Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Am I Right, or Am I Right?

This post is specifically aimed at those of you who drive in this wonderful state of California.

I have had several people ask me over the past few weeks if it is illegal to make a right turn on a red light from some lane other than the curb lane.

I believe an illustration is in order:


In this diagram, lane #1 is a dedicated left turn lane, and lanes #2 and #3 are dedicated right turn lanes. For the purpose of this discussion, this is the terminating roadway at a T intersection, but this would also apply at four way intersections, or anywhere else where there is more than one dedicated right turn lane.

The question people ask is, if they have stopped for a red traffic signal in the left hand right turn lane (Lane #2 in the diagram), is it legal for them to make a right turn while the signal is still red.

The answer is yes. It is perfectly legal to make a right turn against a circular red traffic signal, after stopping of course, from any lane you can otherwise legally make a right turn from, as long as there is no traffic approaching closely enough to constitute a hazard. There is no requirement that you be in the right-most lane in order to make this turn on a red signal.

The catch is that when you make the turn, you have to end up in the same lane on the street you're turning on to. In other words, if you're starting your turn in the left hand right turn lane, you must finish your turn in the left hand lane. Like this:


An exception to this applies if a red arrow signal is present prohibiting a right turn. In that case, you may not make the turn indicated by the red arrow. You have to wait for the green arrow or signal.

Most drivers who ask me this question tell me they were sitting at the red light, and the guy behind them started honking his horn and yelling at them to go. I assure them that the other driver was not right for honking his horn at them, but that they also did not have to sit through the red light.

This is really basic driver's ed material.

It was probably on the same page as yielding to emergency vehicles.

Everybody read that page...

Right?

16 comments:

Front Porch Society said...

The same applies in Iowa. And we have a few of these turning lanes (shockingly!) in the city where I live.

TheBronze said...

I so love it when people can't stay in their own frigging lanes while making a turn!

The Dispatcher and Her Officer said...

The Bronze..agreed! I'm so friggin territorial about my lane!!!! If you chose a lane to turn stay in it.. don't just come over to mine becuase your vehicle is to big for the lane you chose!!! Grrr...

Someone give me a patrol car!!! I need the satisfaction of righting some tickets!!!!!!
-Dispatcher

Mrs. "Smith" said...

"If you chose a lane to turn stay in it.. don't just come over to mine becuase your vehicle is to big for the lane you chose!!! Grrr...
-Dispatcher"

I know exactly what you mean! There are so many dolts who can't even keep their compact car in their own lane. It's worse when the guys in their "compensation cars" *snicker* can't keep to their lane.

Teri Kathleen said...

I think I knew that about the right turn lanes. But what I can never remember is do I stop for a school bus if I'm on a 4 lane and the bus is facing me....LOL
See, that's why I read your blog, it's educational! :)

TJ said...

Teri Kathleen, the answer is no, you do not -- at least in California.

When you come upon a school bus stopped on either side of the road with flashing red lights, you must stop. The flashing red lights are located at the top front and top back of the bus. Schoolchildren will be crossing the road to or from the school bus. Remain stopped as long as the red lights are flashing. Failure to do so is a violation of VC §22454. You may be fined up to $1000 and your driving privilege could be suspended for a period of one year.

You need not stop if the bus is on the other side of a divided or a multilane (two or more traffic lanes in each direction) highway.Source: http://www.cal-driver-ed.com/dmv-handbook/30.htm

Officer Wright said...

I happened to be awake during that lecture in school.

However, here's one for you.

From your own diagram, say lane two is a designated LEFT turn lane.

I've been in lane 3 before, waiting to make a left turn. When the light turns green, what does the person in lane 2 do? They attempt to make a U-turn. This causes them to cross my path, and I almost hit them. When I honked and yelled a couple of choice words at them, they continued making their U-turn with a confused look, as if I was doing something wrong.

Sometimes, I really wonder, you know?

Officer "Smith" said...

I can just hear it now...

"But there's no sign saying I can't make a u-turn..."

My response is generally...

"Even if there was a sign, it's been my experience that most drivers would just ignore it anyway."

OldCop said...

Hey man, I've heard all about California, the question is, Who has the right of way, the hippy in the Volkswagon or the yuppy in the Hybrid?

Officer "Smith" said...

Neither.

The cop with the red and blue lights has the right of way.

Daniel said...

Would you consider grabbing a few copies of hte drivers manual to carry around, show to idiot drivers, and hand out?

Officer "Smith" said...

Naaah, I just write them tickets and let them go to traffic school. They're more likely to learn from that.

ddiction said...

http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/hdbk/turns.htm#turns

"You may not turn right or left against a red arrow."

In your example, since both right turn lanes appear to be right-turn-only lanes, it would appear that they would have red arrows instead of red lights. In that case, according to the DMV manual, neither lane can legally make the turn until the light turns green.

Officer "Smith" said...

Just because they are dedicated left turn lanes they don't necessarily have to have red arrows. There can be red circular lights in order to allow right turns on red.

This intersection actually exists in my town, with circular red lights. Only the greens are arrows.

Thiago daLuz said...

It's awesome to have that perspective on it. Motorists are a little biased, I think. We have a couple of similar intersections where I live, and as a college town, there are all kinds of mix ups and fender benders because of it. Thiago | http://www.dollardrivingschool.com/driver-education/

Loren Pechtel said...

I wouldn't call this basic driver's ed material as the law varies. I'm next door to you and the laws are very different here.

The turn you describe is not legal. Not only that, but for some stupid reason the legislature here made it illegal to make a right even from the outer lane. I used to drive through a 4-lane T every day--and at least once a week I saw the cops there ticketing guys who turned right on red.

Personally, I don't like either answer--I think it should be legal but only from the outer lane.