Left turn on red law leads to another undue citation

The in basket: Well, it happened again. Another Road Warrior reader got pulled over and ticketed at the Sedgwick Road interchange on Highway 16 for going through a red arrow light in a left turn lane.

Freeway on-ramps are among the few places in our county where a little-known state law makes such a turn legal. The law on red lights says a left turn can be made against a red light, either an arrow or a solid ball, IF turning onto a one-way street, IF the driver comes to a complete stop first, IF the driver yields to any traffic with a green light. and IF no signs forbid it.

Caly Madden was the victim this time, on April 19, and the citing officer was a Kitsap County sheriff’s deputy. Last year, a Port Orchard police officer cited a driver for the same thing at the very same place. I helped him get that one dismissed.

The out basket: I contacted Undersheriff Dennis Bonneville, who looked into it and agreed his deputy had goofed. He said he contacted the deputy, who said, essentially, “My mistake.” They’ve asked the county prosecutor’s office to dismiss the ticket, since it’s out of KCSO’s hands once it’s sent to court.

For the rest of us, it may not be worth the hassle to take advantage of that law, especially if we know there is an officer watching us. Caly wound up sitting on the shoulder for quite a while after he was stopped and told the deputy that the law made his turn legal. He didn’t know if the deputy checked by radio with someone else who also didn’t know the law. In any case, the deputy wrote the ticket.

The law in question is Section 3 of RCW 46.61.050.

I usually can’t take advantage of it when I come to one of the few places in the county where it applies because the lead driver stopped at the light rarely knows the law, or dares use it. Westbound Burwell Street at Pacific Avenue in Bremerton is one such, as are the freeway on-ramps with signals controlling movement.

Dennis mentioned something in passing that I hadn’t thought of. He said the deputy who stopped Caly saw another driver at the scene give him a puzzled look or gesture as if to say, “Well??! Are you going to let him get away with that?” He didn’t, as it turned out, but he should have..

It certainly can put an officer in an awkward spot when he must ignore some legal driver action widely believed to be against the law even though it’s not..

Dennis also said the county public works traffic division will be discussing with law enforcement whether they should put up “No Left Turn on Red” signs at the relevant intersections.

He also noted that it would be a tricky question at places like Central Valley Road’s northbound on-ramp to Highway 303. There, the corresponding off-ramp curves up and ends at the same spot, creating a very short two-way street, Of course, there’s no traffic signal there, but some day there might be.

If you want to try it, it would be smart to have a copy of the law with you, or the passage in the state driver’s guide that also says it’s a legal maneuver.

2 thoughts on “Left turn on red law leads to another undue citation

  1. I use this law whenever I am able to when southbound on Silverdale Way and I want to turn left onto the on-ramp to Hwy 303 (Waaga Way).

  2. Drivers who are stopped for a driving infraction are told ignorance of the law is no excuse. Why isn’t this logic used against law enforcement officers who wrongly stop those for obeying the law?

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