“Challenging the intersection” is the term used to describe the right of a left turning vehicle to enter the intersection as opposing traffic is passing through, and make a left turn either at a safe gap in the traffic or as the green light goes to amber and then turns to red.
This is perfectly legal and should be done one car at a time. The left turning vehicle challenging the intersection “owns” that intersection until the turn can be made safely. Not every driver is comfortable with the challenging the intersection maneuver, and the law does not require a driver to challenge an intersection.
The real challenge is in executing the left hand turn safely after the traffic signal goes from amber to red. Safety Services Newfoundland and Labrador put on an excellent program on safety, including road traffic safety, last week at the Holiday Inn in St. John’s.
Rudy Singleton and Jim Brazil did a presentation for driver education at the conference. For some months leading up to the talk, Jim had been driving with a dash-mounted “dash cam”, obtainable for about $100. He saved scenes which he thought illustrated some of the breathtakingly careless things drivers are doing on our roads today. One segment showed a white pick-up truck executing a left hand turn at a light which had turned red eight seconds before! No collision occurred, but only by sheer luck.
As to challenging the intersection, Jim Brazil showed video of drivers tentatively entering the intersection for a left hand challenge, and then changing their minds and trying to reverse out of the intersection! If you’re going to do it, do it.
But most dangerous is the fact that many drivers in and around St. John’s have developed the habit of deliberately driving through intersections on the red light just after it changes. This dangerous habit means that the safety-minded driver challenging an intersection has to be quite sure that the vehicles opposite approaching the red light are actually going to stop for it! Don’t be in a hurry – you “own” the intersection until you can safely execute that left-hand turn. Everyone who is stopped can see you, and they aren’t going to drive into you. So make sure the traffic which should be slowing down and stopping for the red light is actually doing so before making that turn.
It can be a war zone out there on our streets, and sometimes even the most careful drivers take a hit. If that happens to you, we’re here to help.