Traffic

Traffic Q&A: Who has the right of way when one car is turning left, the other going straight?

What do you do when the traffic lights go out? Don’t speed through them, officer warns

An Ohio police officer reminds motorists not to treat malfunctioning traffic lights as a green light. Instead, use caution and treat the intersection like a four-way stop.
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An Ohio police officer reminds motorists not to treat malfunctioning traffic lights as a green light. Instead, use caution and treat the intersection like a four-way stop.

Q: Two cars approach stops signs on opposite sides of a street where cross traffic does not have to stop. One car intends to turn left, the other to go straight across. The left-turning car got to its stop sign first. Who has the right-of-way? — Mike L., Tumwater

A: These right-of-way questions keep us up at night.

There are so many scenarios with so many different rules that the Washington Driver Guide devotes four full pages to the topic.

Here’s the second paragraph of the right-of-way section of said guide:

“The law says who must yield the right-of-way, it does not give anyone the right-of-way. Failure to yield right of way is the No. 1 citation in city collisions. You must do everything you can to prevent striking a pedestrian, on foot or in a wheelchair, or another vehicle, regardless of the circumstances.”

And there are lots and lots of circumstances.

Come across a person using a guide dog or carrying a white cane? They have “absolute right of way.”

At a traffic circle? You must yield the right of way to the cars already going round and round.

At a four-way stop? Whoever gets there first goes first. If more than one car arrives at the same time, the car on the right has priority.

But what about Mike’s question?

Here’s what Tacoma police spokeswoman Loretta Cool had to say on the topic:

“If all other things are equal, left-hand turn must yield to the person going straight,” Cool said. “You do not take turns when both have a stop. Left-hand turn yields.”

That seems to jibe with the Driver Guide, which says in part: “Drivers turning left must yield to oncoming vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists.”

Yeah. Good luck out there.

Drive sober

The Washington State Patrol informs us here at Traffic Q&A headquarters that troopers will be out in force looking for drunken drivers between now and Sept. 5.

The campaign, called “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” aims to encourage “everyone to get a safe ride, especially if alcohol, prescription or over-the-counter medicine, or other drug use might be causing impairment.”

Nationally, Labor Day weekend is one of the deadliest times of year as far as drunken-driving crashes go, the State Patrol reports.

The campaign is part of Target Zero, which strives to end traffic fatalities in Washington by 2030.

We wish them well.

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644, @TNTAdam

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