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U-turn with left arrow v. right turn with right arrow

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Matt Carter

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Jul 30, 2010, 11:54:44 AM7/30/10
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Jose is driving a vehicle heading west. He comes to an intersection
where the traffic light shows him a left green arrow. He makes a U-
turn. (There are no prohibitions on U-turns at this intersection.)

At the same time, Matt is driving a vehicle heading north. He comes
to the same intersection where the traffic light shows him a right
green arrow. He makes a right turn.

Jose's and Matt's vehicles collide. Who is at fault?

Surely, Matt's vehicle turning right with a right turn arrow is not
required to yield to U-turning traffic on the cross street. So Jose
is at fault, right?

But wait! This conclusion would imply that U-turning traffic (like
Jose) with a left green arrow must always yield to right-turning
traffic (like Matt) on the cross street. But at many intersections,
when traffic from one direction has a left green arrow, the traffic
approaching from the left on the cross street has a solid red light.
It would be silly to say that left-turning cars with a left green
arrow have to yield to cars in the cross street with a red light in
case one of them wanted to turn right.

You might try to solve this problem by saying that the U-turning
traffic has to yield to right-turning traffic on the cross street only
if that traffic has a right green arrow. But that wouldn't work
because:
1. The traffic light for the cross street is not always visible to
the U-turning traffic.
2. If the cross street has a right green arrow, the driver wanting
to make a U-turn would have to yield, making all the left-turning
drivers behind him very annoyed.

So, it seems to me that any intersection that simultaneously gives:
- a left green arrow for left-turning traffic, and
- a right green arrow to right-turning traffic approaching from the
left on the cross street
should prohibit the left-turning traffic from making U-turns (e.g.,
with a "NO U TURN" sign).

Yet, I see many such intersections with no such prohibition.

The state is Virginia, though I'd be happy to hear responses about
other states.

For your reference, here is the Virginia traffic code:
http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+TOC46020000008000000000000
I see no law addressing this issue.

slide

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Aug 1, 2010, 10:16:13 AM8/1/10
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On 7/30/2010 9:54 AM, Matt Carter wrote:
> Jose is driving a vehicle heading west. He comes to an intersection
> where the traffic light shows him a left green arrow. He makes a U-
> turn. (There are no prohibitions on U-turns at this intersection.)
>
> At the same time, Matt is driving a vehicle heading north. He comes
> to the same intersection where the traffic light shows him a right
> green arrow. He makes a right turn.
>
> Jose's and Matt's vehicles collide. Who is at fault?
>

It depends :). In CA, the U-turning vehicle is at fault:

http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d11/vc21801.htm

I think the logic would apply to other jurisdictions even those which
don't have it, like CA, in black letter law.

Stuart A. Bronstein

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Aug 1, 2010, 11:52:35 AM8/1/10
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Matt Carter <r_q_eins...@yahoo.com> wrote:

> Jose is driving a vehicle heading west. He comes to an
> intersection where the traffic light shows him a left green
> arrow. He makes a U- turn. (There are no prohibitions on
> U-turns at this intersection.)
>
> At the same time, Matt is driving a vehicle heading north. He
> comes to the same intersection where the traffic light shows him
> a right green arrow. He makes a right turn.
>
> Jose's and Matt's vehicles collide. Who is at fault?

There should not have been a collision if both drivers stayed on
their side of the road. So whichever of them didn't is at fault.

> Surely, Matt's vehicle turning right with a right turn arrow is
> not required to yield to U-turning traffic on the cross street.
> So Jose is at fault, right?

You are required to yeild to whomever you need to to avoid an
accident. If you insist on the right of way and cause an accident
that could have been avoided, you may be just as much at fault as
the other person.

--
Stu
http://downtoearthlawyer.com

Stan K

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Aug 1, 2010, 10:38:13 AM8/1/10
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On Jul 30, 11:54 am, Matt Carter <r_q_einstein-...@yahoo.com> wrote:
> Jose is driving a vehicle heading west.  He comes to an intersection
> where the traffic light shows him a left green arrow.  He makes a U-
> turn.  (There are no prohibitions on U-turns at this intersection.)
>
> At the same time, Matt is driving a vehicle heading north.  He comes
> to the same intersection where the traffic light shows him a right
> green arrow.  He makes a right turn.
>
> Jose's and Matt's vehicles collide.  Who is at fault?

The real problem is that the traffic engineers failed to take this
situation into account. If Jose were making a conventional left turn,
his and Matt's paths would never have crossed.

My take on this is that Jose is at fault. The reason is that in
completing the U turn, he made a second left turn, and this left turn
isn't protected by his left-turn arrow. So for this second,
unprotected, left turn, he's required to yield.

Going back to the traffic engineering problem, another problem is that
people in Jose's position have no idea if the right turning traffic
has a green arrow or if they're just making a right-on-red. I've made
a number of U-turns on these wide streets, which are usually the
commercial strip by an interstate, as I'm returning to the highway,
and plenty of times I need to beep-off right turning traffic. In
doing so, I'm obviously assuming they're just making a right-on-red.

gpsman

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Aug 1, 2010, 12:31:33 PM8/1/10
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On Jul 30, 11:54 am, Matt Carter <r_q_einstein-...@yahoo.com> wrote:
> Jose is driving a vehicle heading west.  He comes to an intersection
> where the traffic light shows him a left green arrow.  He makes a U-
> turn.  (There are no prohibitions on U-turns at this intersection.)
>
> At the same time, Matt is driving a vehicle heading north.  He comes
> to the same intersection where the traffic light shows him a right
> green arrow.  He makes a right turn.
>
> Jose's and Matt's vehicles collide.  Who is at fault?

Whichever nitwit encroached upon the other's lane, assuming one of
them actually managed to maintain their lane (or whichever was not
stopped when the collision occurred).

After following too closely, maintaining one's lane while turning is
probably the most common ROW violation.
-----

- gpsman

Mike Jacobs

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Aug 1, 2010, 2:32:56 PM8/1/10
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On Jul 30, 11:54 am, Matt Carter <r_q_einstein-...@yahoo.com> wrote:

[both drivers have green arrows pointing in their intended direction
- one is turning right on a right arrow, the other making a U-turn on
a left arrow with no sign prohibiting that practice. They collide.
Whose fault?]

First of all, your premise that the traffic engineers would permit
both a right-arrow (for, say, northbound turning to eastbound) and a
left-arrow (for westbound turning to southbound) to be lit at the same
intersection at the same time _without_a_sign_prohibiting_U-turns_
would be very bad planning. If they are going to permit U-turns
there, they should have the Left-or-U-turn arrow light illuminated at
a DIFFERENT point in the signal sequence than when they have the
_right_ turn arrow illuminated, _because_ of the danger of such
traffic conflict.

But I'm not denying that it may occur in some places, either due to
bad planning or unintentionally if the "No U-turn" sign is missing,
perhaps blown down by a recent storm.

Since the _signals_ for both drivers are "green," that means they are
each entitled to proceed through the intersection _after_ yielding the
right of way to any other traffic in the intersection which has a
superior right of way. A green light or green arrow does NOT mean
"damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead."

Thus, the default rule of right-of-way for conflicting traffic applies
- the one approaching the point of potential collision from the
other's left must yield the right-of-way to the one approaching that
point from his _right_. Here, the guy making the U-turn would be
approaching the right-turning driver from the right-turning driver's
LEFT side, and the U-turning guy would consequently see the right-
turner approaching him from the U-turner's RIGHT side. Thus the U-
turner would have to yield to the right-turner.
--
This posting is for discussion purposes, not professional advice.
Anything you post on this Newsgroup is public information.
I am not your lawyer, and you are not my client in any specific legal
matter.
For confidential professional advice, consult your own lawyer in a
private communication.

Mike Jacobs
LAW OFFICE OF W. MICHAEL JACOBS
10440 Little Patuxent Pkwy #300
Columbia, MD 21044
(tel) 410-740-5685 (fax) 410-740-4300

Message has been deleted

mm

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Aug 1, 2010, 3:57:43 PM8/1/10
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On Fri, 30 Jul 2010 08:54:44 -0700 (PDT), Matt Carter
<r_q_eins...@yahoo.com> wrote:

>Jose is driving a vehicle heading west. He comes to an intersection
>where the traffic light shows him a left green arrow. He makes a U-
>turn. (There are no prohibitions on U-turns at this intersection.)
>
>At the same time, Matt is driving a vehicle heading north. He comes
>to the same intersection where the traffic light shows him a right
>green arrow. He makes a right turn.
>
>Jose's and Matt's vehicles collide. Who is at fault?

I think this should be viewed where possible as if Jose were driving
south and making a left hand turn. My brother was in those shoes 48
years ago, except the other guy didn't have an arrow. And my brother
got hit, and he told us what the law was, but I forget.

I think he would be at fault, my brother or Jose, for turning in front
of Matt. Either Matt was going straight or he was turning right.
Either way I think he had the right of way. How much more so if he
was turning right with a right turn arrow.

But to some extent it depends on who gets there first. While Jose
has to yield to Matt if they arrive there at the same time, or if
earlier but not so much earlier he can't get mostly (or entirely?) out
of Matt's way before Matt gets there, what if Jose gets there earlier
than that, but then slows for a pedestrian or any reason at all, and
Matt hits him in the right rear quarter panel, behind the right rear
door? What if he hits him in the right rear door? My brother was
hit between the right wheel well and the right door. It cut open a
slot on 3 sides, about 10 inches high and three inches wide, and
folded it into the car, bent on the rear side. It looked like a mail
slot. David, who's a pretty serious guy, thought it was funny.

>Surely, Matt's vehicle turning right with a right turn arrow is not
>required to yield to U-turning traffic on the cross street. So Jose
>is at fault, right?

Probably, subject to my previous paragraph.

