Yellow Light and Left Hand Turn Accidents – Who’s At Fault?

In the legal industry, we often see cases where both drivers involved in a motor vehicle accident believed they had the right of way. These accidents could likely have been avoided had each driver had a better understanding of the law and the rules of the road.

Frequently, these cases involve a situation where one driver was proceeding straight through an intersection and the other driver was attempting a left hand turn on a yellow light. The driver going straight through the intersection believes they have the right of way to clear the intersection and the driver making the left hand turn believes the driver going straight must stop and therefore they have the right of way to make their turn. So, who is at fault for the accident in this situation?

Generally speaking, the driver attempting the left hand turn will be responsible. Under the Highway Traffic Act, a driver attempting a left hand turn has the responsibility to wait to make their turn until it is safe to do so, maintain a proper lookout, and yield to oncoming traffic. Furthermore, a driver facing a yellow light is permitted to proceed through the intersection if they deem it unsafe to stop.

Some may argue that the left turn driver is entitled to assume that the straight through driver will stop as they are required to do so under the Act provided it can be done safely. However, what is considered “safe”? Although drivers may assume other drivers will obey the rules of the road, what one driver may consider safe in these circumstances may not be the same as another. Therefore, it should never be assumed that the straight-through driver will stop. This assumption unfortunately results in many avoidable accidents.

Nevertheless, every case is determined on its own particular facts. Furthermore, if it can be established that the straight-through driver was speeding, ran a red light, or could have safely stopped on the yellow light, then that driver may bear some portion of fault for the accident. This will typically require evidence from witnesses and reports from police officers and/or other professionals that are trained in accident reconstruction.

About the Authors

A born-and-raised Barrie resident, Karen knows and loves her community. She is proud to be a partner in one of Canada’s most successful personal injury law firms—right in her own backyard. Karen joined Oatley Vigmond in 2013 as an associate lawyer. She holds a BA from Queen’s University and her Juris Doctor from Bond University in Australia. Prior to being called to the Bar in January 2013, Karen articled at a well-known personal injury law firm in Toronto.

To learn more about Karen, please click here.