Right on a Red Light – Epic Guide For All Drivers [2023]

right on a red light

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

Wait for all the pedestrians

yield to pedestrians red light

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

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.

red light intersection right turn

Right on a red light – It might look like this

red light green lights

Or this

intersection driving turns

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

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

proper intersection turns right turns

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 anywayOpens in a new tab., 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

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.

traffic light red light right turns

You get the green…

driving intersection turns

Maybe these vehicles get the green left arrow:

green arrow intersections

Or maybe these ones:

left turning arrows intersection

… 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

Watch for cars doing illegal U-TurnsOpens in a new tab. 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

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 vehicleOpens in a new tab. coming behind or something else.

rear view mirror

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.Opens in a new tab. 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.

Read more:

Carmen Cohoe

Carmen became a driving instructor at the age of 22 in beautiful North Vancouver, BC, and taught many drivers for almost a decade including brand new drivers, drivers from various countries, and seniors, using automatic & standard vehicles and a minivan. She created BC Driving Blog in 2012.

13 thoughts on “Right on a Red Light – Epic Guide For All Drivers [2023]

  1. Hi, First I would like to thanks for such wonderful blog and information. It helped me a lot. I have one question on turning right. Below is scenario.
    I am approaching red signal that is just few seconds away and I my speed is 35mph. For right turn i have to change rughtmost lane. Then while changing to right If there is motorcycle/by cycle is coming from right lane then,
    1) Should i slow down and let the motorcycle pass then go to right lane? (But it seems difficult as speed is 35mph and suddenly slow down and cause behind vehicle to stop or collision)
    2) Should I continue in my current lane and look for other opportunities (next intersection) to turn right.
    3) Move fast and change to right before motorcycle reaches intersection.

    Please suggest. I would be waiting for your reply.

    1. I have a question in my town of Cranbrook BC, we have a double light(one for the rail road crossing and on the other side of the dual rail road track is a 2nd light for turning on the main drag through town. At the first set of lights they have a traffic light the changes from Right hand turns allowed on red to right hand turn not allowed. The right hand turn comes to a yield sign which you obviously have to stop at before turning on to the main road. But what I am unclear on is do you have to stop at the first set of lights by the rail road crossing when the right hand turn allowed light is on?

  2. I like very much your blogs for their being reasonable, practical,simple and clear. Your images are really illustrative!

  3. if there is a dedicated right turn lane and the traffic light is stop, do you still have to full stop before turning right?

      1. (Lights switch to red) What if there is a separate turning lane that branches off prior to the intersection? Which creates an island for pedestrians to stand, still has crosswalk lines running across, but is not technically part of the intersection. Hopefully you understand which type of situation I mean. Would someone have to stop in that type of scenario?

        1. What if there is a separate turning lane that branches off prior to the intersection? Which creates an island for pedestrians to stand, still has crosswalk lines running across?…

          Did you ever get an answer to your very interesting question?

          I have also been at these and am wondering what the laws are.

          1. Which intersection is this? Can you give me the street names? Usually there would be a stop sign or yield sign there if there’s no traffic light. If there’s no reason to stop, then you don’t need to stop.

  4. Hi there, one question, if I’m to take a right turn on a red light, how long do I have to stay stopped behind the line before going a bit forward to check if I can turn? I was told I’m not stopping long enough, do you have any suggestions?

    1. Hmm.. There is no official rule for this. But you should stay stopped long enough to look left and right to see if there are any pedestrians who are about to walk across from either side.. You also need to determine, before inching forward, exactly how much room you have to inch forward.

      I wrote a much better quality of this post. Check it out here… Hope it helps:


  5. Thanks for scenariors. Please explain about time sense when turning to avoid space confliction with car comming from left.

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