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All benefit from proper right, left turns

I've got a right of way question about the current south Medford intersection. It seems like everyone coming off the northbound freeway and turning left onto Barnett thinks they have the right of way over people turning right onto Barnett (westbound) from the Dairy Queen/Motel Six area. I always figured that the people coming from the Dairy Queen turning right should have right of way, but no one seems to agree.

— Scott

Your figuring is absolutely right, Scott. As a longtime parent of Little Leaguers using the fields behind Motel 6, and thus using that intersection often, I see what you're writing about happen all the time. The area of the law that addresses proper turning is found under ORS 811.340, called improperly executed left turn, and its companion ORS 811.355, improperly executed right turn.

Under the first, which is the violation you're describing, a person commits the offense of making an improperly executed left turn if the person operates a vehicle and is intending to turn the vehicle to the left and the person does not: (a) approach the turn in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available; (b) make the left turn to the left of the center of the intersection when practicable; and (c) leave the intersection in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the same direction on the road being entered. Most people handle parts (a) and (b) easily enough, but then violate part (c), which is turning into the left-most lane of a road with multiple lanes in the direction the driver is turning.

So, as you point out, drivers coming from the off-ramp should turn into the left lane of the two westbound Barnett Road lanes while those coming from the Dairy Queen should turn into the right lane. Failing to do so is a Class B traffic violation and the bail is $242.

The law for improperly executed right turns is virtually the same, stating drivers intending to turn to the right must proceed as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway in making the approach for a right turn and in making the right turn. Violation is also a Class B traffic violation with the same $242 bail.

Dace Cochran, a patrol sergeant with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, writes a weekly 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 cochradc@jacksoncounty.org.