Left Turn Red Light – Can We? 2 Eye-Opening Scenarios

Left On Red In British Columbia?

Left turn red light. Wait, what? Turning left on a red light is a thing that is actually sometimes legal. But you really need to pay close attention to the road you are planning to turn onto. This will determine the legality.

Most people wonder about right turns on red lights, and different places have different rules for these types of turns. In British Columbia, you may turn right on a red light if it’s safe to do so and if you completely stop first.

Oh and avoiding those pesky turning restriction signs helps too.

If you think about why we are allowed to turn right on a red light, it may help to understand the rules about turning left.

Basically, we are not crossing two directions of traffic to turn right on a red light. We are kind of sneakily sneaking into the flow. Without worrying about 2 directions. So it’s quite kind of sort of like a right turn at stop sign.

When you turn left on a red light, it must be similarly turning into the flow and not crossing 2 directions. If that made any sense at all.

*This info is relevant to British Columbia, Canada and may not apply to other provinces, states or countries.

Left Turn Red Light – At Two-Way Streets

Let’s get straight to the point. It’s illegal to turn left on a red light if you’re turning onto a two-way street.

That all makes a lot of sense because if it were safe for you to turn left at that intersection on a red light, then there probably wouldn’t be a red light there,… if you know what I mean.

Left Turn Red Light – At One-Way Streets

You may turn left on a red light:

  • From a one-way street onto another one-way street or
  • From a two-way street onto a one-way street
  • Treat as you would a right turn on a red light
  • You must completely stop and yield to others before proceeding
  • Check for turning restriction signs

Left Turn Red Light – Left from one-way street onto one-way street is allowed

Here’s an example of where this turn is legally allowed.

left turn red light
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Notice that the car only has one direction of traffic to yield to. It’s not about to cross two different directions.

Left Turn Red Light – Left from a two-way street onto a one-way street is also allowed

Same idea here. The vehicle only needs to yield to one direction.

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This is from the ICBC publication Learn to Drive Smart

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There is also a very clear statement on the Vancouver Police Department website

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Yes, you are permitted to turn left from a two-way street onto a one-way street at an intersection when you are facing a RED traffic light, providing the intersection is clear of vehicles, cyclists and / or pedestrians and that you are intending on traveling in the direction of the one-way street and it is safe to do so. You have to come to a complete stop immediately before entering the intersection or entering the marked crosswalk on the near side of that intersection.

 Read about red lights in the BC MOTOR VEHICLE ACT

Red light British Columbia Motor Vehicle Act


So, while we are allowed to turn left on a red light in some spots, remember that you don’t have to. This is just fancy extra stuff – a lot of times completely not necessary – in my opinion.

It’s perfectly fine to wait for your light to go green. Personally I just feel better moving through intersections when my light is green and not red; especially when I consider potential fault. But to each their own.

Carmen Cohoe

Carmen became a driving instructor in beautiful North Vancouver at the age of 22 due to some crazy people who agreed to hire her. After that, there was never a dull moment teaching many different folks from many different places how to drive using automatic and standard vehicles and a minivan.

6 thoughts on “Left Turn Red Light – Can We? 2 Eye-Opening Scenarios

    • Hi! No, because the road you are turning onto is a 2-way street. You can only turn left on a red light if you are turning onto a one way street. Hope that makes sense. On another note I see a candy store!!! lol

  • Saurabh

    I have a question here as well.

    I can see that there is a left turn signal on the light but it’s not on yet. There is no sign for LEFT TURN SIGNAL. In this case can I take left on just green signal without waiting for LEFT turn signal to be on.

    Is there any other case in which I can override the left turn signal. I am looking for detailed guidelines as I find I get honked a lot when I keep waiting for left turn signals (I can definitely see left turn signal on the light).

      • JC

        What Saurabh’s describing is that he is sitting at an intersection on a green light and will NOT be turning left, even if it’s clear, because the advance turn arrow isn’t telling him to turn left. I feel for those people honking behind him but commend him for looking for the reason why.

    • asdf

      left signal on regular traffic lights
      — other intersections have

      turn lanes that are not controlled by a separate set of traffic
      lights. Here the advance green arrow is located on the bottom
      of the regular traffic lights.
      The flashing green arrow allows you to turn left. Through traffic
      is facing a red light.
      Once the green arrow has turned off, and only the regular
      green traffic light is on, you may still turn left. But you must
      yield the right


      way to pedestrians and oncoming traffic.
      Sometimes these advance green arrows operate only during
      peak traffic hours.

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