Lane Change: Driving Law BC

Solid Lines, Broken Lines

The driving rules about crossing road lines can seem contradictory or confusing. ICBC produces a “Learn to Drive Smart” manual which gives an outline of the rules of the road. The section on “Stops, Signals, and Road Markings” has a quick overview of the rules pertaining to solid and broken white and yellow lines. See pages 38-39 in the online manual available here.

Currently in BC, yellow lines are used to demarcate lanes with opposite directions of travel, while white lines separate lanes with the same direction of travel. A solid yellow line indicates that you may cross the line to pass only with extreme caution. A broken yellow line indicates that you may cross it to pass, always assuming it is safe to do so. Where there is a double line, one broken and one solid, passing is allowed only when the broken line is the one closest to you.

A broken white line indicates that you may cross it to change lanes anywhere it is safe, whereas a solid white line indicates that you should not change lanes. Curiously, the Motor Vehicle Act itself (available here) does not distinguish between yellow and white lines, and you might think it states that crossing a solid line while overtaking is allowed.  Section 155, which deals with Highway Lines, says in subsection (c) that where there is “one single line, broken or solid, the driver of a vehicle must drive the vehicle to the right of the line, except only when passing an overtaken vehicle.” However, Section 151 (b) applies to “laned roadways” and says that when you are travelling on a road with two or more marked lanes for vehicles travelling in the same direction, you must not drive it from one lane to another if that action “necessitates crossing a solid line.”

In the case of a double line, which we can generally understand to mean a double yellow line, crossing it to pass is not allowed at all. Section 155 (a) states that in the case of “a solid double line, the driver of a vehicle must drive it to the right of the line only.” Unlike with the other types of highway lines, there is no exception to this rule for avoiding an obstruction. Where there is an obstruction (such as debris, animals, etc.) Section 155 (2) applies to the other types of road lines and says that a driver can cross the line if he or she “first ascertains that the movement can be made with safety and without affecting the travel of any other vehicle.” But subsection 155 (a) is not excepted, and so by the letter of the law, vehicles must keep to the right of it no matter if there are obstructions!

So when can you legally cross a double yellow line? Only when you are turning onto or off of the highway. Section 156 “suspends” section 155 and says that it does not apply when the driver is entering or leaving the highway and “might do so with safety and does so without unreasonably affecting the travel of another vehicle”. So long as you are cautious, then, and can do so without blocking traffic, it appears as though you may cross a double solid line in order to turn onto or off of the road.

What if you leave your lane where the line is broken, but cannot return to your lane after overtaking until the line has turned solid? To be on the safe side of driving law in BC, you should not leave your lane unless you know you can safely re-enter it while the line is still broken. However sometimes circumstances make this difficult to determine ahead of time. If you are involved in an accident, and ICBC tries to argue that you are at fault because of where you changed lanes, you may still be entitled to compensation. If you or someone you know has been in an automobile accident involving overtaking another vehicle, the team of experienced ICBC lawyers at John Mickelson Law Corporation can help ensure you receive full compensation for your injuries. Call us today at 604.684.0040 for your free consultation at our Vancouver or Surrey offices.


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