Traffic

Traffic Q&A: What lane should I turn into when making a left onto a multi-lane road?

The Washington Driver Guide advises motorists to “turn from the lane that is closest to the direction you want to go and turn into the lane closest to the one you came from.”
The Washington Driver Guide advises motorists to “turn from the lane that is closest to the direction you want to go and turn into the lane closest to the one you came from.” Washington State Department of Licensing

Q: When making a left-hand turn at an intersection from one street to another with multiple lanes, which lanes can you turn into? My husband believes you can only turn onto the lane nearest you, then you can change lanes after the turn is complete. – Sara D., Lynnwood

A: What’s left unsaid in Sara’s question, if you read between the lines, is that she thinks her husband is full of it.

So we here at Traffic Q&A headquarters find ourselves in the uncomfortable position of settling a disagreement between spouses. Being married ourselves, we understand the gravity of this responsibility.

Alas and alack, we are honor bound to follow the tenets of our profession, one of which is to report without fear or favor. Another is to snag a donut as soon as the box appears on the newsroom meeting table, but we digress.

We put Sara’s question to Tacoma police spokeswoman Loretta Cool, whose answer does not often apply in your humble scribe’s household.

“The husband is correct,” Cool said.

She cited RCW 46.61.290, titled, “Required position and method of turning at intersections.”

The applicable portion states:

“The driver of a vehicle intending to turn left shall approach the turn in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the direction of travel of the vehicle. Whenever practicable, the left turn shall be made to the left of the center of the intersection and so as to leave the intersection or other location in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the same direction as the vehicle on the roadway being entered.”

That, we readily admit, is a bit confusing.

So we sought clarification from the Washington Driver Guide, which contains a chapter helpfully titled, “Turning.”

Here’s the opening paragraph:

“Turn from the lane that is closest to the direction you want to go and turn into the lane closest to the one you came from. When making turns, go from one lane to the other as directly as possible without crossing lane lines or interfering with traffic. Once you have completed your turn, you can change to another lane if you need to.”

Same applies to right turns.

What about a road that allows turning from multiple lanes?

Here’s what the Driver Guide has to say about that:

“If there are signs or lane markings that allow for two or more turning lanes, stay in your lane during the turn.”

Sara told us the law is different in California. This, though, is Washington.

So, Sara, we repeat without pleasure (well, maybe with a little), the husband is correct.

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644, @TNTAdam

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