Q: Right Turns without Stop Signs (Right of way basics) & Right Turn Shoulder Checking
Q: What is the proper procedure for right turns without stop signs?
Usually if you’re turning right and you do not have a stop sign (or red light), then it means:
- you’re turning right into a driveway, parking lot, or lane (alley).
- you’re turning right at an uncontrolled intersection.
- you’re turning right at a 2-way stop intersection where you’re on the “thru” street.
For information about turning at uncontrolled intersections, see this post: Uncontrolled Intersections.
If you’re turning right at a 2-way stop intersection like the one pictured below, then technically you need to yield only to pedestrians (of course, yield to any vehicle that is not lawfully occupying the space. i.e. a vehicle that fails to yield to you). All other traffic is supposed to yield to you; any car facing a stop sign, and any oncoming car (the one facing you) that may be planning to turn left.
Normally for a turn like this, there are four common situations:
- There are no vehicles (or any vehicles at the intersection are clearly yielding) and there are no pedestrians anywhere.
- There are no vehicles (or any vehicle at the intersection is clearly yielding) but there are pedestrians walking across the street you want to turn right onto.
- There are no vehicles (or any vehicle at the intersection is clearly yielding), but there are pedestrians wanting to walking across the street in front of you.
- Vehicles who are supposed to yield, aren’t. In this case, honk and/or slow down and/or stop to prevent the collision if necessary. Always watch out for others. There’s the rules, but, what actually happens may be different. Be prepared.
Let’s go through these situations one at a time.
1) If there are no vehicles (or vehicles are clearly yielding to you as they should) and there are no pedestrians anywhere, then normally you:
- Scan the intersection (well in advance if possible)
- Slow down to about 20 km/hr
- Do a right mirror check and shoulder check to make sure there are no pedestrians or cyclists
- Move your vehicle over towards the right curb if possible
- And then simply turn (Look where you want to go).
2) If there are no vehicles (or any vehicle at the intersection is clearly yielding) but there are pedestrians walking across the street you want to turn right onto:
- Shoulder check and move your vehicle out of the way of the traffic behind you when possible
- Move into the intersection while waiting for the pedestrian(s). This lets other drivers know you are getting ready to turn and avoids confusion
- Wait patiently for the pedestrians
- Shoulder check again to make sure there are no more pedestrians
- Then, simply turn – look where you want to go.
3) If there are no vehicles (or any vehicle at the intersection is clearly yielding), but there are pedestrians wanting to walking across the street in front of you, then stop clearly before the intersection so that vehicles behind can tell why you’re stopping, and to allow cross traffic to potentially proceed (since you have to stop anyway.) Then, proceed as above.
For turning right into parking lots, driveways, and lanes, it is much the same principles, if not exactly the same as the above. Do not stop if there is no reason to.
Normally when you’re driving, you are not expected to stop unless you have a good reason to. Good reasons to stop include things like stop signs, yellow lights, pedestrians, cars doing things they shouldn’t, stopping to yield before a left turn, etc.
If drivers habitually stop in the above situations before turning right, they will not pass the ICBC road test. This is because there is a danger of being rear-ended. In addition, other drivers may become confused if you stop. After all, the right turn should go first in these circumstances. When people are confused, accidents can happen. In certain cases, you may have to proceed very slowly due to bad visibility or tight quarters, but normally on these types of right turns, if there are no pedestrians, you would just slow to 20 km/hr, shoulder check, and then just turn.
Many moons ago, Carmen became an ICBC-approved driving instructor at the age of 22 in North Vancouver, and has spent many years working with new and experienced drivers around the lower mainland. She can be found reading the Motor Vehicle Act for fun while receiving strange looks from others. May the quest for great driving continue!
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