How To Turn Right At Green Lights [Canada] – Epic Tutorial

Turning right at green lights

How To Turn Right at Green Lights – Beautiful British Columbia, Canada

Introduction…

Knowing how to turn right at green lights safely is another one of those important skills that learners, new drivers, and all drivers must practice to get really good at.

And while turning right at green lights doesn’t seem as dangerous as turning left at an intersection, it’s somehow more difficult and complicated to teach to a new driver (and to learn).

That is why I would always teach left turns at traffic lights first. Also, learners would know how to turn left and could avoid terrifying their parents too much when they went to practice driving.

In this article, I’m going to break this all down and discuss some of the most common sources of confusion for new drivers and all drivers when turning right at green lights – busy intersections. Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Feel free to also check out other related articles on this site: How to Turn Left at a Traffic Light Safely and Guide to Turning Right on a Red Light.

Preparing for your ICBC road test? Be sure to check out my epic article: ICBC Road Test Tips For Classes 5 & 7 [Instructor Gets Deep].

Table of Contents

turning right at green lights
Turning right at a green light

BC Motor Vehicle Act – Turning At Intersections, Green Lights

Turning at intersections

165   (1)If the driver of a vehicle intends to turn it to the right at an intersection, the driver must cause it to approach the intersection and then make the turn as close as practicable to the right hand curb or edge of the roadway.

Green light

127   (1)When a green light alone is exhibited at an intersection by a traffic control signal,

(a) the driver of a vehicle facing the green light

i). may cause the vehicle to proceed straight through the intersection, or to turn left or right, subject to a sign or signal prohibiting a left or right turn, or both, or designating the turning movement permitted,

(ii) must yield the right of way to pedestrians lawfully in the intersection or in an adjacent crosswalk at the time the green light is exhibited, and

(iii). must yield the right of way to vehicles lawfully in the intersection at the time the green light became exhibited, and

(b). a pedestrian facing the green light may proceed across the roadway in a marked or unmarked crosswalk, subject to special pedestrian traffic control signals directing him or her otherwise, and has the right of way for that purpose over all vehicles.

Beautiful British Columbia Motor Vehicle Act Opens in a new tab.

Who Has The Right Of Way When Turning Right at Green Lights?

Wondering who has the right-of-way when turning right at green lights? Nobody really “has the right-of-way.” The driving school would have absolutely positively fired me if I ever started teaching people that they simply ever “had the right of way.”

What is right of way while driving?
Let’s get technical. Right of way is equal to “that space at that time.”

Rather than thinking someone “has the right of way,” certain road users should yield to others. It doesn’t mean they’re actually going to. Driving is dangerous, and we utilize this kind of attitude to greatly reduce risk.

Pedestrians and cyclists may proceed first. Right turns must yield to people in the crosswalk. Left turns must yield to people in the crosswalk as well as any opposing or conflicting traffic.

But in theory, and generally speaking here:

Who has the right of way when turning left or right on a solid green light?

Pedestrians may proceed across the crosswalk when they have the “walk” signal. Right-turning vehicles must yield to pedestrians and cyclists. Left-turning vehicles must yield to pedestrians, cyclists, and any other conflicting or oncoming traffic, including right-turning vehicles when there is a solid green light at an intersection.

who has the right of way when turning left on a solid green light
Who has the right of way when turning left on a solid green light?

Yield to whoever was there first

One good thing to realize about driving right-of-way is that no matter what kind of traffic control device there is – or isn’t – at any particular location, and no matter what is “supposed to happen,” drivers must legally yield to any other road user that has entered any space before they did. If it got there before you, yield.

You must yield to any road user that was in any space before you
You must yield to any road user that was in any space before you.

How To Turn Right – Do You Have To Stop At a Green Light When Turning Right?

No, don’t stop at a green light when you’re turning right unless there’s a good reason: you’re yielding to pedestrians and/or cyclists, or if you’re stopping for a particular reason such as another vehicle already in the space. If there are left-turning vehicles in the intersection, they are supposed to be yielding to you.

Do you have to stop at a green light when turning right?
Don’t stop at a green light when turning right unless there’s a good reason, such as a pedestrian, cyclist, or another vehicle conflicting with your available space.

