Marie-Claude Dulac

By Marie-Claude Dulac

January 26, 2017


Auto Insurance: Demystifying Right Turns at Red Lights

Article revised on 26 June 2018

Drivers in Quebec have been making right turns at red lights since April 13, 2003, except on the island of Montreal and where prohibited by traffic signs. According to statistics from the Ministère des Transports, there was no significant impact on the number of road accidents due to right turns at red lights between 2003 and 2013.

We can therefore conclude that they’re not a major cause of auto insurance claims. Everyone needs to be extra cautious on the road, however, if this practice is to continue safely. Here’s what the law says about turning right at red lights!

The right way: stop, look, decide

Here are the basic rules to ensure safe right turns at red lights:

  1. Make a full stop before the stop line or the pedestrian crosswalk. It’s mandatory.
  2. Verify traffic signs to make sure that a right turn is permitted at the red light.
  3. Make sure the road is clear: Yield the right of way to vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists crossing the intersection or on the verge of crossing.
  4. Check your right rearview mirror and your right blind spot to make sure there are no pedestrians or cyclists headed your way.
  5. If the road is clear and you wish to turn right, then go for it!

It’s a privilege, not an obligation

The decision to turn right at a red light lies with each individual driver. The Highway Safety Code is clear: “[…] unless otherwise directed by a sign or signal, the driver of a road vehicle or a cyclist facing a red light may make a right turn […]”

Not only do you have the right to decide not to turn right at a red light, but any driver who honks to pressure you to turn can face fines ranging from $100 to $200 for using the horn without a valid reason.

Respecting traffic signs is not optional

Tempted not to make a full stop at a red light where a right turn is permitted? Thinking of turning right even when there is a traffic sign forbidding it? Trying to save a few seconds can end up costing you a fine ranging from $100 and $200 and 3 demerit points…that’s a big price to pay to save so little time!

Traffic signs apply to cyclists, too

Did you know that cyclists must also respect the Highway Safety Code? It makes sense when you think about it, especially since cyclists are more vulnerable than automobile drivers in an accident. That’s why you need to be vigilant when you get to a red light: You must make a full stop and turn right only if the traffic signs allow such turns and it’s safe to do so. Otherwise, you can receive a fine of up to $100.

Pedestrians always have the right of way

Of course pedestrians have the right of way when the white pedestrian silhouette light is on.

But can a driver turn right at a red light when the pedestrian light is on, but there are no pedestrians in sight? Yes! If the circumstances allow you to do so safely, you can turn even when the pedestrian light is on.

At intersections without a pedestrian light, remember that pedestrians always have the right of way when the light is green. All drivers and cyclists must yield the right of way to them.

Whether you’re a pedestrian, cyclist, or an automobile or truck driver, always be extra vigilant at intersections where right turns at red lights are permitted. It’s for everyone’s safety!

Source: SAAQ

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