What New Drivers Should Know About Exiting Intersections on a Yellow or Red Light

(Last Updated On: April 22, 2017)

Q: I just failed my N road test because my instructor said I was not going the speed limit of 50km/h. I was maintaining speed of 45-48 on city roads because it was rush hour and there was alot of traffic. He also said I got a violation for being in an intersection on a red light. I was turning left so I entered the intersection on a green and waited for a good sized gap to turn but there were lots of cars turning right so I had to wait for them to merge as it was a single lane road I was turning on to. As I was waiting the light turned red and cars were still turning right so I was stuck until I had room to merge. I thought I am legally allowed to finish my turn when SAFE? And its legal to be within 5km/hr of the speed limit right? I don’t think I was failed for legit reasons, is there any way to contest it?

 

LEFT_RIGHT

 

 

I’m not sure about the speed, the appropriate speed depends on so many things; some examiners are more picky than others. I would think 45-48 would be close enough. I guess it’s better to go 50 km/hr or 49 km/hr if conditions are good. 

 

By all means, never turn left until you know for sure that it is safe to go. Turning left is one of the most dangerous things we do as drivers. However, there are some things new drivers should be aware of. 

 

When the light first went yellow and then red where was your car? Was it still in the exact same spot, not moving at all? This is a difficult situation because those right turning cars are facing the same yellow/red light as you and legally they are supposed to be stopping before the intersection once the light is yellow (unless they are past their point of no return), allowing you to leave. However they have bad habits and will happily turn anyway, especially if it looks like the driver of the left turning car doesn’t really want to turn left too badly and is fine sitting in the middle of the intersection for almost forever.

 

If there are still many right turning cars trying to happily turn after the light has gone yellow or especially red, that is when you need to start leaving the intersection anyway; at least get the car moving forward, at the very least take your foot off the brake and put it towards the gas pedal, and Do either honk at the right turning car that is obviously not supposed to be turning at that moment, and/or start turning and turn after the last right-turning car whenever it is safe. In that case it’s Okay to start rolling towards your turn, as long as it’s obvious those cars are turning right and not going straight. But you do not want to stay completely stopped inside the intersection. In large intersections the other traffic facing the green light would then start to go in certain cases and this would leave you in a dangerous spot. Not to mention like I said about the right turing cars, they might think you’re day dreaming so it’s Ok for them to turn before you. You gotta show them that you seriously want to turn left.

 

Here is a similar idea. Say you drive down the road going 15 km/hr on a 50 km/hr zone main road and there is no reason to do that. All of the oncoming cars that want to turn left are going to turn in front of you, because you’re going to slowly, so that’s fine right? They can probably turn quite close to you and it will still be safe, because of your slow speed. Imagine the same road, and you’re driving 70 km/hr. Cars turning left will see this car coming and they won’t turn in front of it; there’s not enough time/space. It’s kind of like that. If the right turn cars see you sitting there completely stopped, it seems fine for them to go, because there’s still a lot of space between the vehicles, and the left turn car looks like it’s basically hibernating inside the intersection. However if they see you getting ready to book it the hell out of there, they will likely stop, because deep down, they know that they’re supposed to and they just were going to still turn IF they could get away with it. No, they aren’t supposed to be driving like this. It makes for  a slightly hostile learning environment for new drivers. How many people reading this have been guilty of turning right on a yellow/red light, just because you could see that it was still ‘safe,’ and there were no left turning cars, despite the fact that this is illegal?

 

The same goes for pedestrians who are happily BEGINNING to cross the crosswalk right when the light goes yellow/red and you’re turning left. They have no right to be there at that moment, that is your moment to leave the intersection. So similarly in that case if I was driving I would start my turn, honk the horn, and then turn after they are out of the way; and I believe that’s what they want to see on the road test as well. (This is called being ASSERTIVE……. not AGGRESSIVE!)

/rant

 

 

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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  • Clarke

    “How many people reading this have been guilty of turning right on a yellow/red light, just because you could see that it was still ‘safe,’ and there were no left turning cars, despite the fact that this is illegal?” you got me :p

    • It is interesting isn’t it how some things are unsafe AND illegal, other things seem safe but they are illegal, and yet other things are legal but maybe not safe, and yet other things are safe but they are illegal! Oh I bet I could write a whole other essay about that… lol. I’ll admit it too. I am not the perfect driver all the time.

      • Clarke

        LOL it’s like a tongue twister! Actually I don’t feel guilty just because I turned right at yellow/red, but felt sorry in the case as in the question for the upcoming left-turning driver….

        • Yeah like do those people know they made this poor guy fail his road test?!?! Obviously the learner needs to act the correct way. But Still! Do they know? lol

          • Clarke

            I wonder how many times we have “accidentally” failed someone else’s road test during our daily driving (or walking) ? The world is so cruel….

            • lol Every day, All Day! That’s the task for the new driver though. Figure out how to deal with it all and stay safe 😉

              • Clarke

                Yeah you got the point. This is the situation they have to face and handle everyday after they got the license. They should be able to do that.