Most driving jurisdictions in North America do not have streetcars, so there are many drivers who are unaware of the basic rules of the road when they first confront these dinosaurs of modern transportation.
Streetcars are inherently unsafe for their passengers. In almost every place where I have seen streetcars used, they are funneled down the two center lanes of multi-lane streets. This means that when a streetcar stops, and the doors open, the passengers are stepping into the middle of a traffic lane with cars in them. It is a wonder that people are not killed daily.
That being said, the onus is on the drivers of vehicles to make sure that they do not pass to the right of a streetcar that is stopped to let passengers out. 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 major streets, streetcars have dedicated lanes. This makes for interesting situations when turning at intersections. In just about every situation where streetcars have dedicated lanes, there are special traffic signals at each intersection that says when you can left turn to cross the street car lanes. Pay attention to these signs. It is both dangerous and expensive (in terms of fines and demerit points) to ignore them.
Besides that, when cars get into accidents with streetcars, the streetcar wins 100% of the time.
Be careful out there!