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Is that legal? Ten traffic law myths you need to know

Cracked windshields, U-turns, loose dogs and other things that are perfectly legal

Published September 24, 2013
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“Hey, that Doberman in the car ahead of us isn’t wearing a seatbelt!”: Ten driver actions that might seem illegal but aren’t.

1. Turning right on red from the second lane from curb. This is allowed provided it’s designated as a dual right turn lane by signs and/or lane markings, there’s no sign prohibiting such action, it’s done in safety, and the turn is completed in the corresponding lane of the intersecting roadway.

2. “Pass off roadway” is normally a violation but using the paved shoulder to safely go around a vehicle that’s signalling they’re about to turn left is permitted.

3. U-turns within an intersection are permitted if no sign is posted prohibiting U-turns, it’s done in safety, intersection is not within 30 metres of a rail crossing, and approaching drivers can see clearly from 150 m away with no curve, crest/grade, bridge, viaduct or tunnel obstructing view.

4. Creating gridlock. Entering a crowded intersection before there’s room for you on the other side and then getting trapped mid-way as the light turns red isn’t smart, but it’s not a Highway Traffic Act violation. Some municipalities, including Toronto, have enacted bylaws making this an offence, so you can be ticketed, but other regions have not.

5. “No clear view to rear” due to cargo in the backseat isn’t an offence provided the vehicle has dual side mirrors and the driver’s view of these isn’t obstructed. In fact, some trucks or cargo vans with dual mirrors have no rear window.

Likewise, a broken rear wiper (arguably allowing rain, snow, slush or dirt to obstruct your rearward view) isn’t unlawful. It’s not required equipment, so there’s no violation if it fails.

6. A dog loose in a vehicle is only an offence if it crowds or distracts the driver, affecting vehicle control. There’s no requirement that pets be restrained, though it’s strongly recommended for pet and passenger safety.

7. Disobeying a “Good Samaritan” directing traffic could be foolhardy, but it’s not illegal. Only police have the general authority to direct traffic. Those with limited traffic control authority include firefighters at collision scene, construction/maintenance zone person with stop/slow paddle, school zone crossing guard, and flag-person at rail crossing.

8. “No airbags” isn’t an offence. These aren’t HTA required equipment.

9. Towing a hot dog cart without trailer plates isn’t an offence. It’s not considered a “trailer” under the HTA definition and doesn’t require plates.

10. Having a cracked windshield isn’t an offence provided the stone chip or crack is minor, doesn’t affect the visibility of the driver to others, and the windshield still affords the driver a clear view to the front of the vehicle.

Information above was reviewed by MTO, is of a general nature only, and should not be taken as legal advice or opinion.

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