In Ontario, if an intersection is large enough to accommodate two cars, is it legal for two cars to wait for a left turn when the traffic light is green? Some driving teachers say that only one car at a time can be waiting in the intersection, but others say this is not true. – Terence
Ontario's Highway Traffic Act doesn't ban eager left-turners from lining in the middle of an intersection – but if you do it during a driving test, you'll probably fail.
"On a government road test, if you follow another vehicle into the intersection, quite often you will fail – so you get your licence with the understanding that it's only one person at a time," says Angelo DiCicco, general manager of Young Drivers of Canada (GTA). "But the next day, the people around you will shake hands and fingers and yell obscenities at you if you don't move up and allow a second person in or sometimes a third."
In Ontario, the law doesn't say where cars should wait when waiting to turn left at a green light.
Apparently, that silence means a queue is allowed. In an e-mail, Ontario's Ministry of Transportation (MTO) tells Globe Drive that "more than one car is allowed to enter an intersection on a green light to line up to make a left turn, provided that the car's turn signal is on before it enters the intersection."
But, beware of local bylaws. If an intersection has a sign that says "Do not block intersection," you shouldn't be waiting inside it to turn, police say.
Sure you can, but should you?
So, you're allowed to head into an intersection when there's another driver waiting, but is it a good idea? It depends on who you talk to.
Ian Law, president and chief instructor of ILR Car Control School, says only one car at a time should be waiting in an intersection.
"Even though you can legally follow another car into the intersection, do not wait there with them – if the light changes, you could be stranded," Law says. "Being stranded as the light turns red greatly increases the chances of being struck by another driver coming through on the fresh green."
But, once the light turns amber, aren't oncoming drivers supposed to stop to let you clear the intersection? Sure, but what if they don't?
"Too many drivers will run amber lights, delaying other drivers making the left until the light actually turns red for the left turning driver," Law says. "Considering the length of the vast majority of red lights is less than 60 seconds, it is just not worth the greater risk to enter the intersection to save a minute on any trip."
So, Law says, only one car should be waiting at a time. How far should you go in?
"About a vehicle length and use the S turn," he says. "This is where the driver jogs slightly left so as to see past the other vehicles in the opposing left turn lane."
But, after that, your wheels should be straight until you actually turn. Why? So if you're hit from behind, your car will be pushed through the intersection and not angled into oncoming traffic, Law says.
When in Rome?
But, if you're at an intersection where two cars normally wait for the turn, you could face peer pressure, Young Drivers' DiCicco says.
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