During my daily commute, I routinely encounter a couple frustrating traffic situations. In the first, I am west-bound on a busy two lane street with traffic lights only two blocks apart. During rush hour the east-bound traffic gets so backed up that stopped cars stretch bumper to bumper completely between the two traffic lights. Unfortunately for me, I need to make a left-hand turn through this backed-up east-bound traffic at the second light.
The east-bound cars get a green light and pull out into the intersection even though the congestion ahead of them makes them stop in the intersection, blocking my left-hand turn. Is it not OK to enter an intersection where congestion will prevent you from clearing the intersection?
The general rule for stopping in intersections is set forth in Section 545.302(a)(3) of the Texas Transportation Code, which prohibits any driver from stopping in an intersection. Thus, the driver who enters the intersection where traffic ahead is blocking him from exiting the intersection is violating the general rule.
In the second situation I approach an intersection from the west where I need to make a left hand turn. The traffic light at the intersection does not have a left turn signal. During rush hour, there is a flood of cars coming from the east, so it is difficult to make a left hand turn.
A car in front of me also wants to turn left, but waits outside of the intersection, hoping for a break in the oncoming traffic to make a left-turn only when it is clear. Would it be OK to enter an intersection for a left-hand turn that you can’t complete until after the light turns red?
According to the general rule, the driver seeking the left hand turn would be in violation. But there are exceptions to Section 545.302(a)(3). Subsection (f) allows a driver to stop to avoid conflicting traffic. The cars traveling in the opposite direction that prevent the left-hand turn qualify as “conflicting traffic.” The cars stopped in front of the congested intersection are not “conflicting traffic.” Thus, under Subsection (f), the driver seeking to make the left hand turn is fully within the law. He is also protected from other impatient drivers after the light changes by Section 544.007(b), which mandates that all drivers who have a green light yield to traffic already in the intersection.
When a collision occurs at an intersection, these complexities in traffic laws may be important in determining which driver bears legal responsibility for the damage and injuries that may result. The car wreck attorneys at Powers Taylor LLP help their clients determine their legal rights.