Passing A Left Turning Vehicle

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Question : This is a (possibly stupid) question about indicating, but I cannot find a definitive answer. It’s about passing a left turning vehicle.

To indicate or not to indicate?

At a lot of intersections, a single lane become two or more lanes, so passing the left turning car on the right would require a lane change.

I would recommend always indicating for this.

However, on some less busy roads it remains a single lane. But, it’s still wide enough to still have room to pass on the right.

For example, when there is a stopped car waiting to make a left turn in front of you.


I indicate to the right to let the driver behind know that I’m about to veer right to pass the left turner. Do you think it’s necessary?

Sometimes I think it might just cause confusion too, as they might think I want to make a right turn?

First of all there is no such thing as a stupid question.

Signals When Passing a left turning vehicle

Second, YES (…in my opinion…) I think this is necessary to indicate.

Remember the reason we signal is to tell others what we plan to do.

The driver behind you probably isn’t psychic.

And probably doesn’t know if you are planning to also turn left, stop and wait patiently for the car to turn left, or turn right, or go around.

Shoulder Checks

Always do a quick signal before you move (not at the same time) in this situation to indicate you’re going around.

Also, you should do a quick mirror and shoulder check. Just like any other lane change, there may also be bikes or other road users in your blind spot.

Even on a road with only one lane in your direction, you can go around a left-turning vehicles; as long as there isn’t a car already stopped behind it waiting.

Treat this simply as any other lane change.

The only thing possibly making this not an official lane change (2 lane changes actually) is the absence of the little white lines on the ground.

So, do a mirror/signal/shoulder check before you go around. And, do another mirror/signal/shoulder check before you go back into the normal lane.

This is to make sure no vehicle behind you has moved into your blind spot.

In addition, this shoulder check helps you notice the left-turning vehicle, if suddenly it has decided it is tired of waiting.

Sometimes this happens & the car seems randomly now continuing straight on. Of course, this is not recommended behavior, but it could happen right?

You are correct in that you don’t want to have the people around you think you’re actually turning right when you aren’t. This could lead to all kinds of other disasters. 

So just make the signal early enough and quick enough and turn off the signal before an opposing left-turner would be confused by it.

Realize too, that the left-turner in front of you is now blocking the view for the potential left-turner facing you.

So, go through the intersection with caution.

Slowly may be a good idea in many cases, especially when there is a considerable gap of space in front of you.

This space may lead the oncoming left-turner to assume there may be nothing coming anymore i.e. a good time for a T-bone collision. 

passing a left turning vehicle

British Columbia Motor Vehicle Act:

Passing on right in the BC Motor Vehicle Act. (MVA).
158 (1) The driver of a vehicle must not cause or permit the vehicle to overtake and pass on the right of another vehicle, except

(a) when the vehicle overtaken is making a left turn or its driver has signalled his or her intention to make a left turn,
(b) when on a laned roadway there is one or more than one unobstructed lane on the side of the roadway on which the driver is permitted to drive, or
(c) on a one way street or a highway on which traffic is restricted to one direction of movement, where the roadway is free from obstructions and is of sufficient width for 2 or more lanes of moving vehicles.
(2) Despite subsection (1), a driver of a vehicle must not cause the vehicle to overtake and pass another vehicle on the right
(a) when the movement cannot be made safely, or
(b) by driving the vehicle off the roadway.

Lane changing tips

Turns signals category


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10 thoughts on “Passing A Left Turning Vehicle”

  1. This article made me a little concerned. Is it even legal to do something like this?! Perhaps the reason why there is nothing about this situation in the handbook is precisely because it is illegal. From what I can see, there is only one single lane before the intersection. If I were to go around a left-turning vehicle, then we would occupy the very same lane. We usually do not drive in parallel in the same lane, do we? This may create a lot of issues. For one, a left turning vehicle on the opposite side will see that there is a single lane and will not expect my car there.
    In my opinion, it is better to wait for the left-turner to to turn particularly if there is a left-turner waiting on the other side then to create potentially dangerous situation.

    1. https://youtu.be/iXvJlM_gCEc

      No, it is not illegal to pass on the right of a left-turn vehicle. It even says you can do so in the motor vehicle act (above).

      And yes cars do pass to the right in order to turn right, even when the car in front is not signalling a left turn. Yes this may be technically illegal, but in real life, people do it all the time without a problem.

      Cars making their own “right turn lane”

  2. From a legal point of view, I think it’s a question of whether you need to execute a lane-change in order to make the pass. If you’re continuing down the same road (but not pulling over to the curb, not changing lanes, and not turning onto another road or driveway) then the only ‘correct’ signal is no signal.

    Proper scanning of the mirrors, as well as a shoulder check prior to your lateral movement, are surely necessary just in case there’s another driver coming up behind who is trying to pass both of you.

    If you can’t make the move safely (regardless of legality) then don’t do it, obviously. If you can do it safely, then carry on – but think also (particularly at an intersection) of whether there might be a facing vehicle making the reciprocal move; and if there is, consider whether you have made eye contact with that driver. PLUS, you have to consider what putting on your signal might say to that facing vehicle, in terms of their expectations of potential conflict.

    1. Hmm what about in terms of the road test? If you go around without any signals would the examiner be cool with it?

      1. When the maneuver is made as per your diagram, I don’t think there’s anything in the ‘Learn to Drive Smart’ guide, or the DE Bible, that would stipulate that a signal should be given. So marking ‘No Signal’ would not be defensible.

        Observation skills would be of paramount concern to the DE, and how well the applicant judges the situation.

  3. I was taught in driver training that if I had to move laterally more than half a vehicle width, it needed a signal.

    1. Yes that is a good rule too! Some people say half a meter or 1 meter, since ‘vehicle width’ could be very different depending on if you’re driving a SmartCar or a Hummer.

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