RCMP, peace officer urging people not to turn left of centre

By Rob Vogt, Local Press Writer

Did you know that if you are driving, and turn left into an angle-parking spot, you are breaking the law.

This practice is called turning left of centre, and the Claresholm RCMP and Town of Claresholm are encouraging motorists not to do it.

“It’s probably one of the biggest complaints we get out of the downtown core,” said Jason Hemmaway, the town’s community peace officer, adding it is becoming more of a habit for some drivers.

He explained that, right back to when every driver took their driver’s test, they were taught to enter a parking spot from the direction of travel.

That means the driver always turns right into a parking spot.

Turning left of centre, Hemmaway said, is illegal because the driver is turning into on-coming traffic.

“Enter from the direction of travel is what you’re supposed to do,” Hemmaway said.

There are several reasons turning left of centre is illegal.

The potential for accidents increases.

“Be aware that it is illegal – and unsafe,” Hemmaway said.

Greg Stannard, sergeant of the Claresholm RCMP, said it is difficult to make that turn.

“Anytime you’re crossing traffic, you increase your odds of a collision,” he said. “There’s too many variables.”

Hemmaway said it is not just a problem getting into a parking spot, but getting out.

“How do you exit the parking stall safely as well?” he asked.

He also has seen drivers back out across two lanes of traffic to go the direction they wanted.

This practice is also illegal.

Hemmaway emphasized, when backing out, a motorist does not have the right of way.

Stannard concurs, pointing out when you’re backing up, your visibility is gone.

“There’s a lot of blind spots,” he said.

Another problem with turning left of centre is the vehicle is not parked at the proper angle, but instead straight out. This is a problem because the vehicle is now sticking out two feet further into traffic than if at an angle.

Drivers turning left of centre can be ticketed under the Traffic Safety Act.

Improper angle parking can cost a $78 ticket, while turning left of centre can mean a $233 ticket and three demerits.

Hemmaway said drivers sometimes tell him they turned left of centre to park because they fear a jaywalking ticket. His response is there is no jaywalking bylaw in Claresholm.

Hemmaway said the message they are trying to convey is how can you drive your vehicle the safest way and be most aware of your surroundings.

“We’re trying to elevate people’s level of knowledge and level of respect,” he said.