If there are no pedestrians and/or cyclists to yield to, then slow to around 20 km/hr, shoulder check, and simply turn. Keep an eye on the left-turning driver in case they are planning to take your right-of-way; your particular space at that particular moment.

Shoulder check before turning right at a green light

Can You Turn Right On a Green Light Without An Arrow?

Yes, you can turn right on a green light without an arrow. If you’re facing a green light, the green light means go, just yield to pedestrians and/or cyclists. Arrows are an optional traffic control device, used for some intersections.

How to Turn Right at a Green Light – Know Who You Are Yielding To

Do you have to yield when turning right on the green?

In theory, when you are turning right on a green light, the only other road users you normally need to yield to are pedestrians and cyclists.

Yielding to the left-turning vehicle (sometimes)

Of course, you may need to yield to someone or something else – such as a left-turning vehicle, if it has already turned and is subsequently in your way.

Drivers who are turning left are supposed to yield to drivers who are turning right in this situation. But of course, in the real world, things may be different, and it’s good to get ready for this and accept it as a simple fact.

Right turn yielding to left turning vehicle at a green light intersection
Sometimes the left-turning driver does not anticipate a pedestrian and then stops in the middle of the intersection like this. If their vehicle gets there before you, you must then legally yield.

That’s why it’s the only safe way to think, “that car is supposed to yield

… Rather than, “I have the right of way.” Not trying to be dramatic, but the difference between these two ideas is quite realistically the difference between a crash and not a crash.

If the other car doesn’t yield

If they don’t yield, then you don’t have the right of way. It’s very simple. If no one gave me birthday-cake-flavored TimbitsOpens in a new tab. for my birthday, then I don’t have them. Oh, maybe that’s a little different.

How to Turn Right – Pay Attention To Your Vehicle Positioning

Shoulder check and get your vehicle closer to the curb

shoulder check and get your vehicle closer to the curb before turning right at a green light
Shoulder check before moving your vehicle position closer to the curb to check for cyclists or any other road user that may be in your blind spot

Whenever possible, try to move your vehicle closer to the curb before the right turn so that vehicles behind you can possibly fit by in case you do stop for pedestrians or cyclists.

Mirror checks and shoulder checks before right turns

Before you move over, use a right-mirror check and a right-shoulder check to ensure there are no bikes or anything else that you would be potentially in conflict with, in your blind spot. Check out my article about blind spots to learn more.

If there are no pedestrians and any left-turning vehicle is clearly yielding, then simply turn.

shoulder check before turning right
Shoulder check before you move your vehicle position, and if you stop for someone in the crosswalk and time goes by, check again as the very last thing you do before you turn in case of more potential pedestrians running to make the light.

How To Turn Right At Green Lights – Watch For Pedestrians

If you do see pedestrians crossing

If you see pedestrians, move forward into the intersection a bit in order to line up your vehicle with where you are about to turn.

When yielding to pedestrians in a crosswalk when turning right at a green light
Pull forward a little into the intersection while waiting for pedestrians to cross the road. That way, if the light goes yellow (and/or red by the time it’s safe to turn), you’re legally permitted to then leave the intersection and continue on your journey.

Don’t stop behind the white stopping line while waiting for pedestrians

In other words, do not wait behind the stopping line as you would if your light were red. You do want to pull forward as long as there’s no other right-turning vehicle in front of you.

Where to stop when yielding to pedestrians in the crosswalk turning right at a green light

There are two reasons for this:

1) It clearly tells the driver of any left-turning car that you are seriously getting ready to turn right and take your turn, and you are merely waiting for the pedestrians.

If you wait behind the white stopping line, the driver may think that you want him/her to go first, because it looks like you’re leaving an insanely large amount of space in front of you for no reason

Keep in mind, there should be no pedestrians walking on the perpendicular crosswalk; so it’s fine to block it; in fact, you kind of have no choice in most cases.

Don’t wait behind your white stopping line unless there’s another vehicle in front of you also turning right or in your way.

Second Reason

The other reason has to do with the traffic light

If you move forward into the intersection, wait for slow or many pedestrians, and then the light goes yellow, then you’re still allowed – and you should – exit the intersection after the pedestrians, but – in theory – before any left-turning vehicle.

Turning right at a green light and the light goes yellow or red

Again, this is in theory, where there are also perfect roses and rainbows with a pot of gold waiting under them for anyone to freely take.