>But wait! This conclusion would imply that U-turning traffic (like
>Jose) with a left green arrow must always yield to right-turning
>traffic (like Matt) on the cross street. But at many intersections,
>when traffic from one direction has a left green arrow, the traffic
>approaching from the left on the cross street has a solid red light.
>It would be silly to say that left-turning cars with a left green
>arrow have to yield to cars in the cross street with a red light in
>case one of them wanted to turn right.

Even at a red light, except where posted "No turns on red" or in NY
city, cars may turn right after stopping. Jose should know this. Are
you saying he didn't know this because he's an illegal alien from
Mexico? Unlike Matt? Wait a second. Your name is Matt.

Before there were traffic lights, there were still rules about right
of way.

In addition, I've seen one intersection with a left-and-U-turn green
arrow, but Jose only had a left-turn arrow. After his left turn,
before his second left turn, he has to yield.

Did the road Jose was on have a wide median strip? If it was possible
to do so without backing up, he should have turned into the nearest
lane to where he was, into the left-most east-bound lane. Matt should
have turned into the right-most east-bound lane other than a lane with
parked cars. I assume Jose didn't do his part because cars need two
to three lanes' worth to make a U-turn, and there was no median wide
enough to provide that.

But this puts Jose in a weaker position than if he'd been going north
on the cross street (the same street Matt was driving south on). Then
he'd be able to start his left-turn farther back so he could actually
enter left-most lane. Since he couldn't do this, he has even greater
requirement to yield, if that is possible. But what if he got there
first?

>You might try to solve this problem by saying that the U-turning
>traffic has to yield to right-turning traffic on the cross street only
>if that traffic has a right green arrow. But that wouldn't work
>because:
> 1. The traffic light for the cross street is not always visible to
>the U-turning traffic.
> 2. If the cross street has a right green arrow, the driver wanting
>to make a U-turn would have to yield, making all the left-turning
>drivers behind him very annoyed.

Huh! What difference does it make if drivers behind him are annoyed?
If he's worried about that, he should abandon his plans for a U-turn
and just turn left and go around the block. Or go down the block and
turn around down there. He shouldn't force his way through an
intersection because there are people behind him. They can probably
pass him on the right anyhow.

>
>So, it seems to me that any intersection that simultaneously gives:
> - a left green arrow for left-turning traffic, and
> - a right green arrow to right-turning traffic approaching from the
>left on the cross street
>should prohibit the left-turning traffic from making U-turns (e.g.,
>with a "NO U TURN" sign).

I don't think that's necessary unless there have actually been several
accidents there, or one serious one. Even then, there could be a sign
that says "U-turns must yield to Everyone" People are supposed to
know how to drive.

>Yet, I see many such intersections with no such prohibition.

Are these on divided highways? If the road is not divided, one can
make a u-turn NOT at an intersection when there is no oncoming
traffic. Or if the road and its shoulder are not wide enough, turn
into a parking lot or driveway, exit and turn back the other way.
You'll only have to face traffic from one direction, not three.

If the road is divided and this is not possible, to prohibit u-turns
at cross streets could, especially in the country. cause someone to
drive miles out of his way.

After I had been in Brooklyn for a couple months, I had a date and
we got stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic going my direction on 13th
Avenue, and I asked her, Are U-turns legal in New York. And she said,
"I think only at intersections." Hahaha. That's where they are most
likely to be illegal, but people make them there because the road is a
little wider because there are no parked cars and one can even drive a
little into the cross street. Anyhow, I started my u-turn in the
middle of the block and right away there was a cop going the other
direction. He let me finish my u-turn and didn't even make a face at
me. When I lived there, New York cops valued common sense wrt traffic.
Not sure about under Julianni or after him. (On another occasion on
a quiet, long stretch of Atlantic Avenue, which has four
wider-than-normal traffic lanes with no median, near the BQE, where
there were no cross streets, I was one of 6 cars making U-turns at the
very same time within 80 yards of each other. There were 3 groups of
2 (one of each group going east and one going west). It was like a
ballet. Really. Nobody hit anybody.

>The state is Virginia, though I'd be happy to hear responses about
>other states.
>
>For your reference, here is the Virginia traffic code:
>http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+TOC46020000008000000000000
>I see no law addressing this issue.

That's because even before there were traffic light arrows or traffic
lights, the rules of the road said who had to yield the right of way.
AIUI, no one has the right to assert the right of way. It's only
something that he can yield. Because you're not allowed to hit
another car even if the car shouldn't be there.

Here lies Daniel O'Shay.
He died defending his right of way.
His right was clear and his will was strong,
but he's just as dead as if he'd been wrong.

--
Posters should say what U,S. state if any they live in. Why
do so many keep their state as secret as their own name?

IANAL. That is, I am not a lawyer.

grendal

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Aug 2, 2010, 10:36:50 PM8/2/10
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On Jul 30, 10:54 am, Matt Carter <r_q_einstein-...@yahoo.com> wrote:
> Jose is driving a vehicle heading west.  He comes to an intersection
> where the traffic light shows him a left green arrow.  He makes a U-
> turn.  (There are no prohibitions on U-turns at this intersection.)
>
> At the same time, Matt is driving a vehicle heading north.  He comes
> to the same intersection where the traffic light shows him a right
> green arrow.  He makes a right turn.
>

My guess?

The driver making the U-Turn is at fault. Not having a prohibition to
making U Turns and failing to yield right of way to a vehicle that has
the right of way (green arrow) are two different things. The green
arrow gives the driver heading west the right of way to head South,
but not to make a U-Turn.

What makes this interesting is that the vehicle making the U turn is
to the right of the vehicle turning on green arrow. So at a 4 way
stop, the vehicle would have right away.


Just my opinion, your mileage will vary. ;-)

Bret_Halford

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Aug 2, 2010, 11:53:31 AM8/2/10
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On Jul 30, 9:54 am, Matt Carter <r_q_einstein-...@yahoo.com> wrote:

>
> Surely, Matt's vehicle turning right with a right turn arrow is not
> required to yield to U-turning traffic on the cross street.  So Jose
> is at fault, right?

> For your reference, here is the Virginia traffic code:http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+TOC46020000008000...


> I see no law addressing this issue.


I found this under your link - It actually seems pretty clear that
Matt's vehicle *is* required to yield, as
the vehicle with the green left-turn signal has right of way over
*all* other vehicles approaching the intersection.
That would seem to include a vehicle with a green right-turn signal.
The wording of the section title could be improved.

§ 46.2-825. Left turn traffic to yield right-of-way.

The driver of a vehicle, intending to turn left within an intersection
or into an alley, private road, or driveway shall yield the right-of-
way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction if it is so
close as to constitute a hazard. At intersections controlled by
traffic lights with separate left-turn signals, any vehicle making a
left turn when so indicated by the signal shall have the right-of-way
over all other vehicles approaching the intersection.

Mike

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Aug 5, 2010, 10:46:58 AM8/5/10
to

"The driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left or to complete a
U-turn upon a highway, or to turn left into public or private property,
or an alley, shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles approaching
from the OPPOSITE DIRECTION which are close enough to constitute a
hazard at any time during the turning movement, and shall continue to
yield the right-of-way to the approaching vehicles until the left turn
or U-turn can be made with reasonable safety" (emphasis added.)

VA has a law that's worded pretty much the same way.

But Matt isn't approaching from the opposite direction. Jose is driving
west and is making a U-turn to head back east. Only traffic headed east
would be from the opposite direction. Now MAYBE ya could say "in the
middle of the turn, Jose is headed south" and have a point but that
seems to me to be stretching it.

Message has been deleted

Mike

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Aug 5, 2010, 11:19:15 AM8/5/10
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On 8/1/2010 11:52 AM, Stuart A. Bronstein wrote:
> Matt Carter<r_q_eins...@yahoo.com> wrote:

<Jose makes a U-turn. Matt is turning right.)

>> Jose's and Matt's vehicles collide. Who is at fault?
>
> There should not have been a collision if both drivers stayed on
> their side of the road. So whichever of them didn't is at fault.

Objection, yer honor. Assuming facts not in evidence!

I have seen many roads with 1 lane in each direction, a left turn lane
and a concrete median strip dividing the left lane from traffic coming
from the opposite way (that would, for example, prevent a person from
making a left just short of the light into the business on the near/left
corner. So you'd make a U-turn and then a right into the business.) So
there is no "their side of the road."

Also, the only time I've seen that you're required to stay in a specific
lane is when it's from a multi-lane turning traffic turning into
multi-lane traffic and they'll have the 2 or 3 turn lane's white lines
continue through the intersection. So that, for example, a person in the
far right turn lane stays in the far right and the person in the far
left stays in the far left as they both turn right. But I may be turning
from a single right turn lane into 2 (or more) lanes in the cross-wise
traffic and then need to immediately turn left off that road (or turning
left into the multiple lanes and then need to make an immediate right
into a business.) If there's only one lane that's turning, that one lane
should be able to turn into ANY of the other lanes as needed. If I have
a protected turn, then it's protected against all traffic. If I don't
have a protected turn, then I must yield to ALL traffic that I might
interfere with.

mm

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Aug 5, 2010, 1:18:23 PM8/5/10
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On Thu, 05 Aug 2010 10:46:58 -0400, Mike <prab...@shamrocksgf.com>
wrote:

>
>"The driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left or to complete a
>U-turn upon a highway, or to turn left into public or private property,
>or an alley, shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles approaching
>from the OPPOSITE DIRECTION which are close enough to constitute a
>

>But Matt isn't approaching from the opposite direction. Jose is driving
>west and is making a U-turn to head back east. Only traffic headed east
>would be from the opposite direction. Now MAYBE ya could say "in the
>middle of the turn, Jose is headed south" and have a point but that
>seems to me to be stretching it.

