Tag Archives: right turn

Left turners vs. right turners at yield sign

The in basket: At a recent dinner gathering of Olympic Thunder, the female motorcyclist club, a member asked me about right of way rules where a yield sign faces right turners who meet left turners coming the other way.

Standing driving rules require left-turners to yield to just about any other movement, but does the yield sign for right turners countermand that? The specific locations mentioned both are on Highway 308 linking Bangor and Keyport, at Highway 3 northbound and Central Valley Road southbound.

I told the group the answer is yes, but later asked State Trooper Russ Winger to be on the safe side.

The out basket: Yes, Russ replied, “normally the right turn has priority but, as you know, road signs, engineering  and markings such as the yield signs can control movement.”

It’s comparable to how a no-right-turn-on-red sign eliminates the lawfulness of a right on red.

Extra outside ‘lane’ at Sedgwick & Sidney

The in basket: Jim Milner e-mails to say the intersection of Sidney and Sedgwick roads in South Kitsap, for traffic approaching from the Highway 16 freeway, has a problem.

It “faces four traffic lights at the intersection,” Jim said, one for left turn, one for straight ahead, one for straight ahead /right turn. There are three lanes of traffic. one left turn, one straight ahead and one straight ahead/right turn. There is another lane on the right shoulder that appears to be controlled by the fourth light, yet at the same time it is not designated as a traffic lane.
“This creates no small amount of confusion,” Jim said, “resulting in many near collisions between those using the designated right turn lane and another driver assuming the extreme lane is a designated turn lane. I have been told by a KCSO deputy that if an accident were to occur at that intersection, both parties would be cited for failure to yield right of way.
“Why are there four lights to control three lanes of traffic?”
The out basket: You’ll find one more signal head than there are lanes at nearly every signalized intersection, including in the other directions at that one. It’s a federally required redundancy on the main movement at such intersections, in case one signal head fails or is obscured by other traffic.

Mark Dorsey, public works director for Port Orchard, says, “What Mr. Milner is seeing is ‘extra asphalt’ at the shoulder.  The edge stripe/fog line heading west (coming from Lowe’s) is continuous with the combination through lane (westbound)/right-turn(northbound.)

“There is potentially room for a right-turn pocket with curb/gutter/sidewalk and that will be a future improvement, but for now……the edge strip designates the lane…….and people crossing the edge stripe and using it as a right-turn lane are being ticketed.”

An oldie and a doozy dealing with right turns

The in basket: A couple more inquiries about right turns have come in, one a golden oldie but the other a real head scratcher.
Shirley Mildes read the recent Road Warrior column about turning right on a red arrow, which is legal, and asked  if that’s also true of the second lane in at a double-right situation like at the end of 11th Street at Kitsap Way in Bremerton.
And Pat Ryan of Brownsville came up with a doozy that really required some thought.
She said Brownsville Highway, where it ends at Highway 303 (Waaga Way) has two lanes for turning left to go toward Bremerton, and room for two cars abreast to the right.
She asked if a driver legally could drive past a car sitting to the far right, and turn right into the center lane of 303, approximating the kind of move Shirley asked about. Or do the same thing simultaneously with the other vehicle.
The out basket:  As I’ve written before, a right on red is available to those in both right turn lanes if they come to a full stop and yield, and no signs prohibit it. The driver in the second lane also must turn into the second lane available, so as not to conflict with anyone turning from the outside lane.
As for Pat’s question, State Trooper Russ Winger was doubtful after viewing the intersection.
“Truthfully, I have not seen anyone make a right turn from the middle lane to the inside northbound lane,” he said. “I sat there for nearly 30 minutes while watching fairly heavy traffic move through the intersection and did not see one vehicle make that turn.
“It seems laid out in such a way that does not lend itself to making that turn. I think you could make a case that the turn is prohibited -and citable – by the signs and lights even though you could make the turn fairly.”
The question is complicated by the fact the edge line on Brownsville Highway ends well short of the intersection. If it didn’t it would better channelize the right turn and not leave room for two cars to make the turn at the same time without one of them crossing over the edge line, which is illegal.
The signals aren’t much help with this issue. They have both ball and left-pointing arrow indications.
But the signs mounted between the signal heads probably clarify it as a single right turn lane. One is an arrow pointing left and the other has arrows pointing both left and right. That’s two lanes to the left and one to the right.
It’s all kind of academic. It made for a good mental exercise, but I doubt that many drivers would even think about making such a turn, let alone actually do it.

