Readers in Port Alberni and Kelowna have written this week to comment on drivers who stop to turn left between intersections and are then involved in collisions with drivers overtaking from the rear. In Port Alberni this is occurring in a downtown business district with straight road and a posted speed limit of 50 km/h. The situation in Kelowna is a bit different as the speed limit is where this is reported to be happening is higher and the road is not straight. In both cases I would ask the left turning driver “What’s in your rear view mirror?”
When you are driving on roads that have painted lines marking out the lanes to use, you are generally required to stay to the right of them. There are exceptions for passing, avoiding obstructions and when you are entering or leaving the highway.
The situation raised here involves leaving the highway and the onus is on the left turning driver to do so safely and without unreasonably affecting the travel of another vehicle.
I’m sure we all watch the oncoming traffic carefully and find a safe gap to make the turn through. After all, who wants to have a collision where the vehicle hits you in the side door at speed? There is almost nothing there to protect you in comparison to a front or rear end collision.
What we may not consider is what is happening behind us as we slow or stop waiting to make that left turn. Remember that onus to be safe and to not unreasonably affect the travel of others?
Before slowing or stopping, you should be checking your rear view mirror to see what is behind you. It is not enough to rely on your signal and brake lights to announce your intentions, you must first consider whether it is safe enough to slow or stop at all. This is where the test for being reasonable or not begins.
If traffic is heavy, speeds are high, the vehicles behind you are following closely and oncoming traffic leaves little opportunity to turn left it’s time to consider an alternative method of making that move. It may involve turning at the intersection before or after the convenient (for you) spot and going around the block to make a right turn instead.
Having decided that it was reasonable to stop and wait to turn left, the test for being reasonable continues. It doesn’t just involve oncoming traffic, but traffic that you should be watching for in your rear view mirror as well. If conditions change, you may need to abandon the turn and proceed in order to be safe.
Yes, there is also a duty for drivers who are overtaking the left turn vehicle to anticipate and drive with due care in order not to become involved in a collision. However, that situation can’t be more than anticipation of what might occur until after you have made the decision to turn left and begin to act. The main onus is still on the driver of the left turning vehicle to choose safety and consideration for others.
Constable Tim Schewe (Retired)
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