Left turning and right turning right of way at yellow traffic light intersection

If the left-turn vehicle doesn’t yield

Sometimes, the left-turning vehicle may try to go first and you do need to keep an eye on that. If they don’t yield to you, simply let them go first and then turn after them.

Left and right turn right of way at yellow traffic light intersection Canada

Life doesn’t always go as we plan. But it can go two seconds after that, which is no big deal really. My philosophy is I don’t really care who is right and wrong – or who is perfect because nobody is – I care that I get to where I’m going safely, that’s it.

How to Turn Right – More Details On Pedestrians

How much time/space to give pedestrians?

Give the pedestrians some extra time and space before you turn.

You don’t have to necessarily wait until they’ve walked completely across the entire crosswalk. In certain intersections, that might mean waiting for them to walk past multiple lanes, which may seem unnecessary.

As a rough guideline, you should wait until they’re at least past the yellow line if they’re walking away from you, or until they actually step onto the sidewalk if they’re walking toward you.

Give the pedestrians some extra time and space before you turn right at an intersection

Do another quick shoulder check before you turn to make sure there are no more pedestrians about to walk; sometimes there are more, running to try to make it across in time because they’re in a hurry.

When you’re learning how to turn right at an intersection, it’s good to be aware of some things that pedestrians have been known to do:

  • Drop something such as keys or phone in the middle of the crosswalk and have to stop to pick it up
  • Change their mind in the middle of the crosswalk and start walking in the opposite direction
  • See their friend in the middle of the crosswalk and stop and chat for a few seconds before continuing to cross the road
  • Trip and fall, and before getting up, notice their shoelace is untied and decide to quickly tie it up before continuing
  • Bolt out of a building or a bus and start sprinting across the crosswalk as fast as they can, like a cheetah, out of nowhere
  • Pedestrians with children may be extra slow and unpredictable
  • On windy days, umbrellas that aren’t hardcore may turn inside out and this can be distracting to the pedestrian holding it
Pedestrians in the crosswalk

If there’s a median/boulevard

If there’s a median/boulevard in the middle of the road, you can turn when the pedestrian has passed that point.

When can you turn right at a traffic light if there's a median or boulevard

That Oncoming Left-Turning Vehicle when Turning Right on a Green Light

Do keep an eye on the left-turning vehicle.

The driver doing a left turn is supposed to be yielding to you. However, this doesn’t mean that they will.

If it turns when it shouldn’t, then simply let it go. Let it go first, like, literally, but also if you’re the type who holds a grudge; it’s just not good for you! Let it go first and go after it. Simple.

We are staying alive here, and getting to our destination in one piece, not proving a point about right and wrong. Humans are imperfect and that’s a fact. Maybe that person is having a bad day, which can happen to any of us. We never know what is going on in their life so it is best not to judge and just continue when it’s safe.

Dealing With Multiple Lanes when Turning Right on a Green Light

If there are two lanes, then avoid turning at the exact same time as the left-turning vehicle.

If there are two lanes, then avoid turning at the exact same time as the left-turning vehicle.
Turn before or after the left-turning vehicle, but not simultaneously.

You need some extra space around your vehicle at all times and turning at the same time robs you of this safety cushion. It is part of being a safe, defensive driver. Read my full article on how to be a defensive driver and manage the space around your vehicle.

Try to time it so you turn before it or after it, but not at the same time. If you avoid turning at the same time, it’s a lot more difficult to have a collision with that vehicle.

turning right into correct lane

Which Lane Should You Turn Into?

Turn into the ‘proper’ lane when learning how to turn right at a traffic light

Legally when you turn right, you’re required to turn into the right lane; and the driver of any left-turning vehicle is required to turn into the left lane.

How to Turn Right When There’s an HOV Lane

Sometimes there’s an HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lane on the road you’re about to turn right onto. In that case, check for warning signs before the intersection. Turn into the lane you will be driving in.

Turning right into a road that has a HOV lane

Lane changes after turning right

However, if after you turn there are no vehicles in the other lane, you can quickly change your turn signal to a left signal and make sure it is safe and do a lane change into the left lane fairly quickly.