Rights against a red arrow light are legal

The in basket: Francis Thompson writes, “Wednesday, 02/11/15, I was riding with my daughter while she was driving in Tacoma. At the intersection of 38th and Union there was a directional arrow for a right turn. When she arrived at the corner to make a right turn, the arrow was red so she did not proceed. Very shortly, the car behind her honked as if she should proceed, which she did not do.

“Was she correct or was the impatient driver behind her correct?” Francis asked.

The out basket: If there was no sign controlling her direction of travel saying “No Turn on Red” or “No Right Turn on Red,” she was entitled to proceed against the red when no conflicting traffic was coming, and after coming to a complete stop.

I told Francis, “A lot of people think the arrow adds a prohibition, but it doesn’t.” The red arrows evidently mean only right turns are permitted from that lane, perhaps telegraphing what to expect when the light turns green.

Close call with bike at 305 and Koura

The in basket: Billie Schaefer of Port Ludlow said he was recently preparing to turn right off of Highway 305 on Bainbridge Island onto Koura Road, with his signal on, when a bicyclist shot past him on the shoulder. Had he been in his turn, Billie said, it could have been another bicyclist fatality.

“He’s lucky I didn’t kill him,” he said, and asked whether he would be guilty of a crime for his part in the theoretical collision. “Isn’t he supposed to stop for me?  If I stop, I’ll get hit by traffic coming from behind.”

He then asked about the striping at the next intersection ahead, at Sportsmen’s Club Road, which is repeated at numerous intersections around urban Bainbridge. It has a designated bicycle lane separating the outside through lane from a right turn lane onto Sportsmen’s Club Road.

The out basket: State Trooper Russ Winger of the local State Patrol detachment says, “Bicyclists must obey all traffic laws that apply to any motorist. In the situation you describe at Koura Road, the bike must yield to a legally turning vehicle (signaling properly so the bike rider can see your intent) ahead. The bicyclist would be violating both failing to yield and overtaking and passing on the right laws.

“The situation at Sportsmen’s Club Road is not really any different,” he said. “The bike lanes there are intended to give a lane for bicyclists to both wait at the signal light and also form sort of a shoulder for bikes to travel in while crossing the intersection. They allow vehicles using the right turn lanes on either side of the intersection to avoid the very situation described at Koura Road. Vehicles must yield to the bikes, if appropriate, as they would for any other vehicle.

“Vehicles should not cross over bike lanes unless required for turning movement or travel. They must yield to any bicyclist occupying the lane when doing so.

“There is no good reason for a driver to cross over the short bike lanes on either side of the intersection at Sportsmen’s Club, other than a driver making a way-too-late decision to turn right. It would not be illegal to do so as long as the driver yielded appropriately and did the maneuver safely,” Russ said.

 

When left turners and right turners conflict

The in basket: Edgar Ahiers of Port Orchard called to say that one day in March he was sitting at a green light at the Bremerton National Airport, wanting to turn right onto Highway 3 to go toward Gorst, when a steady stream of vehicles turning left from the Olympic View Industrial Park across the intersection kept him from making his turn.

Finally, he said, he saw an opening and made his turn, only to have one more vehicle coming out of the industrial park pull into the oncoming left turn lane, which had no other cars in it, to pass him and follow the others toward Gorst.

There was no collision, “but a very close call,” he said, and wondered who had the right of way.

The out basket: I told him that the right turner has right of way over left turners in such conflicts, and had there been a collision, the left turner would have been at fault. Further, I said, the driver who used the left turn lane to pass committed a lane violation as well as the right-of-way infraction.

Not so fast, State Trooper Russ Winger told me when I ran my advice to Edgar past hims. It’s a little more complicated than that.

