Drive Smart columnist Tim Schewe.

Drive Smart columnist Tim Schewe.

Drivesmart column: Red means stop, but not always stay

This seems contrary to what we usually practice

By Tim Schewe

Here’s an interesting question from the DriveSmartBC inbox: there is a mid-block pedestrian controlled traffic light in our neighbourhood and drivers frequently proceed through it after stopping if no one is in the crosswalk. Is this legal?

Ask most drivers in B.C. and they will tell you that when you are facing a red traffic light, you must stop and stay stopped until the light turns green. The exception that may be raised is when you are making a permitted left or right turn and have come to a complete stop first and yielded as necessary.

Wait a minute, left turn on red? Yes, these turns are permitted if you are turning onto a one way street.

This is the correct action to take if the traffic signal is at an intersection. Section 129(1) MVA says that a driver will stop and remain stopped until the traffic signal instructs the driver to proceed. There are two parts to the rule, stopping and remaining stopped until instructed otherwise. Here in B.C., that instruction would be the traffic light turning green.

Section 129(5) MVA covers a red light exhibited at a place other than an intersection. In this special case, the driver must stop and a pedestrian may proceed across the highway. There is only one part to this rule, and that is the stop. Once you have stopped and yielded to any pedestrians as necessary, you may proceed, even though the light is still red.

This seems contrary to what we usually practice and is not mentioned in the Learn to Drive Smart or Learn to Ride Smart provincial driving manuals. Nonetheless, if done with care, this is legal and can save time and fuel by reducing the wait.

It is also safe because it is not at an intersection so there is no vehicular cross traffic to interfere with.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit


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