Of right/left turn conflicts & speed limit signs

 

The in basket: Mark Powell of Poulsbo e-mailed a pair of unrelated questions to the Road Warrior.

He first asked about turns onto two-lane highways, using as an example the intersection of Highway 305, Forest Rock Lane and Seventh Avenue in Poulsbo. He asked whether a driver wanting to turn right on a red light from Forest Rock onto Highway 305 needs to wait for the left-turners coming from Seventh, who have a green light.
“While trying to turn RIGHT on RED most drivers wait for all vehicles to complete the LEFT. My contention is they are required to turn into the LEFT lane, therefore allowing an unimpeded RIGHT on RED. Am I correct?

“Secondly,” he asked, “when am I allowed or required to change speeds? I think I remember reading recently that if (for example) you are driving in a zone with a 35 mph speed limit and see a sign increasing the speed limit to 40, you may increase prior to actually passing the 40 mph sign.

“I have a daughter in drivers education and I want to make sure of my answers and assistance,” he said. 

The out basket: Turners onto a multi-lane highway are required to use the closest available lane of the highway being entered, so, yes, the left turners from Seventh Avenue are required to use the inside lane of Highway 305 northbound. That would leave the outside lane available for right turns from Forest Rock while the opposing left turners are in motion. 

I must assume right turners who wait for all left turners to go by are simply being careful and don’t trust the left turners to not swing wide and endanger them.

For turns onto a two-lane highway, the traffic with a stop sign or red light must yield to traffic with a green light, which might condition the Forest Rock right turners to defer to oncoming left turners even though the two lanes of Highway 305 theoretically provide room for both streams. 

As for when speed zones begin, officially it is at the speed limit sign, not before. Just as drivers don’t have to slow down to the lower speed when the speed limit drops until they pass the sign showing the lower speed limit, they are not entitled to increase to the higher speed until they have passed the sign showing it.

As a practical matter, though, citations for five over the speed limit are quite rare, so I wouldn’t expect it to matter whether a driver speeds up in the short distance between when the sign with the higher speed limit becomes visible and the car passes the sign. 

I would regard a speed enforcement in such a transition zone to be predatory policing, but I suppose it might happen. Of course, if you’re already way over the speed limit in the zone you’re entering, you’d be fair game.

5 thoughts on “Of right/left turn conflicts & speed limit signs

  1. Travis,

    Thanks for the quick posting and reply. In response to “I must assume right turners who wait for all left turners to go by are simply being careful and don’t trust the left turners to not swing wide and endanger them” I usually ask drivers I know why they wait and most reply – they that think they have to. And with regards to the second one, and after given a bit more thought, I think it would be important in school zones; for example, there is a spot on Chico Way where you go from school zone to 40 MPH. I’m sure I’ll have more refresher questions coming soon. Thanks again.

    Best regards,
    Mark

  2. My opinion is that 99 percent of drivers do not follow the “Closest lane” rule. So when turning at an intersection where two lanes can make the turn, pay attention to the one beside you. I see far too many waiting to turn as well, just so they can get into the far lane. Lucky them I’m not waiting behind them or I’d let them know what I think.

  3. I am one who usually waits for the left turners when turning right from Forest Rock onto 305. I do this because the odds are that about a third of the left turners will actually turn into the lane that I want, rather than “their” lane, and I do not want to be in a crash, even if it would be the other guy’s fault. I can not control what other drivers do – only what I do.

    Maybe Travis can check whether there is such a thing in traffic enforcement as a “mandatory free right turn on red.” I doubt it.

  4. In response to:
    ” As for when speed zones begin, officially it is at the speed limit sign, not before. Just as drivers don’t have to slow down to the lower speed when the speed limit drops until they pass the sign showing the lower speed limit, they are not entitled to increase to the higher speed until they have passed the sign showing it.

    As a practical matter, though, citations for five over the speed limit are quite rare, so I wouldn’t expect it to matter whether a driver speeds up in the short distance between when the sign with the higher speed limit becomes visible and the car passes the sign.

    I would regard a speed enforcement in such a transition zone to be predatory policing, but I suppose it might happen.”

    Heading for Port Townsend, going through Discovery Bay, the speed limit is 45 mph. I was following a group of about 10 vehicles as we neared the exit of the town and neared the 55 mph sign. Each vehicle speed up as they neared the sign, and I followed. In less than 50 feet before the 55 mph sign, there is a dirt road turnoff on the left, and sitting there was a state trooper. As I passed him, and the 55 mph sign, I looked at my speed, and I was just passing through 52+ mph. The trooper immediately zoomed out and pulled me over some 150+ feet past the 55 mph sign and ticketed me for exceeding the 45 mph zone. He admitted, “Everyone was speeding…” but I was the last in the line of vehicles, so I got pulled over.
    “…citations for five over the speed limit are quite rare.” Possible, but who gets pulled over AT the higher speed limit sign?
    “I would regard a speed enforcement in such a transition zone to be predatory policing…” I fully agree, but what can you do?

  5. When the speed limit goes down I think you would technically need to slow down before the speed limit sign. The slower speed limit starts immediately when you pass the sign so you need to be driving no faster than the limit when you pass the sign.

    It is unreasonable for police to ticket people who are in the process of speeding up or slowing down when they pass the sign, but as the other poster indicates, it is possible.

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