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The off ramp at Avenue Rd. from Highway 401 in Toronto. (Jordan Chittley/The Globe and Mail)

The off ramp at Avenue Rd. from Highway 401 in Toronto.

(Jordan Chittley/The Globe and Mail)

Driving Concerns

Is it legal to make a right on a red from the middle lane? Add to ...

I have always understood that only drivers in the curb lane can make a right-hand turn on a red light when there are two right-turning lanes . When I’m waiting in the leftmost right turn for the light to change, there’s a lot of peer pressure from cars behind me to make the turn. It would really tick me off to make the right and end up with a ticket. – Lisa, Toronto

When there’s more than one right-turning lane, all the lanes can proceed right on a red in Ontario – unless it’s not safe or there’s a sign saying not to.

But, you also have the right to wait until the light turns green before making your turn.

“You can’t be forced to make a right turn at a red light,” said Const. Clint Stibbe, with Toronto Police Traffic Services. “If you wait, there’s no charge – but you may end up with the person behind you leaning on the horn.”

Back to the main issue: when can you turn right? Under sections 141.3 and 144.19 of Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act, anyone in a designated right-turning lane – shown by signs or markings on the road – can turn on a red light after coming to a complete stop.

“If it’s permitted by the lane marking on the roadway, you can make that turn on the red light, as long as the movement can be done safely,” Stibbe said.

The exception? If there’s a sign saying you can’t. If there’s a ban and you turn anyway, you could face two demerits and a $110 fine.

Even if turning is allowed, once you make that turn and enter traffic, you’re at fault for collisions, Stibbe said. That’s a good reason not to rush into a turn when the car behind you is honking. “The person who takes the hit and the ticket is the person who got scared into moving,” Stibbe said.

The specific rules about turning at red lights vary by province, but they’re similar, Stibbe said. Until 2003, Quebec banned right turns at red lights - now, they’re allowed everywhere but the island of Montreal.”

Have a driving question? Send it to globedrive@globeandmail.com. Canada’s a big place, so let us know where you are so we can find the answer for your city and province.

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