I don't think it's stretching it. I think that's exactly what the
statute says. The first line and a half are "intending to turn to the
left or to COMPLETE a U-turn." The completion is the second half of
the U-turn, at which time the driver is approaching from the oposite
direction and intending to turn left.

Historical note: Before there were electric traffic lights, there
were kerosene and candle-lit traffic lights. They were never very
popular though, because each time the permitted traffic was to change,
someone had to go out and blow out one set of candles and light the
other ones.

IANAH.

Barry Gold

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Aug 5, 2010, 11:58:33 AM8/5/10
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Matt Carter <r_q_eins...@yahoo.com> wrote:
>Jose is driving a vehicle heading west. He comes to an intersection
>where the traffic light shows him a left green arrow. He makes a U-
>turn. (There are no prohibitions on U-turns at this intersection.)
>
>At the same time, Matt is driving a vehicle heading north. He comes
>to the same intersection where the traffic light shows him a right
>green arrow. He makes a right turn.
>
>Jose's and Matt's vehicles collide. Who is at fault?

Depends on a lot of things, but generally the rule of negligence
applies: who acted in a fashion that a "reasonably prudent person"
wouldn't have done?

And remember, "Right of Way" is something you must yield under
certain circumstances, not something you have and can/should defend
at all costs.

If Jose saw Matt making the right turn, but continued anyway, then he
is at fault -- for being a blamed fool. OTOH, if Matt saw Jose making
his u-turn, but continued at full speed assuming that Jose would spot
him and somehow stop in time, then Matt is at fault.

If circumstances are such that both failed to observe the other for
some reason (heavy fog), then the chances are that _both_ are at fault
and the fact-finder (jury or judge or insurance companies if no
lawsuit) will apportion fault between them.
--
Barry Gold, webmaster for:
Conchord: http://www.conchord.org
Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society: http://www.lasfsinc.org
My blog: http://goldslaw.livejournal.com/

Mike Jacobs

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Aug 5, 2010, 4:15:16 PM8/5/10
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On Aug 2, 10:36 pm, grendal <im_gu...@hotmail.com> wrote:
> What makes this interesting is that the vehicle making the U turn is
> to the right of the vehicle turning on green arrow.

???? No he isn't, at least not at the point where the traffic conflict
(risk of collision) occurs. As the 2 vehicles approach the point of
impact, looking just at the last 1/4 circle arc each makes (since they
each cover that amount of ground in about the same amount of time,
simultaneously, in order to arrive at the point of collision at the
same time) the U-turner is turning counterclockwise heading from south
to southeast to east, and the right-turner is turning clockwise from
north to northeast to east. At every point in that part of the
maneuver, the U-turner is to the left of the right-turner, and must
yield. What happened when the U-turner made the previous part of his
maneuver, from westbound to southbound, is as irrelevant as what he
did several blocks ago and several minutes ago.

> So at a 4 way
> stop, the vehicle would have right away.

I can't parse that sentence, but I think you mean the vehicle which
sees another vehicle approaching a point of conflict FROM THAT
VEHICLE'S RIGHT is the one which has to YIELD the right-of-way (not
"right away"). "Right-of-way" is not something anyone can ever HAVE
in the absolute sense; it's only a _relative_ concept, meaning it is
something you as the operator of a vehicle or vessel is required to
YIELD to someone else whose right-of-way (that is, their right to
continue to make passage on their present course) is superior to
yours. One "yields" by either (a) changing one's own course to a path
that does not conflict, or (b) stopping or slowing so that the paths
no longer conflict. "Conflict" here is defined as a likelihood that
the 2 vehicles or vessels will COLLIDE if they continue on their
present course at their present speed.

Mike Jacobs

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Aug 5, 2010, 3:59:44 PM8/5/10
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On Aug 2, 11:53 am, Bret_Halford <b...@sybase.com> wrote:
> I found this under your link - It actually seems pretty clear that
> Matt's vehicle *is* required to yield, as
> the vehicle with the green left-turn signal has right of way over
> *all* other vehicles approaching the intersection.

No, that's _not_ what the statute you quoted says: It says vehicles
_making_a_LEFT_turn_ with a green left-turn arrow have the ROW over
everybody else. Jose wasn't turning left (westbound to southbound);
he was making a U-turn (westbound to eastbound, which is the maneuver
that put him into conflict with Matt's right-turning vehicle
(northbound to eastbound).

> That would seem to include a vehicle with a green right-turn signal.

But the green-right-turn signal statute probably _also_ gives Matt the
ROW when _his_ signal was green, and they were both green at the
_same_time_ (bad planning IMO, but it happens).

> The wording of the section title could be improved.

Seems clear enough to me.

Matt Carter

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Aug 5, 2010, 10:56:06 PM8/5/10
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Matt Carter wrote:
> Jose is driving a vehicle heading west.  He comes to an intersection
> where the traffic light shows him a left green arrow.  He makes a U-
> turn.  (There are no prohibitions on U-turns at this intersection.)

Thank you all for weighing in with your opinions.

Most of you seem to believe that Jose (making a U-turn on left green
arrow) was supposed to yield to Matt (turning right with a green
arrow, approaching from Jose's left).

This leads to the interesting result that a driver turning right on
red has superior right-of-way over a driver (like Jose) making a U-
turn on left green arrow on the cross street.

I doubt the average right-turning driver at a red light would
recognize his superior right-of-way, so he would simply wait for the U-
turner to proceed. The U-turner, perhaps having read this thread and
recognizing his inferior rights despite his left green arrow, would
continue to yield. The end result would be no traffic flow and
frustrated motorists behind both vehicles.

At many intersections with this issue, there is not enough room for
the U-turner to partially complete the U-turn so that left-turning
traffic behind him can make their left turns while the U-turner
continues to yield to right-turning traffic on the cross street.

I again submit that any intersection that allows this situation has a
defective design, and should have a "No U Turn" sign.

I know of at least 6 intersections like this within 2 miles of me.
I've reported them to the Virginia Department of Transportation by
telephone and via their website, but I never get any replies and no
action ever seems to be taken.

I became aware of this issue because I almost got into an accident at
one of these intersections. (I was "Matt" in the OP scenario.)
Luckily, both drivers stopped just before the collision happened.

A couple of you pointed out that there would be no conflict if each
vehicle turned into the near lane. However, it's usually impossible
for the U-turn to be completed into the near lane with a normal-sized
car. The law only requires you to use the near lane to the extent
"practicable". Here's the law:

VA Code 46.2-846(A)(3):
"the left turn shall be made so as to leave the intersection or
crossover, as nearly as practicable, in the left lane lawfully
available"
http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+46.2-846

I also thank Mike Jacobs and Grendal for pointing out that, absent
disambiguation by arrival time or traffic signs or traffic signals,
the driver approaching from the right has superior right-of-way. It's
quite interesting that Mike and Grendal drew opposite conclusions from
this premise. The difference comes in what you mean by "approaching":
Is it approaching the *intersection*, or approaching the potential
*point* of collision? They lead to opposite results!

Bret Halford pointed out VA Code 46.2-825:


"At intersections controlled by traffic lights with separate left-turn
signals, any vehicle making a left turn when so indicated by the

signal shall have the right-of-way over all other vehicles approaching
the intersection."

That begs the question: Is a U-turn a type of left turn? I'm more
inclined to go with the conclusion (which several of you presented)
that a U-turn is 2 left turns in series, unless otherwise defined by
the law.

Thank you again for your insights.

BTW, if anyone has any suggestions on how to get the Virginia
Department of Transportation to recognize that this is a problem and
to take some remedial action, I'd appreciate it. I've tried reporting
the relevant intersections via the VDOT website (
http://www.virginiadot.org/travel/citizen.asp ) and the VDOT toll free
number (800-367-7623) but nothing ever seems to happen.

Mike Jacobs

unread,
Aug 5, 2010, 4:53:31 PM8/5/10
to
On Aug 1, 3:57 pm, mm <mm2...@bigfoot.com> wrote:
> I think he would be at fault, my brother or Jose, for turning in front
> of Matt.

Agreed, as do most of the other "initial responders" on this thread
today.

> Either Matt was going straight

Um, if Jose had a green left-turn arrow, Matt's arrow for straight-
thru northbound travel would have been _red_. If Matt blew thru the
intersection northbound while Jose was in _any_ part of his westbound-
to-southbound-to-eastbound U-turn maneuver, Matt would have been at
fault, since thru cross-traffic had no business in the intersection
while the left-turn arrow was green.

> or he was turning right.

As in fact he was, with a green right-turn arrow to boot. (of
course, a green arrow is only needed when the traffic engineers desire
to permit right turns _while_the_signal_for_thru_traffic_is_red_ since
otherwise the solid "green" circle permits _both_ straight-ahead thru
traffic, and right turns.

> Either way I think he had the right of way.

No; only in the latter situation, the one which actually happened, did
Matt have the ROW over Jose.

> How much more so if he
> was turning right with a right turn arrow.

Correct.

> But to some extent it depends on who gets there first.

Another misconception.

The truth is THEY BOTH "get there first," ANYTIME a collision
occurs. By definition, a collision means 2 vehicles tried to occupy
the same block of space at the same time. Not gonna happen, at least
not until the laws of physics are repealed. At impact, some metal or
plastic is going to get crunched, and some nearly instantaneous
unintended deceleration or change of vector velocity will also occur,
which may also shake up the occupants and cause injury to them... more
or less, depending in part on the vehicles' relative position and
speed, but that goes to our understanding of the forces involved in
the impact, not to whose fault it was.

