Tag Archives: left on red

Silverdale interchange is no place to try odd left-turn-on-red law

The in basket: Ben Pearson e-mailed to say, “I know that left turns on red are legal onto a one-way road like an on-ramp but can they be used at that odd intersection of Highway 303 and Highway 3 where you are crossing over the traffic lane?”
The out basket: Ben is in the minority, as most drivers don’t know that that is legal. I write about it a lot, but it hadn’t occurred to me until Ben asked that it technically would apply to left turns from eastbound Highway 303 to northbound Highway 3 in Silverdale.
It would be wildly unwise to try it there. To do it legally one must make a complete stop at the red light before proceeding and be sure no traffic with a green light would conflict with the turn. It can be done only onto a one-way street.
That Silverdale intersection is so long, with a hump in the middle, that it would be difficult if not impossible to see conflicting traffic that would make the turn illegal – and would risk a fender bender or worse.
“It would be a crazy thing to try and if there isn’t a sign already prohibiting it, there should be,” I told Ben, and asked State Trooper Russ Winger, my State Patrol contact what he thought.
“I would agree,” he said. “That would not be a simple left turn from a stop line to the ramp. You must travel several hundred feet prior to even making the left turn.
“The timing of the lights, distance and design of the roadway make that type of turn, at a minimum, unsafe. The intersection can be confusing already for some drivers not familiar with it and that type of action would not be safe at all in that location.”
But I wondered what such a sign would say. “No left turn on red” would mystify the great majority of drivers who don’t know a left turn on red is EVER legal.
Claudia Bingham Baker of the Olympic Region of state highways said, “We agree with you that drivers would have no idea what such a sign would mean, and we would not install it.”
It’s a moot point in most cases, anyway. Even where a left turn on red would be safe as well as legal, the odds of the first driver in line knowing of the odd law and daring to take advantage of it are so low it’s rarely seen.

When is a one-way street a one-way street?

The in basket: Elaine Henderson sent a typed letter (it’s been a long time since the Road Warrior has gotten one of those) to ask “Is it ever permissible to make a LEFT TURN on a RED LIGHT after making sure the cross street is clear of traffic?

“Yesterday I was driving east on Burwell Street approaching Washington Avenue (in Bremerton) ” she wrote on May 16. “‘The traffic light was red and there was one vehicle waiting at the light. As I stopped behind the vehicle, it made a left turn onto Washington Avenue while the light was still red.

“I drive this route at least once a week, the light at that intersection is usually red. I’ve always waited until the light changes to green before making my left turn.

“Is there perhaps an exception at this intersection regarding no left turn on red because two-way traffic ends at Burwell Street?”

The out basket: It sounds like Elaine may be aware of the little known law permitting lefts against a red light, but only  onto a one-way street going in the direction of the turn.

This could be a thorny legal issue were someone to be stopped and cited for what Elaine saw that driver do, but I’d have to guess that law doesn’t extend to a street that’s one-way SOMEWHERE along its length.

The wording of the state law (RCW 46.61.055) says “vehicle operators facing a steady circular red signal may, after stopping, proceed to make a right turn from a one-way or two-way street into a two-way street or into a one-way street carrying traffic in the direction of the right turn; or a left turn from a one-way or two-way street into a one-way street carrying traffic in the direction of the left turn; unless a sign posted by competent authority prohibits such movement.”

The same thing is permitted at a red arrow light.

Just a block west of Washington, going the other way on Burwell, such a turn is legal onto one-way Pacific Avenue, providing one comes to a complete stop and yields to any traffic with a green light or pedestrian in the way.

I suppose a driver could argue that he WAS turning onto a one-way street, even though the one-way portion of Washington ends before the portion of the street he’s entering. But I wouldn’t expect the arguement  to prevail in court, unless he gets a judge who delights in splitting hairs. And I’d advise Elaine to continue waiting for the green light there.