What to know about trying to back out of an intersection

Forward not back

Twice in the past week, I've watched drivers who were stopped legally in the intersection signalling a left turn back out of the intersection when the traffic light they were facing turned red.

Why would a driver do that? The action is completely out of context, and unsafe.

In that situation, surrounding traffic is not expecting a driver to suddenly reverse. They will either pull directly up to the stop line, or may even attempt to follow the left-turning vehicle through on the red.

At best there is no room to back into, interfering with cross traffic and, at worst, a collision will result.

In British Columbia, it is not legal to move backwards over a crosswalk. This rule prohibits backing out of an intersection in urban locations.

Remember, a crosswalk does not have to be marked with paint on the roadway to exist.

Those drivers had the right of way—once the signal they were facing turned red—to complete their left turn safely. Cross traffic cannot legally enter on a green light until the left turning vehicle exits the intersection.

If anyone on the cross street honk their vehicle’s horn at you, remember, they're in the wrong.

Left-turning vehicles also have the benefit of the red light overlap, a signal phase where all directions are shown a red light. It's brief but it will give you a moment where all traffic should be stopped and you can complete your turn.

Remember, once you have entered an intersection, the proper way out is by going forward. Backing out of the situation is not the correct choice.

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

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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.

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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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