I was in a left-turn lane at a signal and another car on the opposite side of the road was in the other left-turn lane. Suddenly he signaled right and pulled out of that lane and went straight across the road instead. There were no cars coming, but is that legal to do that?

I was in a left-turn lane at a signal and another car on the opposite side of the road was in the other left-turn lane. Suddenly he signaled right and pulled out of that lane and went straight across the road instead. There were no cars coming, but is that legal to do that?

— Tom C., Eagle Point

No, it wasn't, assuming that the lane, as you state, was a turn-only lane and not one with the option of turning or going straight ahead. If he was in a turn-only lane and went straight he could be considered to have violated one of at least three Oregon statutes.

ORS 811.375 is the first option, which is an unlawful or unsignaled change of lane. That statute says you must change lanes with reasonable safety and signal for 100 feet before changing lanes. While the safety may have been OK, your description makes it sound as if he was stopped and just threw on a signal without signaling during the previous 100 feet.

Option two is ORS 811.430, which describes an improperly executed left turn. This says the driver must intend to turn left (sounds like he did because he's in the left-turn lane), approach the turn in the left-most lane (OK so far), make the left turn to the left half of the intersection (here's the violation) and then leave in the left-most lane.

However, the one I'd favor most is ORS 811.265, which is failing to obey a traffic control device. The sign(s) designating the lane as a left-turn lane only — either the one painted on the roadway or the white and black one hanging near the traffic signal, or the left-turn arrow if it was an electronic signal, or all three if present — are all considered traffic control devices. (Any sign, signal, marking or device placed, operated or erected for the purpose of guiding, directing, warning or regulating traffic.)

I'd favor this one because it seems more specific and easier to prove if I had to in court. Option one is a Class D violation, a $142 fine, while options two and three are Class B violations, $287 fines.

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 email cochradc@jacksoncounty.org.