Who has the Right of Way When Making a Left Turn?

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Even though most of us operate our vehicles on autopilot, the reality is that every driver needs to remain vigilant. This is especially true when making a left-hand turn. Left turns are challenging, as these often place the driver wanting to turn into difficult situations concerning the right of way. One mistake can lead to significant head-on or T-bone collisions. Here, we want to discuss who has the right of way when making a left turn on the roadways in California.

Left Turns Can be Complicated

Whether you are just learning how to drive or have been operating a vehicle for decades, you need to know that left-hand turns can be complex procedures. First, let us look at the various scenarios where a person will be making a left-hand turn:

  • Turning left after stopping at a stop sign
  • Turning left at an intersection controlled by a signal
  • Turning left at an area with no stop sign or signal

A common thread that crops up in just about all left turn scenarios is that the person making the turn could potentially put themselves in front of oncoming traffic. When someone makes a left turn, a driver generally has to cross another lane of traffic (unless they are on a one-way street or in the UK).

Anytime a vehicle has to turn into an oncoming traffic situation, the stakes are significantly higher. It is crucial that any driver who needs to make a left turn understands who has the right of way.

The Right of Way for Left Turns

The overall rule in left-turn situations is that the driver needing to make the left turn must wait until all oncoming traffic has cleared. The driver making the left turn should not proceed with the turn if there is any oncoming traffic. This will not be much of an issue if a driver has stopped at a stop sign and there is no oncoming traffic. They can simply proceed and make their turn. However, when a driver is making a left turn from one roadway onto a perpendicular road, there will likely be some sort of oncoming traffic.

In situations where a driver is at an intersection controlled by a traffic signal, left turn drivers must wait until the signal indicates that they are okay to turn. In some cases, there may even be a left turn signal arrow that allows the driver to make their turn without worrying about oncoming traffic. However, it may also be the case that there is a “left turn yield on green” sign. This indicates that the left-turn driver must wait until there is an opening in oncoming traffic to make their turn, even if their light is green.

In situations where a driver has to make a left-hand turn and there is no traffic signal to assist them, they will have to wait until all oncoming traffic has passed and there is an opening big enough for them to take their turn.

Working With an Attorney After an Accident

If you or somebody you love has been injured in a left turn accident caused by the careless or negligent actions of another driver, you may need to work with a skilled motor vehicle accident attorney to help you secure the compensation you need. These cases can be challenging to investigate, but an attorney will have the resources necessary to help determine liability and negotiate with aggressive insurance carriers.