Is it illegal to change lanes in an intersection?
Yes, the road laws in Australia say you must stay in your marked lane when turning right or left through an intersection, to prevent collisions.
And in cases where there are no individual lane markings directing traffic through an intersection you are to follow some basic guidelines.
When turning left at an intersection the road rules state you are to keep left of the road you turn into. If you’re making a right-hand turn and there are no markings to follow, you must make your right turn by passing as near as possible to the right of the centre of the intersection.
What this means is you can’t turn left from the right side of the road, and vice versa, unless it is marked to do so on the road. It is also illegal to continue straight ahead from a marked turning lane, or to generally disobey markings on the road surface.
an increasing number of drivers ignore this rule
When travelling straight ahead it is deemed unsafe to change lanes while in the intersection under the Australian Road Rules as developed by the Australian Transport Council in 1999. The rule of thumb is that although there are no lane markings in the intersection, the markings present in the lane up to the start of the intersection continue through that intersection, and you are not to cross them.
It is common in metro areas to see drivers caught in intersections blocking cross-traffic as congestion sees traffic bank up. These cars caught in the middle of an intersection as lights change force drivers to move their car to a lane where there is space to move forward out of the intersection. This is illegal and the Australian Road Rules state that you are not to proceed unless you can see, with certainty, there is space for your car on the other side of the intersection.
While an increasing number of drivers ignore this rule, you are also not allowed to change lanes 15m out from an intersection or change lanes while in a roundabout. It is important to also note that, when turning left or right into a road, you must give way to pedestrians who are crossing that road you are turning into.
Page 92-on of the NSW Roads and Maritime Service Road Users’ Handbook covers turning at intersections and can be viewed here.
This article is not intended as legal advice. You should check with your local road authority to verify the information written here is suitable to your situation before driving in this manner.