Improper left, right turns justify a ticket

Back when I started driving, the only four-lane highway in Oregon was from just south of Oregon City on through Milwaukee, old Highway 99. To get the privilege to drive, a driver had to know how to make a left turn, i.e., from the left lane to the left lane. Something has gotten lost over the years, because I can't drive a mile in the city without seeing people make, say, a left turn and not even trying to get in the left lane, they just keep going RIGHT into whatever lane they want with their LEFT turn signal flashing. Or vice-versa, turn right and go to the left lane with their right turn signal flashing. Apparently this is not an illegal maneuver, only an ignorant one, because I have yet to see anyone pulled over for it. I guess there's not a statute covering this sloppy driving, although the proper way to make these turns is covered in the driver's handbook.

— C.D., Central Point

There are two statutes that deal with proper right and left turns. O.R.S. 811.340 covers improperly executed left turns. It says a driver commits the offense if the person operates a vehicle and is intending to turn to the left and does not leave the intersection in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the same direction as such vehicles on the roadway being entered.

In other words, when turning from eastbound McAndrews Road onto one-way northbound Riverside Avenue and going to the Rogue Valley Mall, the proper turn is into the left-most lane, right next to the 76 Station, and then to signal for 100 feet as you change each lane. It is not legal to turn and swoop across four lanes to get to the mall entrance like so many people tend to do.

O.R.S. 811.355 is for improperly executed right turns and is much the same as the previous statute, only in mirror image. It says a driver commits this offense if the driver is operating a vehicle, is intending to turn the vehicle to the right and does not proceed as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway when making the approach for a right turn and in making the right turn.

Both offenses are Class B traffic violations and as such would be cited at $287.

This is a very common complaint made by motorists, almost as often as complaints about speeders and those who don't use turn signals. It's also one of the most violated statutes there is.

I do pull drivers over for this violation, but the fine for this violation seems a little steep to me, so I exercise some officer discretion if I do end up citing, and list the bail as if it were a Class D traffic violation.

Dace Cochran, a patrol sergeant with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, writes a regular Q&A column on police issues for the Mail Tribune. Have a question for him? Write to Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501, or e-mail

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