Right on a Red Light – Epic Guide For All Drivers

Right on a Red Light

Turning right on a green light is sort of easy. But turning right at a red light isn’t as easy. You don’t have to do it, but it’s great if you know how. So let’s jump right into the detailed guide, written of course from the driving instructor’s perspective. *Based in Vancouver, Canada. Not all places allow right turn on red lights. Make sure your area allows it before attempting this. And of course, if you’re reading this to help you prepare for your upcoming road test, be sure to check out my epic article: ICBC Road Test Tips For Classes 5 & 7 [Instructor Gets Deep].

Say I’m coming to an intersection and making a right turn on red. After stopping at the stop line can I slowly start to creep forward? Can I slowly start to turn the car to the right? Or must I stay behind the stop line until I make the turn? What if I can’t see traffic when I’m trying to make a right and the only way to get a view is to creep up just a little bit past the stop line?

After you stop, check and make sure the right on red is allowed.

right on a red light
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Wait for all the pedestrians

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Right on a red light: Visibility

If you can’t see well, it’s sometimes due to parked vehicles. The vehicle driving down the road has to fit beside the parked vehicles in order to avoid crashing into them … Right?

  • So yes you may roll forwards up to the point near the edge of the parked cars. You have to do this in order to make sure your turn is going to be safe.

If you don’t slowly inch forward to make sure it’s safe, then the other option is just to wait for the light to go green; and there is nothing wrong with that option at all.

What is not an option is just to blindly turn, hoping and praying there is nothing coming.

  • Keep in mind there is some additional space between the parked car and the car driving down the road (1 meter is recommended, but it may be much closer in certain cases).

In this following example, there is for sure some ‘wiggle room’ between the white stopping line where you first stop and the point that your car is still not in the way of the cars coming.

When you are stopped at the red light, you must figure out how much ‘wiggle room’ you have to work with (if any).

intersection right turn
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Right on a red light – Here is a different example

It’s a road with 2 narrow lanes. You have a lot smaller of a ‘wiggle room’ to work with here.

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Right on a red light – It might look like this

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Or this

intersection driving turns
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Right on a red light – Vehicle position/angle

Depending on the particular intersection, you may keep your vehicle straight or start to turn it. Usually, it is best to start the turn at the same time you would if you were at that same intersection but not stopping.

Think of it like a slow-motion right turn. If you weren’t stopping, when would you start to do the steering? You would not want to do the turn like this if you were not stopping.. but this ‘wide’ right turns happens to new drivers if they keep the vehicle completely straight for too long before turning.

wide turns at intersection
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Right on a red light: You just want it to look like a normal right turn

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Right on a red light: Keep your eyes moving

  • Remember to scan the area to your right for pedestrians constantly; do not just stare at the traffic coming from your left.
  • If a pedestrian appears after this point, try and encourage them to go behind your vehicle as this is safer than going in front of it.
  • That is fine. You did not do anything wrong. You stopped originally and yielded to all of the pedestrians.
  • It is illegal to reverse on a crosswalk anyway, so just stay put

Caution in backing vehicle (Motor Vehicle Act)
193 The driver of a vehicle must not cause the vehicle to move backwards into an intersection or over a crosswalk, and must not in any event or at any place cause a vehicle to move backwards unless the movement can be made in safety.

If you’re thinking about turning right on a red light in an area where there are tonnes of pedestrians (i.e. downtown Vancouver) then perhaps it’s a better idea to just wait until the light goes green to avoid potentially inconveniencing a large number of pedestrians.

There is no pressure to turn right at a red light. If you don’t have a good feeling about it, simply wait for the green light.

If a driver behind you is impatient, ignore them. The choice to turn is yours, not theirs. The consequences of that turn are yours, not theirs.

pedestrians red lights
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Right on a red light: Yellow Lights

Keep an eye on the traffic light for the other traffic. When it goes yellow, it means someone else is going to get the green soon, and it’s your job to figure out who that is.

If you don’t know, wait. It may be you (and pedestrians will start walking on the crosswalk parallel) or it may be some other vehicles; perhaps ones that are turning left with an arrow.

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You get the green…

driving intersection turns
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Maybe these vehicles get the green left arrow:

green arrow intersections
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Or maybe these ones:

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… In which case you can probably turn at the same time.

Shoulder Check

Always right shoulder check before (not at the same time as) your turn. That’s to make sure there are no cyclists or pedestrians in the blind spot.

shoulder check right turn
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Watch for cars doing illegal U-Turns in the intersection, too.

A fabulous way to have a crash

Who wants to have a fight about whether this is called an ‘accident’ or ‘crash’… I know a few people.

intersection U-turn
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Remember to check your mirror after turning. It’s good to know if there’s traffic coming quickly (try to speed up to match the flow of traffic or up to the speed limit anyway).

There may be an emergency vehicle coming behind or something else.

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Be careful with the right on red. You got a red light. This means you have no right of way. On the other hand… you could just Turn Right on a Green Light. That might just be easier!

Other drivers who are lawfully proceeding through the intersection on a green light should not have to slow down for you, roll their eyes at you, swear at you, worry about you, steer around you, or otherwise do evasive actions as the result of your right turn on a red light /end rant  ;) :)

Drive carefully everyone & thanks for the great Q Niz.

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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.

18 thoughts on “Right on a Red Light – Epic Guide For All Drivers

  • Tom Robinson

    There’s an intersection in Ottawa, Cyrville Rd and St Laurent Blvd where, coming from Cyrville, there is no left turn, no straight through, only right turn. There is also a traffic signal, my question is, are you allowed to turn right on the red light?

    • Carmen Cohoe

      Hello Tom! Just like in BC, in Ontario you can do it as long as a sign doesn’t tell you not to. “Unless a sign tells you not to, you may make a right turn facing a red light as long as you first come to a complete stop and wait until the way is clear. Remember to signal your turn and yield to pedestrians and others using the road.” – Ontario.ca

      Check out this intersection in BC. It’s similar to the one you mentioned, but signs clearly indicates not to do it.

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