Traffic

You can creep on, left-turn intersection creepers, but yield and be careful

Q: Is it legal to drive into the intersection when you’re trying to make a left turn on a green light?

A: I like to call this “intersection creep.” A lot of drivers do it. In fact, if you don’t, sometimes you’ll get honked at by the drivers behind you who are trying to turn left and wish you would do it.

If you’re an intersection creeper (like me), you’re trying to turn left on a green light in an intersection with no left turn arrow and maybe no designated turn lane.

To sneak between the onslaught of oncoming cars, you edge into the intersection and wait for your chance to make a left.

It’s pretty common, but it’s also dangerous.

If you sit in the intersection too long and the light turns red, you could be T-boned by an oncoming car when the light in the other direction turns green.

Even if you don’t get hit, you could get awkwardly stuck out there while folks try to maneuver around you. (I hope you’ve practiced the tight-lipped smile and subdued wave that announces to the world: “I screwed up.”)

But “creeping” is legal, and you won’t get pulled over for it, says Washington State Patrol Trooper Brooke Bova.

State law on traffic signals is vague about whether left-turners can be in the intersection as they try to make the turn, but it does say they need to yield to others going through the intersection.

“Vehicle operators facing a circular green signal may proceed straight through or turn right or left unless a sign at such place prohibits either such turn.

“Vehicle operators turning right or left shall stop to allow other vehicles lawfully within the intersection control area to complete their movements.”

State law on intersections is pretty fuzzy on this practice too.

“No driver shall enter an intersection or a marked crosswalk or drive onto any railroad grade crossing unless there is sufficient space on the other side of the intersection, crosswalk, or railroad grade crossing to accommodate the vehicle he or she is operating without obstructing the passage of other vehicles, pedestrians, or railroad trains notwithstanding any traffic control signal indications to proceed.”

That one seems to be telling motorists not to block the intersection, which happens more often when drivers try to squeeze through on a green light, even when there isn’t room for them on the other side.

Candice Ruud: 253-597-8441, @candiceruud

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