"But wait," you say, "what I meant was, it depends whose car got to
the point of impact by a nose, or by a neck, just a little bit ahead
of the other guy." Wrongo - the only thing that matters, for
yielding ROW purposes, is whether ANY RISK of collision exists - and
such a risk exists whenever there is a significant chance ANY PART of
EITHER car would be trying to occupy that same space (the point of
collision) at the same time (the moment of collision) if both vehicles
continued on their present course (or present helm setting, if in the
middle of a turn) and present speed. Each operator has a duty to
recognize such a RISK of conflicting courses and, if risk exists, the
Rules of the Road determine which vehicle or vessel has the primary
duty to yield BEFORE either one would get to the point of impact.
This assures that the ENTIRE length and width of the vehicle with ROW
in that situation will have COMPLETELY CLEARED the zone of danger
BEFORE the one with a duty to yield begins to enter that zone.

> While Jose
> has to yield to Matt if they arrive there at the same time, or if
> earlier but not so much earlier he can't get mostly (or entirely?) out
> of Matt's way before Matt gets there,

So, you DO understand the concept. Good. The duty to yield doesn't
kick in unless there is a risk of conflict; otherwise, the 2 cars are
like 2 ships passing in the night, to coin a cliche.

> what if Jose gets there earlier than that,

So, you're putting Jose in the "zone of danger" even BEFORE a conflict
existed, but then he has to STOP there? That happens.

> but then slows for a pedestrian or any reason at all,

Once Jose is LEGALLY in the position he is in, and is STOPPED, all
other traffic has a duty to yield TO HIM rather than collide with
him. That is, they have a duty to either stop short, or change
course so they go around him.

This is true WHETHER OR NOT Jose committed any primary negligence or
violated any statute in getting himself into that position of
danger. Once he is there, if other drivers (such as Matt) have time
to assess the situation and see that he is stopped there, then those
other drivers also have a duty to react appropriately and not collide
with him. In some states, esp. those which still adhere to the old-
fashioned "contributory negligence" rule, this is called the principle
of "last clear chance" and may permit a victim such as Jose who got
himself into that position of danger negligently, to escape the
Draconian effect of the contributory-negligence rule (which bars a
plaintiff from any recovery at all, if his negligence contributed even
a tiny bit to causing the collision), but in most states, it's just
one more factor to take into account in weighing the relative fault of
the parties.

> and
> Matt hits him in the right rear quarter panel, behind the right rear
> door?

As noted above, the exact point of impact between the 2 vehicles is
IRRELEVANT to determining who is at fault, except to the extent there
may be a dispute about who was on whose LEFT as they both approached
the point of impact on the street; the points of impact on each _car_
may help show that.

> What if he hits him in the right rear door?

If Matt (turning right) hits Jose on the RIGHT side of Jose's car,
that means Matt's car was TO JOSE'S RIGHT side. Meaning, Matt had
the right-of-way over Jose.

<MM's minor family tragedy snipped>

> >Surely, Matt's vehicle turning right with a right turn arrow is not
> >required to yield to U-turning traffic on the cross street. So Jose
> >is at fault, right?
>
> Probably, subject to my previous paragraph.

Your previous paragraph is congruent with the situation Matt
described. Matt was to Jose's RIGHT at the point of impact.

Mike

unread,
Aug 6, 2010, 12:27:17 PM8/6/10
to
On 8/1/2010 3:57 PM, mm wrote:
> Even at a red light, except where posted "No turns on red" or in NY
> city, cars may turn right after stopping. Jose should know this. Are
> you saying he didn't know this because he's an illegal alien from
> Mexico? Unlike Matt? Wait a second. Your name is Matt.
>
> Before there were traffic lights, there were still rules about right
> of way.

After stopping AND they must yield to ALL traffic in ANY other
lanes/directions. The right-turn-on-red doesn't mean if you're going N
and turning E and the light is green for E/W traffic, that you can stop
and then barrel right on into the turn with utter disregard to the 100's
of cars coming in from the W at you.

> Are these on divided highways? If the road is not divided, one can
> make a u-turn NOT at an intersection when there is no oncoming
> traffic.

You might want to check again. MANY states (and VA, specifically, which
was the state in question) PROHIBIT U-turns within city limits (and
commercial areas in the county) EXCEPT for at an intersection.

Or if the road and its shoulder are not wide enough, turn
> into a parking lot or driveway, exit and turn back the other way.
> You'll only have to face traffic from one direction, not three.
>
> If the road is divided and this is not possible, to prohibit u-turns
> at cross streets could, especially in the country. cause someone to
> drive miles out of his way.

Which is why they are allowed in the middle of the road in the county.
But NOT in the city in many areas (NC is another that I know,
specifically, prohibits them except at intersections, when in town.)

Mike

unread,
Aug 6, 2010, 1:02:46 PM8/6/10
to
On 8/5/2010 10:56 PM, Matt Carter wrote:
> That begs the question: Is a U-turn a type of left turn? I'm more
> inclined to go with the conclusion (which several of you presented)
> that a U-turn is 2 left turns in series, unless otherwise defined by
> the law.

Actually, one thing that comes to mind with the "U=turn=2 lefts" idea is
that the 2nd left would be a "left turn on red."

I forgot who was going in what direction in the OP, etc. but let's say
Jose is U-turning from N to S (ignore Matt for now.) There are red
lights for traffic going straight across E and W as well as left turns
from E to N or from W to S. So Jose makes the "left" to go from N to W.
Now either Jose is making an illegal turn from W to S (when there's a
red light prohibiting such) OR it's not really 2 lefts but all one turn.

Now I do agree with everyone else that "if in doubt, yield" but I don't
agree with the analysis of a U-turn being 2 lefts.

Mike Jacobs

unread,
Aug 6, 2010, 1:35:42 PM8/6/10
to
On Aug 5, 10:56 pm, Matt Carter <r_q_einstein-...@yahoo.com> wrote:

> Matt Carter wrote:
> Thank you all for weighing in with your opinions.

De nada. A fun break from _real_ cases.

> Most of you seem to believe that Jose (making a U-turn on left green
> arrow) was supposed to yield to Matt (turning right with a green
> arrow, approaching from Jose's left).

But Matt WASN'T approaching Jose from Jose's left - not unless you are
thinking only about their relative positions LONG BEFORE any risk of
collision occurred, long before each began their respective
maneuvers. The only time the Do-I-have-to-yield-ROW question arises
is AFTER the operator recognizes a potential danger of collision if
he, and the other vehicle or vessel, both were to proceed on their
present course (or helm setting) and speed, without making any
adjustments. That point of danger is not reached until both Jose and
Matt are at least beginning the last 1/4 circle arc of their
respective maneuvers - Jose turning from southbound to eastbound
(after already having completed a 1/4 turn to his left, from westbound
to southbound), and Matt's 1/4 turn to the right, from northbound to
eastbound. I'm assuming both of those final 1/4-arc turns occur
simultaneously BECAUSE they both get their respective vehicles,
travelling at about the same speed, to the same point (the point of
collision or near-collision) at the same time.

And, during that entire last 1/4-of-a-circle turn that both vehicles
were making, Matt was approaching Jose's vehicle from Jose's RIGHT
side, and Jose was approaching Matt from Matt's LEFT side. Hence,
the usual ROW rules would dictate that Jose yield to Matt.

Look at it another way. Let's assume these are vessels in a harbor,
or planes in the sky, not cars on a delimited roadway. Nearly the
same ROW rules apply at sea, BTW, which is where they were first
invented, and in the air - the one approaching a point of conflict
from the other's LEFT (port side) has the duty to yield the right-of-
way. That's why the night-time navigation lights on a vessel's (or
airplane's) port side are RED and those on the starboard (right) side
are GREEN - they are like traffic signals to any oncoming, conflicting
vessels. Any vessel approaching yours from your port side - facing
your red nav light - must stop, slow down
_or_change_course_to_starboard_ (turn right) to avoid colliding with
you, while any vessel approaching yours from your starboard side -
facing your green light - may proceed on course without slowing or
turning. (I'm leaving out, for purposes of this analysis, the
nautical and aeronautical rules that apply superior ROW rights to less-
maneuverable craft - assume both craft are of the same type and of
equal maneuverability)

Okay, we're at sea. Jose's barge is on a counterclockwise circular
course (helm a-port), at a steady helm and speed, changing from
westbound to southbound toward eastbound. Meanwhile, Matt's scow is
approaching from the south, heading northbound. If Matt then puts
his helm a-starboard (turns right), HE IS MOVING AWAY from Jose's
conflicting course, AWAY from the potential collision with Jose.
That's what the default nautical Rules of the Road REQUIRE Cap'n Matt
to do, at least INITIALLY - by turning to his right, Matt _has_
yielded to Jose, who was (at least initially) moving perpendicularly
across Matt's path from Matt's right toward Matt's left.

However, by continuing to turn left towards Matt, Jose is now
APPROACHING Matt, even as Matt is trying to turn _away_ from him.
Jose is in effect CHASING Matt toward the point where a collision
might occur - like 2 fighter planes in a dogfight. And Jose is doing
that _after_ Matt had already done what he would have had to do ANYWAY
if he were the one who had to yield ROW to Jose - that is, Matt had
ALREADY changed his course clockwise (to the right) so his new course
would carry him AWAY from Jose to avoid the traffic conflict. It may
sound complicated when written out like this, but do your little
battle-at-sea re-enactment thing with salt and pepper shakers (to
represent the 2 vehicles or vessels) and napkins (to represent the
curbs of the roadway, although not strictly necessary if you are doing
this as a nautical rather than vehicular situation) on the tabletop
and you will see exactly what I mean. That's why the collision (if
it had occurred) would have been Jose's fault, IMO.

> This leads to the interesting result that a driver turning right on
> red

Um, no, you've shifted gears. The driver turning right on red (where
permitted) has to yield to EVERYBODY ELSE lawfully in the
intersection. But THAT'S NOT THE SCENARIO YOU STATED with Jose and
Matt - you said BOTH Jose, and Matt, had specific GREEN ARROWS
permitting each of them to make their conflicting maneuvers at the
same time.