This is perfectly legal as long as:

  1. You are not crossing a solid white line and
  2. It is safe (duh)
  3. Your left-turn signal is flashing
how to turn right and then turn left right after

How to Turn Right at a Green Light – When The Light Turns Yellow

If you’re approaching the intersection for the right turn and the traffic light goes yellow, you are legally required to stop your automobile behind the white line and yield to others, unless it is not safe to stop (point of no return) – just like any other yellow traffic light.

Check out my full article on yellow traffic lights to learn more about that.

Legally speaking, traffic lights control traffic that is approaching intersections; not traffic that has already entered intersections.

Once you are in the middle of the intersection, the traffic light really doesn’t matter and has no legal consequence – you then need to leave when it’s safe and only when it’s safe, that’s it.

How to Turn Right At Green Lights When There’s a Bus

Question: If you are wanting to turn right and notice that there is a bus stop in the very right lane and a bus is currently stopped there, are you allowed to turn into the next lane? This was a two-lane street and the bus was just about a car-length away from the intersection.

Also, what if the very right lane becomes available for meter parking after rush hour? Are you able to turn into the next lane if there is a car parked in the spot closest to the curb? What if there wasn’t a car parked there but further up?

Yes, in the case of buses, you may turn into the next lane. All of the same rules apply. Just keep an eye on the bus in case it turns on its signal, in which case you would need to yield as per usual.

The law says that left turns must yield to right turns when the light is green. It never says that the left lane somehow “belongs” to the left-turning driver. Check out my full left-turning tutorial here.

Turning right at a green light when there's a bus
Left-turning drivers still must yield to right-turning drivers in this scenario.

The same applies if there are parked vehicles. You can turn into the first available lane; turn into the lane you are actually going to be driving in. If the parked car is farther up, you should turn into the right lane and then do a lane change.

As a rough guideline, use 1/2 – 3/4 of a block. If it feels like it would be stupid to turn into a small space and then do an impossible lane change, then just turn into the lane you will be driving in. Do what makes sense.

Turning right on a green light when there are parked vehicles
Turn into the lane you will be driving in.

How to Turn Right at a Green Light With a Yield Sign

intersection yield sign right turn

If you’re turning right at a yield sign at an intersection that also has a green light, remember that the traffic control device you need to follow is the yield sign. Check out my full article about yield signs to learn more about them.

Green light offers clues

The green light just happens to be there. It can give you clues.

Use the green light to tell you where the relevant traffic might be coming from, and which particular drivers and/or road users you may need to yield to. Turn on your right signal, as this is still just a right turn.

If The Light Is Green, You May Need To Yield To A Left-Turning Vehicle

left turn vehicle
You can’t assume that the left-turning car will stay in “its own lane.” Wait to be safe. You are the one facing the yield sign so technically, you must yield anytime there may be a potential conflict.

Turning Left After Turning Right At The Yield Sign?

If you’re needing to turn left soon after turning right, then simply yield to both (or all) lanes of traffic. Then, switch your signal to a left signal and continue into the left lane. Remember shoulder checks for lane changes.

ntersection right left turn

Spotted: Baby On Board (Literally)

photo-11
Baby on Board. LOL.

Omg, I know how to use the word “Literally.” I know, it’s random, isn’t it? It’s funny the things you see when you drive around a lot.

When Can I Go Into a Bus Lane Before a Right Turn?

Pay careful attention to signs and pavement markings. Since it’s illegal to change lanes over a solid white line, make sure the line is dotted before you move. Check out my full article on road lines and pavement markings.

I’m not sure there’s a cut-and-dry answer for this. Do it sometime when it is safe, not crossing solid white lines, and not too far in advance that you are blatantly driving in the bus lane for miles and miles and receive a ticket for that.

Usually, I would aim for about 3/4 – 1/2 of a block. If you wait too long and get too close to the intersection, other vehicles may be in the space, so consider the vehicle behind you and remember to signal early.

bus lane how to turn right at a green light intersection

After the last lane-way, might be a good rough guideline:

buslane2

Perhaps, “After the last parked car,” can be a guideline.

buslane3

If anyone has a better answer, let me know.

Conclusion – How To Turn Right At Green Lights

Knowing how to turn right at green lights is another necessary skill for all drivers to have. It’s generally a much safer option when compared to turning left at a traffic light.

