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driving concerns

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

I disagree with your story on left turns at lights ( Say I am in a holding pattern in an intersection about to turn left. If I proceed, and a car travelling through on a yellow-turning-red light smashes into me, then it is entirely my fault as the lane was not safe to turn into, correct? That's my insurance company's position. I agree. – James, Toronto

Turning left into oncoming traffic means you're at fault with your insurance company, says the Insurance Bureau of Canada. But how much you're at fault depends on what the other car was doing – and what you can prove.

"According to the fault determination rules in the Insurance Act, it's the person who is turning left who is at fault," says Pete Karageorgos, Ontario Manager, Industry and Consumer Relations with the Insurance Bureau of Canada. "But if the other person blew though that red light or was really going fast, there's variance – it could be shared."

Insurance adjusters determine fault by looking at the accident report, talking to the adjuster from the other driver's insurance company and doing their own investigations.

"So, if I say 'He blew though a red light as I was completing a safe turn,' and the damage is on the back end of my car, there's support there," Karageorgos says. "If I get an independent witness who says, 'look the guy was turning left and a blue car raced through the light and hit him,' it's a slam dunk."

Your insurance adjuster would figure out how to split the fault, be it 50/50, 75/25, or some other ratio, Karageorgos says.

Even if there are no charges, the police report helps adjusters figure out what both parties were doing.

"If you're turning into traffic and you get creamed, you're on the hook for it," says Toronto Police Traffic Services Const. Clinton Stibbe. "But, sure, if that other car was going so fast that he wasn't there when you started to make the turn, the investigators will look at that."

Stibbe says this is a good reason to be extra-cautious at lights. He says it's a good idea to wait behind the line, even though it's not required by the Highway Traffic Act.

"In Toronto, there are bylaws that say you can't enter that intersection to turn left -- anywhere where it says 'Do not block intersections,'" he says.

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