When Can You Turn After Waiting For Pedestrians?

Turning At Intersections With Pedestrians In The Crosswalk

Question about waiting for pedestrians: When a pedestrian is crossing, do you have to wait for them to cross all the way to the other side before you proceed?

Great question. It seems to me that different people have different opinions about this subject. There seems to be no solid answer from the motor vehicle act. So…I will share what I think, and how I taught students in driving lessons.

It’s good to be efficient, but not at the expense of safety

Pedestrians are the most vulnerable road users. When a car and a pedestrian fight, the pedestrian never wins.

Cars can be replaced, but people can’t

It’s good to remember that pedestrian crossing isn’t just some inconvenience. It’s someone’s wife, husband, father, son, daughter, grandmother, friend, etc.,

Pedestrians can be unpredictable, especially children

Pedestrians in general, may change their minds, trip, and fall, drop something, stop and tie their shoelace, change speeds, or change directions.

Or they may even be drunk or under the influence of substances. We need that extra just in case space at all times.

Rear-End Collisions Are Real

Always keep in mind that you could be rear-ended at any moment. It sounds sinister, but it’s possible.

You don’t want to be so close to pedestrians that if you were rear-ended, the pedestrian would be the one to pay.

  • Always try to consider the space cushion you have in front of you at all times and how it may affect those around you. Little details make big differences here
  • Lastly, for a driver who turns close to a pedestrian, it is not scary, because they are the one with an entire vehicle around them, protecting them
  • But for a pedestrian, a vehicle turning within inches of where they are walking can be quite terrifying, especially for the elderly
  • Please be nice to pedestrians and think of things from their point of view, not just yours.
  • Since there are many different types and sizes of intersections, there really is no yes or no answer to this question

So my official answer will be “It depends

  • On the intersection
  • Which direction you are turning
  • The direction the pedestrian is walking
  • Speed of the pedestrian
  • How quickly you are going to turn

A few common examples, please excuse my Photoshopping skills.

Waiting For Pedestrians On Left Turns

Let’s say the pedestrian is walking and you are about to turn left.

waiting for pedestrians
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  • I think, to be safe, the vehicle should remain completely stopped with the steering wheel completely straight until the pedestrian is at least on the other side of the yellow line
  • Perhaps halfway between the yellow line and the edge of the roadway would be good enough
  • I think it’s okay to turn at that point. Of course, shoulder check and scan the intersection for any additional pedestrians, cyclists, vehicles, road users, etc
  • So basically when the pedestrian is almost off the roadway
crossing for pedestrians
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Waiting For Pedestrians On Multiple Lane Roads

meaning of pedestrians
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For this, I would suggest a similar rule.

The vehicle should remain completely stopped until the pedestrian has crossed past the yellow line. In addition, they should be at least roughly halfway between the yellow line and the edge of the road.

do pedestrians have the right of way
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 Waiting For Pedestrians When Turning Right

If there is only one pedestrian walking like this (away from you I guess I could call it)…

  • It seems to me there is no need to stay stopped until they are completely off the crosswalk (especially a large intersection with many lanes)
  • Drivers behind you may have a tendency to freak out if they feel you should turn instead of waiting the extra time for the pedestrian to cross a football-field-length crosswalk
  • Of course, your decisions are never to be made by the driver behind you. It’s up to you to make your decisions. They can honk at you if they want, but your decisions are not their business. Amen.
what are pedestrians
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I think you can turn after they are past the yellow line, as long as you:

  • Shoulder check to make sure there are no more pedestrians approaching
  • It is truly safe
  • Mirror and right shoulder check before turning
people walking across road
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 Waiting For Pedestrians Walking Towards You

Here’s where you have to use your judgment a bit more. Different combinations will have different appropriate responses.

For example, with a larger intersection plus a very slow pedestrian, there may be ample time to turn if you arrive just as the light is freshly green and they are still all the way on the other side, slowly beginning their journey.

If it’s a jogger, then you’ll probably have to stay stopped and wait, to avoid cutting them off. So, use your judgment and err on the side of caution.

meaning of people walking on the road
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Lastly, this is probably obvious, but just in case.

  • When they are walking towards you, don’t turn until they are truly and completely off the roadway
  • Do not turn wide in order to speed up your turn. Wait patiently and then turn when they are off and it is safe
  • Make sure to do another shoulder check directly before turning, because there’s always a chance that there are more pedestrians coming
right of way
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I have heard some students speak of other driving instructors who have told them not to turn until the pedestrians are completely off the roadway, each and every turn.

I’m not sure such a blanket statement is exactly appropriate for all of the many different situations, sizes of intersections, and speeds of pedestrians. But that’s just my personal opinion.

Think about what makes sense to you, of course, without cutting off or scaring pedestrians, driving dangerously close to them, or putting them at risk in case you are rear-ended.

