Be careful and vigilant turning left at an intersection

Yielding on left turns

A driver from Rutland e-mailed with a concern regarding the intersection of Nickel Road and Highway 33.

Highway 33 is five lanes wide with a two-way left-turn lane in the middle and Nickel Road is a two-lane residential street.

The driver regularly stops and waits to turn left off of Highway 33 onto Nickel Road and is horrified when through traffic on the highway stops to allow her to make the turn.

She was involved in a crash in this intersection, one of 16 between 2017 and 2021, when an oncoming driver stopped and waved for her to complete her turn. A driver in the lane beside the polite motorist failed to yield the right-of-way and struck her vehicle.

She raises two issues, the danger to left-turning drivers in this situation and also the risk to the drivers who yield being struck from behind.

It's always dangerous when you turn left in an intersection. You usually have to cross over opposing lanes of traffic, which leaves you vulnerable in a crash. It also exposes you to drivers who would never think they might have to yield and let you turn left.

The rule in B.C. for turning left at an intersection requires you to yield to any opposing traffic in, or approaching, the intersection so closely it would be an immediate hazard. Once you have done this, opposing traffic must now yield to you and allow you to make your left turn.

Never, ever expect the on-coming drivers to follow this rule, even if you are at an intersection controlled by traffic lights that have turned yellow.

In fact, this may be one of the more dangerous times to try and turn. Drivers wanting to get through before the light turns red may not be watching for you.

The tendency of most drivers is simply to carry on if there is an empty lane in front of them. Little or no thought is given to why that vehicle ahead is slowing down or stopped. Many pedestrians and drivers trying to turn have found this out the hard way.

Even if you have the right of way, do not proceed until it is safe to carry out the movement. If you can't see, you can't go.

If you are at an intersection with traffic lights, it would be far safer to wait for them to turn red and have all the opposing traffic stop before making your turn. In this situation, you have right-of-way over cross-traffic facing the green light to do so.

That, of course, assumes you have properly entered the intersection on the green light to prepare for the turn.

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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