So, as I approach an intersection, the car ahead of me is waiting to turn left. Am I allowed to swerve around it to go straight through the intersection, even though there's no passing lane? More to the point, am I obligated to swerve to maintain the flow of traffic? I was in this situation on a normal residential side street (one lane in each direction, no dividing lines) and stopped for three seconds while the Odyssey in front of me waited to turn left at the green light. The driver of the white BMW SUV tailgating me didn't like this, as she veered into the parking lane to squeeze past both of us. Meanwhile, the Odyssey made its turn and the BMW and I were left trying to squeeze through the intersection, like two people trying to walk through the same door. Was I wrong to wait? — Jackie, Toronto
When you gotta wait, you gotta wait.
If you don't think it's safe to pass a left-turning vehicle, then don't pass, no matter what the guy behind you thinks, experts say.
"Your responsibility is to clear the intersection safely – why would you risk going around if you don't know for sure that it's safe?" says Angelo DiCicco, GTA general manager for Young Drivers of Canada. "It's pretty presumptuous of the driver behind you to think you're an idiot and go around you into a blind area that you've decided is unsafe."
Under Section 150 of Ontario's Highway Traffic Act, you're allowed to pass a left-turning vehicle to the right – as long as you don't leave the travelled portion of the road, DiCicco says.
"It's something that has to be negotiated – if you think you have room to go around and there's no danger, then theoretically you could," DiCicco says. "But you'd also have to watch out for the oncoming vehicle – what if he was about to turn left?"
Even though you can pass a left-turning car, it's not something you have to do to keep traffic flowing, he says.
"Normally, the first car goes first," DiCicco says. "If other cars have to wait five years for a car to turn, then they have to wait."
Passing a left-turning car is risky because that driver may decide not to turn and go straight instead, says Toronto Police.
"No one can predict what another person is going to do," says Traffic Services Const. Clint Stibbe in an e-mail. "In the end, patience equals safety – saving those three or four seconds could end up costing you thousands."
If you're at an intersection and the car behind you starts honking, don't assume that's a signal that it's safe for you to go, DiCicco says.
"Someone gets impatient and starts honking – but they don't know what you can and can't see," DiCicco says. "A lot of people are 'me first' and they just assume everybody else is an idiot and so they push you into an intersection or cut into line at the grocery store."
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