> has superior right-of-way over a driver (like Jose) making a U-
> turn on left green arrow on the cross street.

Um, no, I disagree. While almost all of us on this thread are agreed
that this is the result the law would reach if BOTH drivers had a
green arrow signal at the same time, it is NOT the result I think
would happen if Matt had just been turning right-on-red and had
thereby come into conflict with Jose while Jose was making a legal U-
turn with a left-or-U-turn green arrow permitting him to do so.

None of which relieves BOTH drivers of their duty to maintain a
continual lookout, and to do whatever is necessary to avoid a
collision, regardless of the ROW situation.

> I doubt the average right-turning driver at a red light would
> recognize his superior right-of-way,

Because he DOESN"T HAVE such superior right. He must yield to
EVERYBODY else, and may only turn right-on-red when he is assured that
his way to do so is completely CLEAR.

> so he would simply wait for the U- turner to proceed.

Good move.

> The U-turner, perhaps having read this thread and
> recognizing his inferior rights despite his left green arrow,

Wrongo. The green arrow _does_ give him superior ROW over the right-
on-red guy. That's why your conclusions therefrom below are wrongo,
too.

> would continue to yield.

Well, if the right-turn-on-red guy invaded the U-turner's zone of
danger, sure, the perfectly legal U-turner would try to slow down and
(if necessary) stop short, or try to maneuver around the insensate
right-turning doofus (if he had room to do so, without hitting anybody
_else_ in the zone of danger).

> The end result would be no traffic flow and
> frustrated motorists behind both vehicles.

A bad conclusion flowing from faulty premises. No need to analyze
further. Even if a conflict _did_ happen that resulted in both
vehicles stopping short of having a collision, eventually ONE of them
would go first. This isn't an old "After you, Alphonse; no, after
you, my dear Gaston" comedy.

> At many intersections with this issue, there is not enough room for
> the U-turner to partially complete the U-turn so that left-turning
> traffic behind him can make their left turns while the U-turner
> continues to yield to right-turning traffic on the cross street.

But the legal U-turner-with-green-arrow DOESN"T HAVE TO continue to
yield to everybody and sundry who continue to make right-turns-on-red
without stopping. He just stopped short, briefly, to avoid a
collision with the single dingbat who turned right-on-red despite NOT
having a completely clear path to do so.

Did you also forget that EACH right-turn-on-red must be preceded by a
COMPLETE stop before entering the intersection, at which point the
driver contemplating such a maneuver has a duty to LOOK both ways for
potentially conflicting vehicular AND PEDESTRIAN traffic, ensure that
he can complete the maneuver without conflicting with ANYBODY, and
ONLY THEN is he permitted to turn right on red? Apparently, a lot of
other people forget that too. Once one guy turns right on red, the
line of cars behind him just flows right on through almost as though
they had a green light. Bad, bad, bad. Illegal, stupid, dangerous.
But they do it anyway, I have seen.

> I again submit that any intersection that allows this situation has a
> defective design, and should have a "No U Turn" sign.

Agreed. Assuming we are talking about having BOTH the right green
arrow for northbound turning to eastbound, and the left green arrow
for westbound turning to southbound, illuminated at the same time.
That should either be a no-U-turn situation, or is a conflict of equal
rights-of-way waiting to happen.

> I know of at least 6 intersections like this within 2 miles of me.
> I've reported them to the Virginia Department of Transportation by
> telephone and via their website, but I never get any replies and no
> action ever seems to be taken.

Maybe they just count on drivers who find themselves in that situation
to apply the default yield-to-the-guy-on-the-right rule AND the avoid-
collisions-at-all-cost rule - assuming that _most_ drivers using the
left arrow will just be making _left_ turns, not U-turns, and that in
the few instances U-turns are desired, the parties can be extra
vigilant. I agree it's bad planning, though, to even set up the
possibility of such a conflict occurring.

> I became aware of this issue because I almost got into an accident at
> one of these intersections. (I was "Matt" in the OP scenario.)
> Luckily, both drivers stopped just before the collision happened.

You both followed the avoid-collisions rule. Good move.

> A couple of you pointed out that there would be no conflict if each
> vehicle turned into the near lane.

I didn't - because I didn't assume there WAS a "near lane" as some
did. Even if there is, you are right that:

> However, it's usually impossible
> for the U-turn to be completed into the near lane with a normal-sized
> car. The law only requires you to use the near lane to the extent
> "practicable". Here's the law:

<snbipped>

> I also thank Mike Jacobs and Grendal for pointing out that, absent
> disambiguation by arrival time or traffic signs or traffic signals,
> the driver approaching from the right has superior right-of-way.

That's the default, no-signals (or, CONFLICTING-signals) rule.

> It's
> quite interesting that Mike and Grendal drew opposite conclusions from
> this premise.

What do you think about this now, after reading my above comments
about why I concluded the way I did?

> The difference comes in what you mean by "approaching":

Yes, it does.

> Is it approaching the *intersection*,

What about when someone is turning left NOT at an intersection, say,
into a driveway? The potential for conflict does not exist only at
intersections.

> or approaching the potential
> *point* of collision?

That would make more sense and cover all the bases. But, I have no
idea how your specific statute is worded, so YMMV.

> They lead to opposite results!

I think not. Matt (turning right) _IS_ yielding to Jose by turning
AWAY from Jose and AWAY from the initial point of potential
collision. Then, at a LATER stage of their progress (just a few
seconds, really, but it is analytically distinct) Jose is turning
TOWARDS Matt despite Matt's best efforts to get out of Jose's way.

> Bret Halford pointed out VA Code 46.2-825:
> "At intersections controlled by traffic lights with separate left-turn
> signals, any vehicle making a left turn when so indicated by the
> signal shall have the right-of-way over all other vehicles approaching
> the intersection."
>
> That begs the question: Is a U-turn a type of left turn?

Sure. Purely as a physical vehicular maneuver, making a turn to one's
left involves turning the steering wheel counterclockwise (top of
wheel moving to the left) and holding it there until the desired
maneuver is completed, which may (in the aerial overhead view) be 90
degrees of arc counterclockwise from the original course (if the
intersecting roadways are exactly perpendicular) or perhaps only 70
degrees later (if the 2 roadways cross at a shallower angle) or maybe
120 degrees later (if the new course is at a sharper angle to the old
course) or completely 180 degrees from the original heading (if making
a complete U-turn). All of them are, physically, a "type of left
turn." And needless to say, it is entirely possible to make a "left
turn" in the physical sense even if there is NO intersecting roadway,
in order to follow the twists and turns of the road you are on - when
the road goes left, you go left. But that is NOT what the law means
by a "left turn."

LEGALLY, though, a U-turn is generally treated as a SEPARATE maneuver
from a left turn. A "left turn" in US traffic law, on a 2-way street,
is usually defined to mean turning _across_ oncoming traffic (traffic
heading the opposite direction on the same street) onto a CROSS STREET
(whatever the angle of intersection of the 2 roadways might be) or
into an intersecting driveway; while a "U-turn" means a complete
course reversal ON THE SAME ROADWAY you were originally on, so that
your vehicle is now proceeding the opposite direction on the other
half of the road. (Different rules apply to making left turns from a
one-way street - and of course, U-turns are _never_ permitted on a one-
way street, so all we are talking about here are 2-way streets).

> I'm more
> inclined to go with the conclusion (which several of you presented)
> that a U-turn is 2 left turns in series, unless otherwise defined by
> the law.

That's one way to analyze it, but neither is it legally required, nor
is it the _only_ way to get to the correct result.

> Thank you again for your insights.

Anytime.

mm

unread,
Aug 7, 2010, 3:00:19 AM8/7/10
to
On Thu, 05 Aug 2010 11:19:15 -0400, Mike <prab...@shamrocksgf.com>
wrote:

>
>Also, the only time I've seen that you're required to stay in a specific
>lane is when it's from a multi-lane turning traffic turning into
>multi-lane traffic and they'll have the 2 or 3 turn lane's white lines
>continue through the intersection. So that, for example, a person in the
>far right turn lane stays in the far right and the person in the far
>left stays in the far left as they both turn right. But I may be turning
>from a single right turn lane into 2 (or more) lanes in the cross-wise
>traffic and then need to immediately turn left off that road (or turning
>left into the multiple lanes and then need to make an immediate right
>into a business.) If there's only one lane that's turning, that one lane
>should be able to turn into ANY of the other lanes as needed.

Maybe it should, but I'm pretty sure that's not the requirement in the
places I know about. Even if there's only one left-turn lane, he's
obliged to turn into the nearest, the left-most lane going the
direction he's going. Then when it's safe, he's allowed to change
lanes to the right.

Similarly when making a right turn the driver must turn into the
right-most traffic lane and then when it's safe, he can change lanes
to the left.

I'll admit, I haven't taken a driver's exam since maybe 1963. Maybe
this was in the state driver's manual back then. Plus I did take
drivers ed in high school. How come I have to have my car inspected
(although in Md. only when I buy it) and my eyes tested if I move to a
new state, but they could have changed all the laws in the last 47
years and no one tests me on the new ones? Not that I want the
inconvenience for myself, but for others, maybe.

> If I have
>a protected turn, then it's protected against all traffic. If I don't
>have a protected turn, then I must yield to ALL traffic that I might
>interfere with.

Doug McCrary

unread,
Aug 7, 2010, 12:44:08 AM8/7/10
to
Mike <prab...@shamrocksgf.com> wrote in news:i3ekpl$njf$1...@news.eternal-
september.org:

> Also, the only time I've seen that you're required to stay in a specific
> lane is when it's from a multi-lane turning traffic turning into
> multi-lane traffic and they'll have the 2 or 3 turn lane's white lines
> continue through the intersection.

