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driving concerns

I learned in driving school that when turning, unless otherwise marked, you must turn into the closest lane . But when I'm turning left onto a two-lane one-way street , I'm always cutting off somebody who's trying to make a right turn into the leftmost lane. Every night, I get honked at, yelled at, called names, given the, well, you get the point. Am I entitled to the leftmost lane, and should the other cars be turning right into the rightmost lane? — Scott, Ottawa

When you're turning right, you don't have the right to turn into the left lane, police say.

"In simple terms, you turn right into the right lane only, and left in to the left lane only," says Toronto police traffic services Const. Clint Stibbe. "The only (legal) exception for a vehicle making a right turn into another lane has to do with a transport trailer, if they have to make a wide turn."

Section 141 of Ontario's Highway Traffic Act (HTA) spells out the rules for turns.

It says a driver turning right must turn into "the right-hand lane of the intersecting highway where the lane is marked or, where no such lane is marked, by keeping immediately to the left of the right curb or edge of the roadway being entered."

In other words, stay in your lane — and if there isn't one, keep to the right.

Left turns are the same — unless signs or markings tell you otherwise, turn into the far left lane.

If you're on a road that allows turns from multiple lanes, you stay in the lane you started in — unless there are signs indicating otherwise.

"The vast majority of drivers make turns improperly," Stibbe says. "It's habitual — if you follow a driver who's just made an improper turn, you'll see they make all their turns improperly."

If you get caught making an improper turn in Ontario, it's two demerits and a $110 fine.

The rules are similar in every province. Most fines are in the same range as Ontario. Not all provinces give demerits for it. For example, in B.C. turning into the wrong lane gets you a $109 fine and three demerits. In Newfoundland, the minimum fine is $100 and no demerits.

Okay, but what if you're making a right turn into the left lane for a good reason?

Maybe you know that right lane is ending up ahead. Or it's jammed with traffic. Or some jerk has parked his car there even though it's rush hour.

Too bad, says Stibbe.

"You make the lane change after you complete the turn," Stibbe says.

If you're turning left into the far left lane and you get hit by a car trying to turn right into that lane, you shouldn't be found at fault, Stibbe says.

"My wife was just asking me that same question — as long as you haven't left your lane or committed some other offence, it boils down to the person who made the improper turn, they're at fault" Stibbe says. "But that doesn't do anybody any good — it would be better if the accident didn't happen at all because people learned to drive better."

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