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Behind-the-Wheel

Turning left when the traffic light is red

Left turn on a red light

When I was relatively new to police work, I was patrolling behind a car that stopped at a red light with the left turn signal blinking.

The next thing I knew, the car 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,” said the driver.

I collected his documents and went back to my 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 apologized with a face that was likely just as red as that traffic light had been.

While we are talking about the Motor Vehicle Act, section 165 says left turns on red lights must be made from the left most lane of the street you are leaving and into the first available lane of travel on the street you are entering.

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

The right-of-way rules for left turns apply. Drivers turning left on a 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 don’t. 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 also 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 B.C.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



More Behind the Wheel articles

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About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

To comment, please email

To learn more, visit DriveSmartBC



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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