<snip>
In CA, on a right you are required to turn into the rightmost lane.
On a left, you may turn into any available lane.
So if a U-turn is actually two lefts, (I'm unsure about this, even as a
school bus driver) then the u-turner would be allowed into any lane in the
second part of the turn.

Barry Gold

unread,
Aug 8, 2010, 10:45:41 AM8/8/10
to
>On 8/1/2010 3:57 PM, mm wrote:
>> Are these on divided highways? If the road is not divided, one can
>> make a u-turn NOT at an intersection when there is no oncoming
>> traffic.

Mike <prab...@shamrocksgf.com> wrote:
>You might want to check again. MANY states (and VA, specifically, which
>was the state in question) PROHIBIT U-turns within city limits (and
>commercial areas in the county) EXCEPT for at an intersection.

In California, you are prohibited from making a mid-block U-turn in a
business district, but may do so in a residential one. The
distinction is based on the buildings facing the street on that block:
if the majority are single-family residences, you can make a U-turn
anywhere(*); otherwise you may make a U-turn only at an intersection.

Interesting historical note: prior to the establishment of this rule,
the old rule was that you were not permitted to make a U-turn at a
controlled intersection (one with a traffic signal) unless
specifically enabled by signage, but could do so anywhere else
including in the middle of a block.

(*) except
a) Where specifically prohibited by signage
b) on a one-way street (since completing the U-turn would have you
driving the wrong way)
c) where a left-turn would not be permitted, e.g., there is a physical
or virtual divider. (Two double lines is legally a divider, even if
there is no raised area or other physical obstacle to turning.)

>
>Or if the road and its shoulder are not wide enough, turn
>> into a parking lot or driveway, exit and turn back the other way.
>> You'll only have to face traffic from one direction, not three.
>>
>> If the road is divided and this is not possible, to prohibit u-turns
>> at cross streets could, especially in the country. cause someone to
>> drive miles out of his way.
>
>Which is why they are allowed in the middle of the road in the county.
>But NOT in the city in many areas (NC is another that I know,
>specifically, prohibits them except at intersections, when in town.)

mm

unread,
Aug 8, 2010, 4:12:26 PM8/8/10
to
On Fri, 06 Aug 2010 12:27:17 -0400, Mike <prab...@shamrocksgf.com>
wrote:

>
>> Are these on divided highways? If the road is not divided, one can
>> make a u-turn NOT at an intersection when there is no oncoming
>> traffic.
>
>You might want to check again. MANY states (and VA, specifically, which
>was the state in question) PROHIBIT U-turns within city limits (and
>commercial areas in the county) EXCEPT for at an intersection.

No kidding? I remmeber that I was a taxi-driver in Chicago and had to
get an Illinois driver's license, and I read the manual, iirc, it was
exactly the opposite in Illinois, with no exception for Chicago. I
can't actually remember making any u-turns in Chicago, at
intersections or not, but I probably did.

If this law in one state really is reveresed from another, that can be
confusing. More confusing IMO than, for example, radar detectors
being illegal in one state and not in another.

>Or if the road and its shoulder are not wide enough, turn
>> into a parking lot or driveway, exit and turn back the other way.
>> You'll only have to face traffic from one direction, not three.
>>
>> If the road is divided and this is not possible, to prohibit u-turns
>> at cross streets could, especially in the country. cause someone to
>> drive miles out of his way.
>
>Which is why they are allowed in the middle of the road in the county.
>But NOT in the city in many areas (NC is another that I know,
>specifically, prohibits them except at intersections, when in town.)

Maybe my date in Brooklyn that day was smarter than I thought. I
wonder if she's availble now.

mm

unread,
Aug 8, 2010, 4:25:21 PM8/8/10
to
On Fri, 06 Aug 2010 13:02:46 -0400, Mike <prab...@shamrocksgf.com>
wrote:

>On 8/5/2010 10:56 PM, Matt Carter wrote:
>> That begs the question: Is a U-turn a type of left turn? I'm more
>> inclined to go with the conclusion (which several of you presented)
>> that a U-turn is 2 left turns in series, unless otherwise defined by
>> the law.
>
>Actually, one thing that comes to mind with the "U=turn=2 lefts" idea is
>that the 2nd left would be a "left turn on red."

True. Good point. but you could look at it as a left turn on red
when a car is caught in the middle of an intersection when the light
turns red. For example pedestrians and/or backed up traffic on the
destination street keep the car in front of him from getting through
the intersection until just before, or even after, the light turned
red. After the light changes, traffic moves in another direction and
he's stuck there.

Despite the red light, he's not supposed to remain in the middle of
the intersection until he has a green again, and if the wait time to
turn left isn't afaik "a lot more" than the wait time to go straight,
he's allowed to wait until a safe time to turn left, and then he's
obliged to do so.

.....


>Now either Jose is making an illegal turn from W to S (when there's a
>red light prohibiting such) OR it's not really 2 lefts but all one turn.

Or your first choice but it's not illegal. Of course this is only a
way of looking at it, to help reach conclusions. If it doesn't help
reach a conclusion, it's probably not a good way to look at it. Ah,
but if it helps reach the wrong conclusion, it's even worse, but how
do we know what is right and what is wrong without a way of looking at
it? I have to go lie down.

Matt Carter

unread,
Aug 9, 2010, 4:47:31 PM8/9/10
to
> Matt Carter wrote:
> > This leads to the interesting result that a driver turning right on
> > red has superior right-of-way over a driver (like Jose) making a U-

> > turn on left green arrow on the cross street.

Mike Jacobs wrote:
> I disagree.

Ok, maybe I shouldn't have said the right-turn-on-red driver had
"superior right-of-way", but certainly Jose can't just make his U-turn
with impunity. Look at it this way:

Jose wants to make a U-turn and has a left green arrow.
Matt, approaching the same intersection from Jose's left, wants to
make a right turn.
Jose does not know whether Matt has a right green arrow or a red
light. (Matt's traffic light is not visible to Jose.)
We agree that *if* Matt has a right green arrow, Matt has superior
right-of-way over Jose.
So, since Matt *might* have superior right-of-way over Jose (Jose
can't tell), Jose's only responsible course of action is to assume the
worst and yield to Matt.

> This isn't an old "After you, Alphonse; no, after
> you, my dear Gaston" comedy.

LOL. That's precisely what I was envisioning. Jose, as explained
above, would be acting recklessly *not* to yield to Matt. Matt, if he
had a solid red light, would remain stationary waiting for Jose to
proceed.

I suspect that, after both drivers remained motionless for a while and
became somewhat frustrated, Matt would wave Jose through ahead of
him. But, this is precisely the kind of deadlock that a well-
engineered intersection should make impossible.

It is, after all, risky to proceed when someone with (possibly)
superior right-of-way waves you through. What if they, through
maliciousness or incompetence, suddenly "gun it" and crash into you?
If you didn't get the waving on videotape, you'll likely lose in
court.

> > I also thank Mike Jacobs and Grendal for pointing out that, absent
> > disambiguation by arrival time or traffic signs or traffic signals,
> > the driver approaching from the right has superior right-of-way.

> > It's quite interesting that Mike and Grendal
> > drew opposite conclusions from this premise.
>
> What do you think about this now, after reading my above comments
> about why I concluded the way I did?

I like your analysis. I got a kick out of your "Cap'n Matt" scenario
with his "scow" going "helm a-starboard". LOL. I enjoyed learning
the historical basis for the "guy on right goes first" rule. Also, I
never knew that that was why ships and aircraft have red lights on the
left and green lights on the right. Thanks!

> > The difference comes in what you mean by "approaching":

> > Is it approaching the *intersection*,
>
> What about when someone is turning left NOT at an intersection, say,
> into a driveway? The potential for conflict does not exist only at
> intersections.

Excellent point.

> > or approaching the potential
> > *point* of collision?
>
> That would make more sense and cover all the bases.

Yes, I like it.

Thanks, again, for taking the time to think about this little traffic
problem that's been on my mind for years.

Mike Jacobs

unread,
Aug 10, 2010, 12:54:24 PM8/10/10
to
On Aug 9, 4:47 pm, Matt Carter <r_q_einstein-...@yahoo.com> wrote:
> > Matt Carter wrote:
> > > This leads to the interesting result that a driver turning right on
> > > red has superior right-of-way over a driver (like Jose) making a U-
> > > turn on left green arrow on the cross street.
> Mike Jacobs wrote:
> > I disagree.
>
> Ok, maybe I shouldn't have said the right-turn-on-red driver had
> "superior right-of-way", but certainly Jose can't just make his U-turn
> with impunity.

I agree, and never said otherwise. Jose still has to drive
_carefully_ and do what is reasonably required to avoid a collision.

There are 3 hierarchically-nested levels of laws at play here.

Level 1 - making _any_ particular maneuver is presumptively legal
whenever a robot traffic signal (or the instructions given by a live
traffic cop on the scene) specifically _permit_ an operator to make
that maneuver. But here, in the originally-presented problem, BOTH
Jose and Matt had signals (green arrows) specifically permitting them
to make their respective intended maneuvers (a right turn for Matt, a
U-turn for Jose), thus leading to actual CONFLICT. [Of course, the
traffic engineers should have designed their light sequence, back when
it was being set up, to _minimize_ or completely eliminate such
conflicts, but that's a different issue - it doesn't help either of
the 2 drivers decide what they need to do, RIGHT NOW.]

