When left turns on red aren’t legal

The in basket: Jim Lawson e-mailed with the following scenario.
“I am coming from work at the shipyard at midnight on Burwell (in downtown Bremerton),” he said. “I am stopped at the red light at Washington. Washington to the right is one way coming from the ferry terminal.  Washington to the left is “right turn only” onto Burwell.  Stopped at the red light, if there is no traffic on Washington, is it legal to turn left?”


The in basket: Jim Lawson e-mailed with the following scenario.
“I am coming from work at the shipyard at midnight on Burwell (in downtown Bremerton),” he said. “I am stopped at the red light at Washington. Washington to the right is one way coming from the ferry terminal.  Washington to the left is “right turn only” onto Burwell.  Stopped at the red light, if there is no traffic on Washington, is it legal to turn left?”
The out basket: No. Left turns against a red light are legal only when turning onto a one-way street heading in the direction the driver wishes to go. Washington Avenue to the right fits that description but to the left, where Jim would wind up, it’s a two-way street.
Even when turning onto a one-way street, the turn would be illegal if the driver doesn’t come to a complete stop at the red light or doesn’t yield to conflicting traffic that has the green light.
I don’t know what the difference is. You wouldn’t think the turn Jim describes would be any more dangerous than the one that is legal.

2 thoughts on “When left turns on red aren’t legal

  1. Several months ago I was driving north on Washington approaching Burwell to make the left turn and head west. I was in the far left hand lane about a half block from the light when lo and behold, here comes someone heading right for me. I flashed my lights and moved over to the right to avoid a head on. They didn’t appear to know where they were going. I can only assume that they were tourists heading to the ferry, and not familiar with the area.
    There’s your reason not to turn left on a red at that intersection.

  2. I believe the rule means that the street one is turning onto must be a one way. That would make a turn onto Pacific from Burwell west bound legal. There is no such situation at Burwell and Washington. Another place this situation exists is on freeway overpasses when turning left at a light onto an on-ramp. I don’t know if that applies.
    (Editor: Left turns against a red light onto freeway on-ramps are legal provided one first comes to a full stop and yields to anyone who has the green light. It is also legal on Burwell westbound at Pacific Avenue.)

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