Another Opinion

Submitted by email by Paul

Good item in the Blog re: pedestrians.  Ironically, just yesterday I was out with my son who is still on his L, and he was contemplating a right turn from East 15th Street into Lonsdale only there was this ancient old lady with a walker gradually approaching from the west side of Lonsdale – he asked if it was OK to turn in front of her as she was still two or three lane widths away from us, approaching the centre of the road.  And very slowly, at that.

I found myself bringing up my ‘stock’ answer to the question: “Do you think, as a driver, that it’s your responsibility to compete with pedestrians – or to use your vehicle to protect them?”

One thing I can say, from my years spent as an ICBC Driver Examiner, is that any DE who thinks that their examinee may be prepared to cross the potential path of a pedestrian so that they can continue merrily on their way in their vehicle – even if it’s legal – is not going to be disposed to hold back on any marking of any categories; and will probably be silently delighted if the applicant commits enough errors (especially involving pedestrians) to fail themselves.  Examiners are human, not robots …

Used to be, in the City of Vancouver, they would have special crosswalk signs near schools, perhaps marked with ‘Stop when Occupied’ or in some cases ‘Do not Pass’.  But those seem to have disappeared in this symbolic age, or my eyesight is failing.


I totally hear you there. If you wait, your vehicle protects the pedestrian. If you turn, the car behind you might assume that it’s good to go, and they might get too close.

Some intersections are very large; much larger than the ones in Lonsdale. Sometimes they are 7-10 lanes in length. Just something to ponder.


As drivers, we do need to protect pedestrians and keep them safe, not fight with them over the available space. Drivers should yield to pedestrians and pedestrians should not have to worry about vehicles turning too closely.

If you aren’t sure, simply wait. The longest you will wait is a few additional seconds. A few seconds are totally worth keeping someone’s loved one safe.

Read more:

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.

4 thoughts on “When Can You Turn After Waiting For Pedestrians?

  • Ignacio

    Hi there.

    I was wondering another case it happened to me. I’m just trying to find a proper answer not just “you blocked the road and fail. You were blocking”

    Intersection (lonsdale ave with 20th west – north vancouver). Waiting to turn left, all clear, start turning left and suddenly someone in fornt of me start crossing. Should I wait? Should i pass? Either is right. Detail!!! This pedestrian started crossing when there were 4 seconds left. The answer of the examiner it was “you were blocking the road” and “she shouldnt cross”.

    My point is. Either if i pass or stop, I’m not blocking as she needs 4 seconds to cross first half of the road and after that I continued not blocking because once traffic light change red, still have between 2-4 seconds (depends of the streets, change this time) till green light change for rest of vehicles and opposite from where i was coming. Is this to fail a road test? As he told me, everything good, but you blocked the intersection, no more reasons.

    Does anyone a good reason for this?

    Thanks so much

  • Rit

    I mean, this is great and all, and I agree completely with everything you have said here. But I don’t want to risk getting a ticket, so what does the law say about this in BC and Alberta?

    • I’m not sure about Alberta but here’s from the BC Motor Vehicle Act


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

      (a) the driver of a vehicle facing the green light

      (i) may cause the vehicle to proceed straight through the intersection, or to turn left or right, subject to a sign or signal prohibiting a left or right turn, or both, or designating the turning movement permitted,

      (ii) must yield the right of way to pedestrians lawfully in the intersection or in an adjacent crosswalk at the time the green light is exhibited, and

      (iii) must yield the right of way to vehicles lawfully in the intersection at the time the green light became exhibited, and

      (b) a pedestrian facing the green light may proceed across the roadway in a marked or unmarked crosswalk, subject to special pedestrian traffic control signals directing him or her otherwise, and has the right of way for that purpose over all vehicles.

      Rights of way between vehicle and pedestrian

      179 (1) Subject to section 180, the driver of a vehicle must yield the right of way to a pedestrian where traffic control signals are not in place or not in operation when the pedestrian is crossing the highway in a crosswalk and the pedestrian is on the half of the highway on which the vehicle is travelling, or is approaching so closely from the other half of the highway that he or she is in danger.

      (2) A pedestrian must not leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close it is impracticable for the driver to yield the right of way.

      (3) If a vehicle is slowing down or stopped at a crosswalk or at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the highway, the driver of a vehicle approaching from the rear must not overtake and pass the vehicle that is slowing down or stopped.

      (4) A pedestrian, cyclist or the driver of a motor vehicle must obey the instructions of an adult school crossing guard and of a school student acting as a member of a traffic patrol where the guards or students are

      (a) provided under the School Act,

      (b) authorized by the chief of police of the municipality as defined in section 36 (1), or

      (c) if located on treaty lands, authorized by the chief of the police force responsible for policing the treaty lands.

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