Level 2 - whenever two vehicles or vessels of otherwise similar right-
of-way category (e.g. 2 sailboats, or 2 lighter-than-air dirigibles,
or 2 vehicles each having a "green" arrow) have their intended courses
coming into conflict with each other, such that a risk of collision
exists, each must refer to and follow the DEFAULT "Rules of the Road"
which provide a simple yardstick to determine which vehicle must yield
to which - the disfavored vehicle being the one which, as risk of
collision impends, sees the other vehicle approaching from the
disfavored vehicle's RIGHT side. As soon as the disfavored vehicle's
operator sees (or reasonably _should_ have seen, if he had exercised
due diligence as a vehicle operator) that situation looming, the
disfavored vehicle must then yield. But, what if the disfavored
vehicle KEEPS ON COMING and the favored driver then sees (or, if being
reasonably diligent, _should_ see) the disfavored vehicle doing so,
while the favored driver still has time to react?

Level 3 - then, the catch-all, end-all rule of traffic applies - DO
WHATEVER IS REASONABLY NECESSARY under the circumstances, to avoid a
collision. Even though one vehicle may be the favored one (i.e. have
the "right of way" over the other), the favored vehicle STILL has a
duty to slow down, stop, or change course, _IF_ the favored vehicle
has time and room to do so and _IF_ it appears nothing else will be
likely to avoid a collision with a disfavored vehicle or vessel which
has refused to yield.

> Look at it this way:
>
> Jose wants to make a U-turn and has a left green arrow.
> Matt, approaching the same intersection from Jose's left, wants to
> make a right turn.

Okay.

> Jose does not know whether Matt has a right green arrow or a red
> light. (Matt's traffic light is not visible to Jose.)

Okay.

> We agree that *if* Matt has a right green arrow, Matt has superior
> right-of-way over Jose.

NO - he doesn't, not _IF_ Jose _ALSO_ has a green arrow.

THEY BOTH have green arrows. That means their rights, insofar as
their traffic-signal-given rights are concerned, are EQUAL; and those
rights are in CONFLICT. This unhappy state of affairs may or may not
be due to negligent design by the traffic engineers, as noted above,
but the point is, it EXISTS - neither has superior rights over the
other MERELY because he has a green arrow.

> So, since Matt *might* have superior right-of-way over Jose (Jose
> can't tell), Jose's only responsible course of action is to assume the
> worst and yield to Matt.

Agreed - but I do so since, at the point where collision impends (i.e.
after Jose has reversed his direction, and is now more-or-less
EASTBOUND instead of westbound as he originally was), Matt is
approaching Jose from Jose's RIGHT side, and that is exactly the
result that is dictated by the Level 2 traffic rule, noted above.

> > This isn't an old "After you, Alphonse; no, after
> > you, my dear Gaston" comedy.
>
> LOL. That's precisely what I was envisioning. Jose, as explained
> above, would be acting recklessly *not* to yield to Matt.

Under all the circumstances, if not precisely for the reasons you may
have had in mind but still have not fully articulated, I agree that
Jose would be NEGLIGENT in proceeding toward a collision with Matt in
that situation, if not necessarily "reckless" ("reckless driving"
being an arrestable and jailable offense, in Virginia, IIUC, calling
for quite a bit more _mens_rea_ culpability than exists in a driver
who has merely misinterpreted the right-of-way rules on-the-fly or has
momentarily failed to keep adequate lookout to avoid a collision).

> Matt, if he
> had a solid red light, would remain stationary waiting for Jose to
> proceed.

True, but that's not what the ACTUAL scenario involved, as it turned
out. I understand you are merely stating things from Jose's POV
based on the actual info Jose knew and was able to process at the
exact moment he was making his maneuver, not info he became aware of
later. But still, Jose knew he DID have a green arrow and thus DID
have a right to _begin_ his U-turn, no doubt about that. Jose then
should have known that he had a right to _continue_ that maneuver
until he completed it, UNLESS he came across another vehicle
approaching him from Jose's right (kicking in the Level 2, higher-
level rule of "always yield to the guy on the right") _or_ until Jose
saw himself heading toward an impending collision which he had the
power to avoid simply by slowing down or stopping or altering his own
course a bit to his right (or making his left turn into a slightly
less tight circle toward Jose's left), and thus yielding to the
intruder (by implementing the Level 3 rule of "do whatever it takes"
to keep metal from crunching).

> I suspect that, after both drivers remained motionless for a while and
> became somewhat frustrated, Matt would wave Jose through ahead of
> him.

Maybe. Or, since Matt was approaching from Jose's RIGHT, Jose should
be the one to wave Matt through, after Jose finally came to a stop to
avoid colliding with Matt. As a practical matter, once both vehicles
_are_ at a dead stop, who next goes first also might depend, AT THAT
point (although not exactly for the reasons you tried to say so in an
earlier post), on which vehicle had ACTUALLY nosed a bit ahead of the
other in the eastbound lane, when they both finally came to a stop
heading more-or-less eastbound. (I assume, at that point, that Jose
would be pointed more-or-less southeast if not due east, and Matt
would be pointed more-or-less northeast if not due east, but both
would be in a position to continue in-lane on the eastbound side of
the east-west roadway simply by moving forward with a slight course
correction). It would make more sense, simply in terms of logistical
efficiency, to move the frontmost car out of the way FIRST, instead of
making the other car(s) have to weave their way around the frontmost
car to continue on eastbound. It's faster for everybody, allowing
the frontmost car to clear the intersection and continue heading east,
first.

> But, this is precisely the kind of deadlock that a well-
> engineered intersection should make impossible.

Agreed 100%. But that's a _different_ issue than deciding what a
DRIVER had a duty to anticipate and be aware of, as any particular
traffic situation develops. The driver must think ahead, he can't
just sit back and say "this isn't supposed to be happening" - it _IS_
happening, Chief, and that means you had better DO SOMETHING about it,
fast. The reason the state certified you as competent to operate a
motor vehicle is because you passed tests showing you had at least a
minimal understanding of how to think on your feet and how to react to
rapidly changing traffic circumstances. Otherwise, we could just let
robots do all our driving, as well as all our signaling. Didn't work
so well for Metro, did it, and they didn't even have to worry about
running off course, since they had rails? (Oh, wait, they _did_ run
off the rails sometimes....) Get rid of competent, awake human
operators, and their incomparable analog kinesthetic computers we call
"brains"? NOT gonna happen, in our lifetimes anyway.

> It is, after all, risky to proceed when someone with (possibly)
> superior right-of-way waves you through.

Maybe - but much less so if both the waver and wavee are already at a
full stop, and if the wavee then does HIS OWN due diligence to make
sure there is no OTHER oncoming traffic (besides the guy who is waving
at him) which would make it dangerous to proceed in reliance on the
wave. THAT's where most "I thought he waved me through" complaints or
defenses don't legally hold water, if a collision occurs after the
wavee guns his accelerator and runs into SOMEBODY ELSE who had no idea
what was going on between the two stopped cars and who was proceeding
legally as a favored vehicle in a through lane.

> What if they, through
> maliciousness or incompetence, suddenly "gun it" and crash into you?

Then we have an "Alphonse and Gaston" clip which will probably go
viral on YouTube if anybody caught it on video.

I note this situation is just as likely to occur at any ordinary 4-way-
stop-sign-controlled intersection as it is in a situation of
conflicting traffic signal lights. Whatever you would reasonably do
when both you and the other guy on a crossing path get to your stop
signs at almost-but-not-quite the same time, is the same type of
ballet or minuet you should perform with him here. Nothing unique, at
this point, about the 2-green-arrow scenario.

> If you didn't get the waving on videotape, you'll likely lose in
> court.

Maybe. In that case the verdict will probably depend on who had the
LEGAL right-of-way, as opposed to the practicalities of who had barely
nosed ahead of whom. So, if you REALLY want to be safe, either in
the 2-green-arrow scenario OR when you are both stopped at crossing
stop signs, you should REFUSE to accept a wave-through if you are the
UNFAVORED driver, and you should INSIST on the favored driver
exercising his right-of-way by going first, even if that means you
cause a long line of cars to back up behind your stopped vehicles
(which continue to block the intersection) leading into a horn-honking
gridlock. Your choice.

> > > I also thank Mike Jacobs and Grendal for pointing out that, absent
> > > disambiguation by arrival time

I hope you understand now that "arrival time" per se does not suffice
to disambiguate the right-of-way, if what you meant was, whose car had
barely nosed ahead of the other as they both rushed to occupy the same


space at the same time.

> or traffic signs or traffic signals,

Which, in the OP instance, gave BOTH drivers a green signal, so that
neither was superior on THAT grounds.

> > > the driver approaching from the right has superior right-of-way.

Yes. At a Level 2 analysis, when their rights are otherwise equal
and in conflict.

> > > It's quite interesting that Mike and Grendal
> > > drew opposite conclusions from this premise.
>
> > What do you think about this now, after reading my above comments
> > about why I concluded the way I did?
>
> I like your analysis. I got a kick out of your "Cap'n Matt" scenario
> with his "scow" going "helm a-starboard". LOL. I enjoyed learning
> the historical basis for the "guy on right goes first" rule. Also, I
> never knew that that was why ships and aircraft have red lights on the
> left and green lights on the right. Thanks!

Hey, what good is a newsgroup if it doesn't give you some news now and
then?

Here's another news bit - an answer to a question you didn't ask. Is
it totally random, or, why does the guy on the RIGHT get the right-of-
way? Well, that goes back to a time before hinge-mounted, centerline
RUDDERS were invented for boats, back when boats were steered using a
steering oar or "steer board" which was lashed, by ropes, onto the
RIGHT SIDE of the boat, which hence forth became known as the "steer
board" ("starboard") side of any vessel, even _after_ rudders were
invented.

