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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


More clarity on turning

Discussion of making turns seems to generate more discussion of making turns.

After the last column on the topic, reader S.R. wrote, “I have a question about what the law allows for the two right turns lanes coming off of I-90 to Sullivan Road. I feel comfortable turning right on a red from the far right lane when it is safe, but am not sure what the law allows for the left-hand right turn lane.”

I haven’t surveyed the site, but with two lanes for right-hand turns, and two corresponding lanes to turn into on the street being accessed, drivers from both lanes can make a “free” right on red-light indication when traffic is clear.

To make the second lane from the right available for turning, the right hand lane must be designated for turning right only. In these cases, the next lane over is also often marked as right turn only, but may be marked as available for traffic to turn right or go straight.

And I.B. asked, “With all the one-way streets in Spokane, could you please address the legality of making a free left from a two-way onto a one-way,  and from a one-way onto a two-way street during a red light? This is not addressed in the Washington drivers guide.”

A legal left is allowed upon a red-light indication onto a one-way street from a two-way street (or a one-way) when traffic coming from the right is clear. The logic is that the potential oncoming (facing) traffic on the two-way is stopped, so making the turn is just like making a free right-hand turn upon a red-light indication, where one only needs to check for cross traffic (and pedestrians).

The only legal turn upon a red-light indication from a one-way to a two-way street would be a turn to the right when traffic is clear. Turning left from a one-way to a two-way is forbidden.

A similar email from R.A noted, “Thanks for the info to the public on left turns. I was hoping in the article it would have covered making left turns from a two-way to a one- way at a red light. Many people think it is illegal.”

Again, that turn is legal as outlined above.  I have spread the word many times, but I guess there are still a lot of drivers who have not gotten the message!

Finally, from D.S., “Would you discuss the law about left-hand turns onto a one-way street, when you have a red light and there is no on coming traffic on either street?  I have checked with this with a patrolman and he assured me even on a red light arrow the turn is permissible if the intersection is clear.”

Yes, again, you can legally make a left-hand turn upon a red-light indication to a one-way street either from a one-way or a two-way street when no traffic is threatening from the right.

I differ with the advice that it would also be legal (or safe) if faced with a red-light arrow.  The logic for turning left from a two-way to a one-way while facing a red light is that the opposing traffic is stopped. With a red left-facing arrow, it means that the oncoming traffic has a green light, and proceeding just because oncoming traffic is clear would be illegal.

Readers may contact Bill Love via email at