by signs at intersections. The prohibition could forbid all left turns or left turns during specific times of the day.

Laws are not uniform across North America and you will have to make sure that this turn is permitted before you do it when driving outside of BC.

Tim Schewe

Road Safety Advocate


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