Skip to main content

Is it illegal to turn left if the left turn signal is red, but intersection light is green?

When you come to an intersection with an advanced green light for left turns, are you allowed to turn left when that signal is red as long as the intersection is green? Of course you only proceed when it is safe to do so. I'm talking about the dedicated lanes with their own turn signal. I've been going through them for 25 years - but my friends and family think I'm nuts. - David, Toronto

If the turn lane has its own traffic light, Ontario's Driver's Handbook calls it a "fully protected left turn." But, if you go through it when it's red, you'll have no protection from a $260 fine and three demerit points, police say.

"If it's a regular intersection with oncoming traffic you must have a green… you cannot enter the intersection on a red," said Const. Clint Stibbe, with Toronto Police Traffic Services. "Except if you are a driving a road building or cleaning machine, then you are permitted - but only when safe to do so."

Story continues below advertisement

So, if you've got a red light in your lane, you can't turn, period. Well, sometimes you can, but we'll get to that in a second.

It gets a little confusing. That's because there are different types of advanced green lights for left turns in Ontario.

For a normal advanced turn, the intersection has one traffic light with a flashing green light or arrow.

The traffic coming toward you has a red, so, on your green, you can turn left, right or go straight. Once the green light stops flashing or the arrow switches off, you've got a solid green and you can still turn left - as long as it's clear - before the light turns amber.

Then, we've got the simultaneous left turn. Here, traffic in both directions has an advanced left signal. Again, it's one traffic light for the intersection. Traffic going straight has a red and traffic turning left gets a flashing arrow. When that arrow turns to amber and the solid light turns green, then you can turn left if it's clear.

But, sometimes, the intersection has one signal light for the left turning lane and another for the lanes that are going straight and turning right. Sometimes, that lane is separated from the others by a median.

"A dedicated left turn has a separate signal head and when it is red, you cannot make a left turn," said Brampton driving instructor Ian Law.

Story continues below advertisement

So, if you've got a light in your lane and it's red, it doesn't matter if all the other lanes have a solid green. They get to go and you don't. You've got to stop and wait for the next advanced green.

If you stop at the red and then turn anyway, you could be charged with proceeding before a green light. If you don't stop at all, you could be charged with failing to stop at a red light, Stibbe said.

The rules vary by province, but most are similar . Sometimes, there will be a sign saying you can't turn left if the advanced turn signal is red.

It gets a little tricky for visiting out-of-province drivers in British Columbia and the Yukon, there a flashing green doesn't mean you can advance left - it just means the light only changes when a pedestrian pushes the button.

One way, or another

To make it even more confusing, in most provinces you can turn left on a red light - after you come to a complete stop - if you're turning from a one-way street onto another one-way street.

Story continues below advertisement

"If you're on a one-way turning left on to a one-way, you are permitted as long as when the turn is made, you complete the turn in the leftmost lane," Stibbe said.

And in B.C., you can turn left on a red from a two-way street onto a one-way street.

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

We've redesigned the Drive section – take a look

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter