So L.A. is full of self-entitled arrogant drivers who break traffic laws without a second thought even though they know that what they’re doing is wrong. What’s scarier than that? Dumb, self-entitled arrogant drivers who don’t know that they’re breaking laws, like the belligerent driver of this red Dodge pickup truck on Pass Ave. in Burbank. This brings up a question that many people to seem to have:
Is it legal to change lanes in an intersection?
I’m going to give you the answer that’s been given to me by both traffic cops and traffic instructors. Since I also do part-time insurance adjusting, primarily regarding automobile collisions, I’ll give you the take that most insurance companies tend to have on this matter.
In short, the answer is “NO.”
According to the 2008 California v.c. 21658(a): “Whenever any roadway has been divided into two or more clearly marked lanes for traffic in one direction, a vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practical entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from the lane until such movement can be made with reasonable safety.”
What does this mean in layman’s speak? You can get cited for an unsafe lane change if you cause an accident (or even a near-accident) while changing lanes in the middle of an intersection. Ever wonder why some intersections actually have lane markings while others don’t? Most often, this occurs in very large intersections, intersections with multiple turn-only lanes, and intersections that are not more or less perpendicular. Remember that the law always veers toward the side of caution, so in the absence of lane markings in a particular intersection, the safest and least confusing way to cross that intersection is by staying in the lane in which you were in when you first entered that intersection. Though v.c. 21658 says nothing about “intersections”, the “unsafe lane change” citation is used very broadly by law enforcement, much the way v.c. 22350, traveling at an unsafe speed for the conditions, is used for rear-enders, speed demons, and drivers who are caught putting on lipstick while traveling 5 mph. And remember, lanes don’t have to have to be demarcated by yellow or white lines. For those of you who live on small streets in the suburbs, you know very well to stay in your “lane” on the right side of the road even though there may not be a solid or dotted yellow line in the middle of the road.
Furthermore, since you can legally make a right turn on red in California when it is absolutely safe to do so, changing lanes in the middle of an intersection is both unsafe for the driver going straight and confuses the driver making a right. However, even in this particular scenario, in the event of a collision an officer can cite the car going straight for an unsafe lane change while citing the car making a right turn for not yielding the right of way. It sucks, but that’s the way it is. Think of it as getting cited for an unsafe lane change yourself for signaling to your left and proceeding with your lane change, only to be thwarted by an asshole that slams on his/her accelerator to prevent you from cutting in front–resulting in a collision.
Again, whenever in doubt, always side with caution, and you will always have the law on your side. Patience and common sense will save a lot of time, money, and heartache, whereas egocentric road rage will inevitably result in an auto accident.
The driver of this Dodge pickup truck technically violated both v.c. 21658(a) and v.c. 21750: “The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle or a bicycle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left at a safe distance without interfering with the safe operation of the overtaken vehicle or bicycle, subject to the limitations and exceptions hereinafter stated.” Layman’s term’s? He didn’t pass to his left. Though it’s generally accepted to pass on the right when it’s absolutely safe to do so and you’re not exceeding the speed limit in the process (say, passing to the right of a “wide load” vehicle that’s in the left lane that’s approaching a left turn only lane), passing to the right in this intersection at Pass and Oak (which is what happened here), especially when a car has already initiated a right turn on red from the perpendicular street, was definitely not safe. To make matters worse, this road raging prick then threatened to rear-end the other driver by riding up against its rear, swerved to his left without signaling (nearly hitting the car he just tried to pass in the intersection), and then had the gall to glare at the right-turning driver. In fact, all along Barham, this guy was tailgating, speeding, weaving, and refusing to signal.
Regarding traffic tickets, this guy would probably get cited for an unsafe lane change and/or passing on the right in the event of an accident. On the insurance front, if you have a witness, and you’re the car making a right on red, you could successfully argue that you were making a right on red when it was safe to do so since all approaching vehicles were already in the left lane in the intersection when you initiated your turn. This jackass’s attempt to pass on the right in the intersection makes him the proximate cause for the accident. If there are no witnesses, you still might get faulted for comparative negligence for not yielding the right of way to through traffic. Again, does this suck? Yes it does…which is why defensive driving is so important in this town, and in any other city replete with road ragers.
Now there’s the letter of the law and the spirit of the law (both “courtesy” and “common sense” are mentioned in the DMV handbook), both which are meant to make driving conditions safe for everyone on the road. Ergo, changing lanes in an intersection does not meet either stipulation. And if you need any more proof, I saw a police officer pull over a car just the other day for causing a near-accident for making an unsafe lane change in front of another car (passing from the left to the right in this case) in Beverly Hills.
Agree? Disagree? Any other authority opinions on the matter?