This is because right turns merely turn across a pedestrian and cyclist path, whereas left turns turn across those, as well as oncoming traffic.

And the thing about the oncoming traffic is:

  • It’s dangerous
  • It’s unpredictable
  • Drivers are often speeding, and this can be hard to judge
  • You can’t trust the turn signals; you aren’t sure where the cars are actually going to go
  • In the dark, you can’t see the drivers through the windows; during the daytime, you can kind of see if they are paying attention and where they are looking or if they are on their phones or distracted

Sometimes left turns can not be avoided, but sometimes they can by turning right three times and driving in a circle (I mean, “square,” technically speaking).

Practicing your right turns at many different intersections gives you the best possible experience. Always remember to do one and possibly two shoulder checks for these and other right turns, depending on if you’re changing the positioning of your vehicle (to check for cyclists) and/or stopping (time goes by) before your right turn.

This is, of course, to check your blind spot, and mini blind spot mirrorsOpens in a new tab. (Amazon affiliate link) can help to reduce surprises.

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Carmen Cohoe

Carmen became a driving instructor at the age of 22 in beautiful North Vancouver, BC, and taught many drivers for almost a decade including brand new drivers, drivers from various countries, and seniors, using automatic & standard vehicles and a minivan. She created BC Driving Blog in 2012.

38 thoughts on “How To Turn Right At Green Lights [Canada] – Epic Tutorial

  1. This is inaccurate information… in the state of California, you are allowed to turn into any available lane, left or right; therefore, this information of a left hand driver being able to turn into the left lane while a driver is turning into the right lane on green is wrong. It’s reckless not to mention the States which allow this on your site because it’s causing a lot of people to come close to causing accidents… I’ve been in several near misses myself with left turners thinking they can turn at the same time I do on right with a green light. Right turners have the right of way and by law in CA (and I think 5 other states) can turn into any available lane. Please update this information on your site to be accurate.

  2. Since the right turn only lane on Wells was eliminated. can two cars still turn right on to congress from wells.

  3. Hi!
    My question is this:
    At a green light, there is a car turning right with a small merge and a yield sign. Who has the right of way – the car turning right with the yield sign or the car turning left?
    Thanks

    1. Well, where is this and how many lanes are there? Yield means yield, so I would say that the driver facing the yield sign should yield to the left-turning one especially if there is only one lane.

      1. Sorry Carmen but that was the wrong answer!

        At an controlled intersection where the Traffic is controlled by a Traffic Signal for all directions the Yield Sign should not be installed. At the signalized intersection the Yield Sign has no place and function. At the intersection where the Traffic Signal is controlling traffic and is operating normally only traffic lights are controlling traffic! But, if the Yield Sign was installed (should be removed in the first place) it doesn’t apply if the Traffic Signal is in full operation for all approaches!

        The ‘Yield Sign’ at the Signalized Intersection may be found in Europe and that ‘Yield Sign’ has a control function only if the Traffic Signal is not in operation.
        At the Signalized Intersection the car turning left must give the ‘Right of Way’ to the right turning car because the car turning right is coming from the ‘Right Hand Side’ to the driver who is turning left.
        Meaning that the basic rule of traffic is always the ‘Right of Way’ always has a car which is coming from the ‘Right Hand Side’.

  4. Hi, I have a couple of questions,
    1. At a traffic light intersection, say the road A has 2 car lanes for your directing of travel, and likewise 2 lanes for people going the opposite direction, so 4 lanes in total of road A. Road A crosses road B, which also has 4 lanes. You have a green light, and you are in the right lane, making a right turn, into the right most lane of the other street B. There is also a car opposite of you making a left trying to get unto street B. Does the car making the left have to wait for you to complete the right turn fully, or can it turn as well because it will be turning into the left of the 2 right lanes of road B?
    2. Similarly, if you are driving on a one way road, with 2 lanes in it. You are in the left lane of this road. Up ahead is an intersection, out of which a car is trying to make a right turn and join your road and your direction of travel. Does the car have to wait for you to pass, or can it go ahead and make the right turn into the right lane of your road?
    Thanks,
    Eli

  5. what would be the ideal speed while your driving test as I failed my driving test twice for speeding.
    I was driving 50 – 53 in 50km zone and 29-31 in 30km zone. What is the trick to keep yourself with in the limit specified.
    thanks,

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