Most driving jurisdictions in North America do not have streetcars, so there are many drivers who are oblivious to the basic rules of the road when they first meet up with these relics of transportation.
Streetcars are inherently unsafe for their passengers. Streetcars are funneled down the two center lanes of multi-lane streets. When a streetcar stops and opens its doors, the passengers are stepping into the middle of a traffic lane with cars moving in them. It is a wonder that people are not killed daily.
The burden is on other vehicle drivers to make sure that they do not pass to the right of a stopped streetcar. Even if the doors are not opened, you must anticipate that the doors could open momentarily. Passing a streetcar that is stopped to let off passengers is illegal, and because of the inherent danger, the fines are significant. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.
- If you are behind a streetcar and it stops, then you stop as well.
- Before passing, look to see if the streetcar is at a transit stop first.
- If the streetcar is not stopped to take on or let off passengers, then you may creep by them.
- If a streetcar has discharged passengers and has closed its doors, then you may creep by them.
On many streets, streetcars have dedicated lanes. This makes for challenging situations when turning at intersections. Where streetcars have dedicated lanes, there are usually special traffic signals at each intersection that says when you can left turn to cross the street car lanes. Pay attention! It is both dangerous (the streetcar wins 100% of the time) and expensive (in terms of fines and demerit points) to ignore them.
Be careful out there!