It depends on the nature of the traffic signal, he said. As it happens, I was right in this instance. The signal at that intersection has no specific left turn phase, just a pair of round ball lamps, so is comparable to an intersection with stop signs. In those cases, left turners must yield to right turners as well as oncoming vehicles.

BUT, had it been a more sophisticated signal, with turn lanes and a left-turn phase protected by a green arrow light, the left turners have the right of way, he said. The right turner would have a red light on his side, telling him that the oncoming left turner is making a protected turn.

Though it didn’t apply in this case, yellow flashing arrow turn lights require the left turner to yield to conflicting traffic, right turners included. Russ cautioned, however, that in any such conflict, should the left turner be well into his turn when the right turner arrives, the right turner must wait until the left turner is out of his way.

Back to Edgar’s incident, the driver who used the oncoming left-turn lane to pass him did commit an infraction, Russ said. But at an intersection with a green arrow left-turn signal, fault would depend on whether Edgar was found to have cut off the other driver and forced him into the turn lane.

 

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Tricky crosswalk question at Manette Bridge

The in basket: Katherine Adams describes a conflict she had with a driver while she was on foot trying to cross the south end of the Manette Bridge.

It’s one of those locations where the crosswalk is in two segments, one shorter than the other, with an island between them. At this location, the short segment crosses a right turn lane and the longer one crosses the other two lanes, which must turn left.

“Today,” Katherine said on June 26, “as I stepped out on the north side of the crosswalk to the island, a car did not see me. The car was turning right off the Manette Bridge. I pulled back.

“The driver said to watch what I was doing, they had the right away with the light. I know they have a yield sign after the crosswalk and I don’t know of a light that refers to the right-turn lane. Possibly a crosswalk sign before the crosswalk for the right turn lane would be helpful. The driver was upset and so was I.”

The out basket: I had to study this spot for a few minutes before concluding that the driver was in the wrong.

The two green lights are arrow lights pointing left. There is no signal for right turners, so the Yield sign on the sidewalk controls the right turn.

As with any crosswalk without a signal controlling traffic, a driver is beholden to stop for a pedestrian in the crosswalk or poised to enter it. Had the driver hit Ms. Adams, he would have been at fault.

One could argue that the red “don’t walk” hand icon that displays across the intersection when the lights are green for left turns onto Washington Avenue means Ms. Adams should not have stepped out. But the button that allows those walking south to ask for a ‘Walk’ sign is on the island. One has to cross in the short stub of the crosswalk to reach it. So that signal doesn’t control the stub crosswalk any more than the green left turn arrows control the right turn.

I ran this past Lt. Pete Fisher of Bremerton police and Gunnar Fridriksson of the city public works engineers and both agreed with me.

 

The rules on signalling

 

The in basket: Rod Gross of Poulsbo writes, “I so often see cars that fail to use their turn signals for not only

actual turns right or left, but also for simple lane changes, that I wonder what the laws dictate in that regard.

“Is it in fact illegal NOT to use your turn signal when turning or changing lanes, and how often do the local, and state police actually stop and ticket people for failure to signal?

Also, what are the penalties for failure to signal?  Arguably they are insufficient because the practice  of failing to signal is literally rampant.”

The out basket: Yes, the law requires signaling any turn or lane change, even while entering or leaving a freeway or entering a turn lane.

Signaling while entering or leaving a roundabout is recommended by the state, but it is my understanding that a Port Orchard court case that nullified a DUI arrest says otherwise at single-lane roundabouts. The initial reason for the stop was failure to signal a lane change at the Highway 166 roundabout, so the driver didn’t change lanes.

If that ruling has been overturned, I’m hoping someone will set me straight.

I added to Ross’s inquiry when I passed it along to State  Trooper Russ Winger, spokesman for the patrol here. It admittedly was self-serving because 69-year-old me is a text-book example of an aged driver who regularly forgets to turn off his turn signal after a lane change.

I asked if that is a violation, if the signal must continue throughout the lane change or turn or can be stopped as the turn begins, when I’m more likely to remember.

