Left Turn Arrow & Right Lane

Here’s a question about the left turn arrow & right lane right-of-way. This can be confusing for many new drivers.

Driver Questions

Question: I am turning left on a left-turn green arrow. It has a green light on to a two lane street. I want to immediately be in the right lane because I want to turn right at the next block. I have my right turn indicator on.

A vehicle from the opposite direction is turning right on a red light with a ‘yield to right of way’ triangle sign. There is not a merge lane for the right turning vehicle. Is the right turning vehicle supposed to wait for the green light? And if not, who has the right of way for the right lane?

It’s a good question

Right Turns At Intersections Demo
Right Turns At Intersections Demo
left turn arrow

Which intersection is this? Is he facing a red light, or a yield sign? (Usually it is one or the other) In any case, that car (turning right) is required to yield to any traffic and not go to until safe.

The motor vehicle act never says that the left lane belongs to the left turning car, and the right lane belongs to the right turning car. It says cars facing red lights and yield signs are required to yield to any traffic on the road and not to go until it is safe.

While you do not want to turn directly into the right lane (you’re supposed to initially turn into the left lane), if you start your left turn and then switch to the right turn signal and plan a lane change immediately after the intersection, this is a legal lane change. However, can you trust the other car? No probably not right?

Some drivers seem to think that the left turning car HAS TO WANT TO stay in the left lane, allowing them to turn right at the exact same time. This is dangerous in general not to stagger a turn (where is your escape route?) and to expect to be able to turn right ON A RED LIGHT  at the same time as a vehicle lawfully going through the intersection on a GREEN arrow! Not to mention this is just not reality. If the left turning car wanted to stay in the left lane and turn left over and over again he’d be driving in circles. Is this any way to treat our fellow drivers?

Obviously to be defensive and avoid crashing into them, though, you may have to put up with them and be careful – honk and tell them to stay put if you think that will work – and if they turn, may have to slow down in order to get to the right lane to be able to do your right turn…in other words use caution. I am not sure if you would be found partially at fault in the case of a collision because technically you would have done an “unsafe lane change” … and they would have done an unsafe turn against a red signal / yield.

Right Turn

(3) Despite subsection (1), and except when a right turn permitted by this subsection is prohibited by a sign at an intersection, the driver of a vehicle facing the red light, and which in obedience to it is stopped as closely as practicable to a marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if there is no marked crosswalk, as closely as practicable to the intersection, may cause the vehicle to make a right turn, but the driver must yield the right of way to all pedestrians and vehicles lawfully proceeding as directed by the signal at the intersection.

Left Turn

(3) When the driver of a vehicle intends to turn the vehicle left at an intersection where traffic is restricted to one direction on one or more of the highways, the driver must cause the vehicle to approach the intersection in the extreme left hand lane available to traffic moving in the direction of travel of the vehicle, and after entering the intersection turn the vehicle to the left so as to leave the intersection as nearly as practicable in the left hand lane available to traffic moving in the direction of travel of the vehicle on the highway being entered.

Yield signs

(2) Except as provided in section 175, if 2 vehicles approach or enter an intersection from different highways at approximately the same time and there is a yield sign, the driver of a vehicle facing the sign must yield the right of way to all other traffic.

130 (1) When a green arrow is exhibited at an intersection by a traffic control signal,

(a) the driver of a vehicle facing the green arrow may cause it to enter the intersection and to make only the movement indicated by the green arrow, but must yield the right of way to pedestrians lawfully in the intersection or in an adjacent crosswalk and to other vehicles lawfully in the intersection, 


I hope that answers your question. To answer it more directly who has the rights to the right lane? Well, both cars have a duty to not enter that lane unless it is safe. So, no one really has the right to it I guess is the answer. It is a common and tricky situation, because more often than not that right turning car wants to then get into the left lane and turn left.

In my personal opinion the right turning car should sit there and wait until there are no more cars turning left facing the left turning arrow and it is otherwise safe and clear.But that’s just my opinion. Isn’t this the whole point of having a left turning arrow? So that you may enjoy this rare opportunity to turn left without having to worry about oncoming traffic?!?! Just my 0.02


Carmen became a driving instructor at the age of 22 in North Vancouver, Canada and is an experienced writer, blogger, photographer, artist, philosopher, certified day dreamer and generally complicated human.

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