Skip to main content
driving concerns

There’s no middle ground when it comes to turning right from anywhere but the rightmost lane.constantgardener/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

Can I make a right turn on a red light from the second lane when safe? There’s no right turn marking on this lane. I know it’s not preferable, but is it illegal? – Albert

There’s no middle ground when it comes to turning right from anywhere but the rightmost lane. If there’s no sign telling you it’s okay, then you can’t do it.

“If the second lane is not clearly designated as a right turn lane and it is not the lane closest to the curb, then it is illegal,” said Sgt. Brett Moore, with Toronto police traffic services, in an e-mail.

Section 141.2 of Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act states that a driver turning right must, “approach the intersection within the right-hand lane or, where it has no such marked lanes, by keeping immediately to the left of the right curb or edge of the roadway….”

If you turn in the wrong lane in Ontario, it’s an $85 fine and two demerits.

And, you have to turn into the rightmost lane, even if it ends up ahead.

Designated turning lanes are the exceptions, when that second or third lane has a sign, signal or marks on the pavement indicating permission for a turn.

“If it is a designated turn lane, you can turn right on a red, if it is safe to do so, but you must turn into the corresponding lane of the intersecting highway,” Moore said. “If you were in lane two of roadway one, then you must turn into lane two of roadway two.”

The rules apply whether the light is red or green – you still have to turn right from the right lane or a turning lane.

And if there’s a sign banning right turns on a red? Well, then you can’t turn on a red.

Illegal and unsafe

Turning right anywhere but the right lane or a turning lane isn’t just illegal, it’s dangerous, said Ian Law, president and chief instructor of ILR Car Control School.

Why? Other drivers won’t know what you’re doing. And, if the rightmost lane isn’t designated for turning, you could cut off a car on your right.

And, it doesn’t matter if you’re on a one-way street.

“Even on one-way streets, you must turn right from the rightmost lane,” Law said in an e-mail.

Traffic rules vary by province, but, generally, they say that you’re wrong to turn right in a middle lane that’s not designated as a turning lane.

For instance, British Columbia’s Motor Vehicle Act states when you are approaching an intersection intending to turn right you "must drive the vehicle in the lane nearest to the right hand side of the roadway.”

In B.C., it’s a $109 fine and two demerits.

“Sometimes there are two lanes and there are marks on the pavement, then you can turn,” said Sgt. Lorne Lecker with RCMP’s Deas Island traffic services in Surrey, B.C.

The wording varies by province. In Quebec, the law states, “The driver of a road vehicle who is about to turn right at an intersection must, after signalling his intention and ascertaining that he can do so in safety, move to the extreme right of the roadway or into the space reserved for that purpose by an appropriate sign, make a sharp turn and not encroach on the left or the centre of the road he is entering.”

In other words, when turning right, keep right and stay in your lane.

And, generally, the same rules apply everywhere for turning left. You have to turn from the leftmost lane or a turning lane – and not the middle lanes.

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.

Shopping for a new car? Check out the new Globe Drive Build and Price Tool to see the latest discounts, rebates and rates on new cars, trucks and SUVs. Click here to get your price.

Stay on top of all our Drive stories. We have a Drive newsletter covering car reviews, innovative new cars and the ups and downs of everyday driving. Sign up for the weekly Drive newsletter, delivered to your inbox for free. Follow us on Instagram, @globedrive.