Russ said, “The law states that you must signal for ‘not less than the last 100 feet traveled’ prior to turning or moving left or right. Could you turn the signal off after 100 feet and then move left or right ? According to the RCW, yes, as long as you immediately start the movement into the other lane. Any lengthy delay  -a second or two at most – would give another motorist reason to believe that the driver either mis-signaled or decided not to change lanes.

“The whole idea behind signaling a turn or lane change is to alert other drivers that SOMETHING is about to occur with a vehicles path or direction of travel.”

Bad news for me on the leaving-the-signal-on front. “Yes,” Russ said, “it is a violation to leave your signal on long after a lane change is complete. Again, driving down the roadway with your signal on with no intent to do anything is hazardous to other motorists due to the false expectations it creates.”

Signaling violations, including that one, carry a $124 fine. “Yes, we do stop motorists for failing to signal, improper signal, no signal, on a regular basis,” Russ said.

“To an officer, this is valid reason to stop and talk with this driver. It could mean several things. Possibly the driver just did not signal. Possibly the driver has an equipment problem, light out or signal indicator not functioning. Possibly the driver was impaired and did not realize the signal was left on or notice a lamp problem.

“Drivers that do not follow basic safe travel rules of the road create a hazard for everyone on the road,” Russ said.

 

Right turns and the Poulsbo HOV lanes

The in basket: Michael Schuyler read the recent Road Warrior column about it’s being illegal to turn right out of Charleston Beach Drive in Bremerton directly into the Highway 304 HOV lane and asked on the Road Warrior blog at kitsapsun.com, “OK. Let’s say you are alone turning right onto a highway where the HOV lane is the right lane, such as SR 305 through Poulsbo. Let’s just say traffic is also heavy at the time.

“If you turn right into the HOV lane you are using the lane illegally. If you turn into the inside lane, you violate the “turn into the nearest lane” rule.

“Will the WSP give you some slack here, or will they cite you for not moving over immediately?” he asked.

The out basket: When that HOV lane opened, the official answer to Michael’s question was kind of vague, saying that turning right into the lane was permissible for a single occupant vehicle if it moved quickly to the general purpose lane. Likewise, moving into the HOV lane was OK to prepare for a right turn off of the highway if you did it right before the turn.

The official advice hasn’t changed. State Trooper Russ Winger says, “He should turn into the closest lane, even if it is the HOV lane. That is not an illegal use of the HOV lane. If not allowed to be in the HOV lane by restriction, move to the other lane as soon as practical.”

If I’m ever in a situation where I take that advice, I’d be careful not to pass any cars in the general purpose lane before moving over, signaling and moving over when a break in traffic appears.

Right turn to SR304 HOV lane not legal

The in basket: I found myself in afternoon rush hour traffic leaving Bremerton on Highway 304 the other day and saw a maneuver I was quite sure is illegal.
The driver of a pickup truck coming out of Charleston Beach Road and wanting to use the HOV lane made the right turn directly from the side road into the HOV lane, crossing the flow of left turners coming out of the shipyard. The driver used a temporary gap in that flow, so there was no close call.
Surely, I asked State Trooper Russ Winger, spokesmen for the State Patrol here, the presence of the HOV lane doesn’t nullify the rule of the road saying drivers turning onto a street or highway must enter the closest available lane of the thoroughfare being entered, does it?
That usually means left turners must enter the inside lane and right turners must enter the outside lane.
The legal way to get to the HOV lane from Charleston Beach Road, it seemed to me, is to turn into the outside lane and move left in two movements, while signaling.
The out basket: Yes, said Russ, the pickup truck driver violated two laws, the one requiring use of the closest lane and the one requiring a signal for at least 100 feet before changing lanes.
“The act of turning, say, right at an intersection and immediately changing lanes – just completing the turn to the left lane – would be violating signal law as you could not possibly have signaled for 100 feet,” Russ said. When there are two adjoining turn lanes, though, the turning driver must head for the corresponding lane on the street being entered, not necessarily the closest one.
In traffic enforcement, Russ added, “I try to use good judgment when I see that and ask was it unsafe. You could plant yourself at such an intersection and see this movement hundreds or more times on any given day.”