Left on a Red Light – Can you Do it?

Left on a red light In British Columbia

*This information regarding turning left on a red light, is relevant to British Columbia, Canada and may not apply to other provinces, states, countries, or planets.

left on a red light at Two-Way Streets

You can not turn left on a red light if you’re turning onto a two-way street (it’s illegal).

left on a 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.

You can turn Left on a red light from one-way street onto one-way street

left on a red light

You can turn Left on a red light from a two-way street onto a one-way street

left turn red light

This is from the ICBC publication Learn to Drive Smart: Read the ICBC driving guides here.

ICBC left turn red light

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

turning left at intersection

 

Read about red lights in the BC MOTOR VEHICLE ACT:

Red light British Columbia Motor Vehicle Act

129  (1) Subject to subsection (2), when a red light alone is exhibited at an intersection by a traffic control signal, the driver of a vehicle approaching the intersection and facing the red light must cause it to stop before entering the marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if there is no marked crosswalk, before entering the intersection, and subject to the provisions of subsection (3), must not cause the vehicle to proceed until a traffic control signal instructs the driver that he or she is permitted to do so.

(2) The driver of a bus approaching an intersection and facing a red light and a prescribed white rectangular indicator may cause the bus to proceed through the intersection.

(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.

(4) When a red light alone is exhibited at an intersection by a traffic control signal,

(a) a pedestrian facing the red light must not enter the roadway unless instructed that he or she may do so by a pedestrian traffic control signal,

(b) except when a left turn permitted by this paragraph is prohibited by a sign at the intersection, the driver of a vehicle facing the red light at the intersection of not more than 2 highways, 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 left turn into a highway on which traffic is restricted to the direction in which he or she causes the vehicle to 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, and

(c) a pedestrian proceeding across the roadway and facing the red light exhibited after he or she entered the roadway

(i)  must proceed to the sidewalk as quickly as possible, and

(ii)  has the right of way for that purpose over all vehicles.

Left turn on a red light video

Left turn on a red light downtown vancouver

Keep in mind that you never have to turn left or right on a red light. It’s a red light, which means ‘stop.’ It means that some other road user(s) have the right-of-way over you.

Use your discretion and as usual, if you aren’t sure it’s safe, then simply wait. It won’t be too long until your light goes green.

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10 thoughts on “Left on a Red Light – Can you Do it?”

  1. Which province or state is the practice test from? Different provinces have different rules. Post updated to include info from British Columbia ICBC Drive Smart manual and British Columbia Motor Vehicle Act.

  2. I’m taking a practice driving test and it says that it’s illegal to turn left on red from a two-way street onto a one-way street and this website says the opposite. I’m assuming this website is wrong

  3. I like knowing traffic laws’ small details like this so when it’s busy as hell I can drive to the letter. It’s one thing to be in an accident, it’s another to be in an accident and have it be your fault.

    1. Yeah, and its yet another thing to drive properly and not have “accidents” at all. If you had an accident while your light was red I would imagine you’d have a pretty hard time making a case for yourself, at least one that had a chance.

  4. This is interesting – it’s normal to be able to make a left hand turn from a one way street to a one way street. But I’m not aware of anywhere else in Canada where you can make a left hand turn from a two-way street on to a one way street. Even living in BC now, it’s rare to see anyone actually make this turn. Thanks for the info.

    1. I find more often than not it just doesn’t make sense to do it because it’s just so busy in downtown Vancouver (which is where the most concentrated occurrences of one way streets can be found, at least in the lower mainland)… However good to know for those times you’re driving when there’s little or no traffic.

      1. I feel like people just don’t know… There’s a few two-way roads that terminate at a one-way outside of downtown, a few hwy entrances are like that, and I just see people straight up waiting for the light to turn green. Even if there are absolutely no cars coming.

        1. Yeah I think people don’t know. They very safely wait for the light to go green when they could have turned! And then there’s the other people who turn the wrong way down the one way street and don’t even realize it until they see a bunch of headlights coming, and then freak out and try to do a panicked U-turn! *sigh*

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