by Cedric Hughes, Barrister & Solicitor with regular weekly contributions from Leslie McGuffin, LL.B.   

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Can You Change Lanes in an Intersection?

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Although technically it may not be against the law in British Columbia to change lanes in an intersection, most BC drivers think it is, and we encourage that thought. The closest the law comes to specifically prohibiting such a move is where it prohibits lane changing “if that action necessitates crossing a solid line”, and in the sections that require appropriate signaling. Some intersections may have solid lines separating the crossing lanes as they approach. Although these markings will not carry through the intersection, presumably they alert most drivers to avoid such a move.

Generally lane changes in intersections involve last minute maneuvers where signaling, if it happens at all, is not given in enough time to be of much help to surrounding drivers. In other words, the action is unpredictable and erratic enough to be a safety hazard in a high activity area that does not need to be further complicated by lane changers.
So the rule on changing lanes in intersections is “don’t do it” even though, technically, there may be no law prohibiting the move.
Sometimes, however, a lane change may be hard to avoid. Vancouver may be one of the few cities of its size left that permits so much street parking. Generally street parking starts at the “other side” of an intersection. So if a driver is in a street lane that suddenly, once it crosses an intersection, becomes a parking lane full of parked cars, the driver will need to merge with the traffic to the left before getting fully through the intersection.
And sometimes, despite all best efforts to look ahead, the view does not permit a driver to see that this challenge is fast approaching. To accomplish this merge safely requires some agility, a quick speeding up of the four steps for a successful lane change: mirror check, signal on, shoulder check, and move.
The need to merge may also arise when a driver suddenly discovers an obstacle ahead or is pushed over by an approaching emergency vehicle. Again, the situation is a challenge of driving skill.
The general rules for safely crossing an intersection are as follows:
  • Watch for cross traffic. Running a red light is a leading cause of intersection crashes.
  • Be alert to traffic from the opposite direction carelessly turning left in front of you.
  • Do not race a yellow light.
  • Do not assume you are safe crossing on a yellow light.
  • Always stop behind the marked stop line or crosswalk.
  • Keep your wheels straight and your foot on the brake while you wait.
  • Do not enter an intersection if traffic is backed up on the other side. You may get stuck in the middle of the intersection if the traffic doesn't move.
  • Do not change lanes while driving through the intersection. If you are not in the correct lane before entering the intersection, change lanes after you have cleared the intersection. 
Please drive safely.

Cedric Hughes

huges & company law corporation vancouver


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