And what does that have to do with the price of eggs? The helmsman,
the guy steering the boat by pushing or pulling the handle of the
steer board back or forth, STANDS ON THE RIGHT SIDE of the vessel, so
HE CAN SEE vessels coming toward his, FROM HIS RIGHT but HE CANNOT SEE
vessels approaching his FROM HIS LEFT. So, even if there is no other
lookout on duty aboard his vessel (maybe he's solo) the helmsman can
clearly see THE VESSEL TO WHOM HE MUST YIELD as it approaches from HIS
RIGHT. If the rule were the opposite, the unfavored helmsman would
have no way to see the favored vessel approaching from his LEFT, and
he would thus blithely stay his course right up until the 2 vessels
collided. Hence, for a couple of thousand years at least, we have
yielded to THE GUY ON THE RIGHT when courses cross.

> > > The difference comes in what you mean by "approaching":
> > > Is it approaching the *intersection*,
>
> > What about when someone is turning left NOT at an intersection, say,
> > into a driveway? The potential for conflict does not exist only at
> > intersections.
>
> Excellent point.
>
> > > or approaching the potential
> > > *point* of collision?
>
> > That would make more sense and cover all the bases.
>
> Yes, I like it.
>
> Thanks, again, for taking the time to think about this little traffic
> problem that's been on my mind for years.

My pleasure. Just watch out for booby-traps that were set up for you
by those lamebrained Virginia traffic engineers. I already knew they
were loony since they seemed to have named EVERY road in the Old
Dominion "Glebe Road." I see those darn signs EVERYWHERE. <insider
DC area joke>

Mike

unread,
Aug 11, 2010, 5:01:21 PM8/11/10
to
On 8/8/2010 4:25 PM, mm wrote:
> On Fri, 06 Aug 2010 13:02:46 -0400, Mike<prab...@shamrocksgf.com>
> wrote:
>> Actually, one thing that comes to mind with the "U=turn=2 lefts" idea is
>> that the 2nd left would be a "left turn on red."
>
> True. Good point. but you could look at it as a left turn on red
> when a car is caught in the middle of an intersection when the light
> turns red. For example pedestrians and/or backed up traffic on the
> destination street keep the car in front of him from getting through
> the intersection until just before, or even after, the light turned
> red. After the light changes, traffic moves in another direction and
> he's stuck there.

Right. If you ENTER the intersection on a green light and then it turns
red, yer supposed to clear it ASAPS (as soon as possible safely.) But
here it wasn't a case of "entered while green and changed to red while
in the middle" (but also wasn't a case of "entered while red", either.)
That's why I think that looking at it as "2 lefts" poses even more
questions.

Barry Gold

unread,
Aug 12, 2010, 11:04:29 AM8/12/10
to

Mike Jacobs <mjaco...@gmail.com> wrote:
>And, during that entire last 1/4-of-a-circle turn that both vehicles
>were making, Matt was approaching Jose's vehicle from Jose's RIGHT
>side, and Jose was approaching Matt from Matt's LEFT side. Hence,
>the usual ROW rules would dictate that Jose yield to Matt.

Besides the historical precedent that Jacobs explained at length, I
want to note that, barring _exceptionally_ bad road design or
blatantly illegal maneuvers, it is impossible (in the US) to have two
cars, each of which is approaching from the other guy's right side.

Either Matt is to the right of Jose, in which case Matt has RoW, or
Jose is to the right of Matt, in which case Jose has the RoW.

Now... there might be a good argument for reversing the rule in the
UK, Australia, Japan, and other countries where the rule is "drive on
the left". In those countries it _is_ possible to have two cars,
each approaching from the other car's right.

Matt ------>
<----- Jose
Matt is to Jose's right, and Jose is to Matt's right, traveling in
opposite directions. Now... if Matt wants to make a right or U-turn,
he must yield to Jose because of the general rule about yielding to
through traffic. But suppose _both_ are making similar maneuvers?

Btw, I'm aware of one roadway that was constructed so drivers were
passing each other on the "wrong" side. It was in Pittsburgh, IIRC.

Basically, a divided through road (===), with an opportunity to
reverse directions. Two ramps, side-by-side, each allowing drivers to
cross over to the other side of the throughway, built in the "obvious"
way. The problem being, that drivers proceeding in a vertical
direction (on this drawing) saw other drivers, on their right,
proceeding in the opposite direction.

<============================<===========<=======================<
\ /
^ v
^ v
/ \
>=============================>==========>=======================>

This is a problem: US drivers are very much used to seeing opposing
traffic on their left, _not_ on the right. So some significant number
of drivers would move to the right, trying to get on the "correct"
side of the opposing traffic, and end up
a) driving head-on toward opposing traffic
b) onto a ramp that would lead them to driving the wrong way on the
thruway.

Engineers tried putting a raised divider between the two crossover
ramps, and some drivers would _still_ drive over the divider to get to
the "right" side. Then they put up a 3' high barrier. Drivers would
reverse direction and drive around the barrier. IIRC they eventually
put up a 6' high opaque barrier to keep drivers from seeing the
opposing traffic.

Mike Jacobs

unread,
Aug 15, 2010, 4:59:58 PM8/15/10
to
On Aug 12, 11:04 am, bg...@nyx.net (Barry Gold) wrote:
> Besides the historical precedent that Jacobs explained at length, I
> want to note that, barring _exceptionally_ bad road design or
> blatantly illegal maneuvers, it is impossible (in the US) to have two
> cars, each of which is approaching from the other guy's right side.

I would go further and say that it is mathematically impossible
_anywhere_, other than perhaps in Mobiusland (M.C. Escher, Pres.), or
in Noneuclidianville (where the former mayor, Prof. Euclid, a Ph.D.
from the Groves of Academe, Athens, was forced to drink hemlock
because he had insisted that the residents could not trample across
each other's property borders while remaining firmly upon their own
property), to have two vehicles be approaching each other ON A
COLLISION COURSE both from each other's right, OR both from each
other's left. If both vehicles are on the SAME side of each other
(i.e. either to the right, or to the left, of each other's vehicle
centerline projected to infinity both fore and aft), on a steady
course, that means the two vehicles' paths will NEVER INTERSECT = the
two centerlines remain separate, i.e. they are parallel. Their only
duty is to make sure their actual paths, as they pass each other, are
separated by enough width to accomodate the width of their respective
vehicles; else, if the roadway is too narrow to permit that (as on a
one-lane bridge or chicane), one must wait until the other has
crossed, before entering the constricted area of the roadway.
Generally, there the rule is that the one who "gets there first" has
the right of way, since, once again, NEITHER is approaching that
constricted area with its centerline crossing the centerline of the
other from the other's right. Both, however, should exercise extreme
caution, to avoid collision.

> Either Matt is to the right of Jose, in which case Matt has RoW, or
> Jose is to the right of Matt, in which case Jose has the RoW.

No, if the two vehicles' paths are parallel and each is on his own
side of the roadway, then NEITHER car has RoW over the other, since
there is NO CONFLICT. Neither one needs to slow down or change
course as the other approaches, in other words, so long as the both
continue to have a full lane to occupy, each in an opposing
direction. They will simply be "two ships passing in the night."

> Now... there might be a good argument for reversing the rule in the
> UK, Australia, Japan, and other countries where the rule is "drive on
> the left".  In those countries it _is_ possible to have two cars,
> each approaching from the other car's right.

There is no reversal of the rule there, because even in such places
there is also NO CONFLICT when two vehicles on a parallel but opposite
course approach each other on opposite (correct) sides of the same
highway, WHATEVER local law says that "correct" side is.

I would note that even in England, the Commonwealth, and Japan, where
foax drive on the "wrong" side of the road from a USA POV, the Right-
of-Way rule is _still_ the same one that the Phoenicians probably
invented back when their triremes had their steering oars on the right
side - each vessel yields to the one approaching FROM ITS RIGHT.

Heaven knows why the USA (and, eventually, most of the rest of the
world) eventually decided, either before or after motor vehicles were
invented, that each driver should stay to the RIGHT of each other when
passing on a parallel course in opposite directions. I haven't
researched it, and I haven't a clue - anyone care to look, and report
back? But I have heard the tale that the old English rule arose to
protect highway users in the "bad old days" of tenuous control of the
Realm by the Crown, when the constant risk of bandits and highwaymen
seeking to rob travellers meant that one should always pass an unknown
approaching party to that party's LEFT, so that one's escorts' and
outriders' RIGHT (sword-wielding) hands were closest to this potential
enemy party. Why, and when, did the USA, just to be contrary, decide
the opposite?

>              Matt ------>
>                           <----- Jose
> Matt is to Jose's right, and Jose is to Matt's right, traveling in
> opposite directions.

But they are parallel, they do not conflict, their paths will never
cross so long as they remain on opposite courses each on their correct
side on the same roadway, and thus no RoW issues are implicated.

> Now... if Matt wants to make a right or U-turn,
> he must yield to Jose because of the general rule about yielding to
> through traffic.  But suppose _both_ are making similar maneuvers?

If both make similar maneuvers then THE ONE WHICH SEES THE OTHER
APPROACHING TO CROSS HIS PATH FROM HIS RIGHT must yield to the one
which _is_ crossing from his right. If their paths STILL do not
cross, then there is STILL no duty to yield -- as in the case, at some
intersections, where both left-turn green arrows, in opposite
directions (e.g. north turning to west, and south turning to east)
will be illuminated at the _same_time_, and where both lines of left-
turners can safely complete their maneuvers without conflict so long
as both lines stay to the LEFT of the opposing line of left-turning
vehicles as they pass each other while they are in the intersection.

> Btw, I'm aware of one roadway that was constructed so drivers were
> passing each other on the "wrong" side.  It was in Pittsburgh, IIRC.
>
> Basically, a divided through road (===), with an opportunity to
> reverse directions.  Two ramps, side-by-side, each allowing drivers to
> cross over to the other side of the throughway, built in the "obvious"
> way.  The problem being, that drivers proceeding in a vertical
> direction (on this drawing) saw other drivers, on their right,
> proceeding in the opposite direction.

You're saying, basically, that foax can make opposing U-turns using
the same crossover, so long as they remain to each other's LEFT while
in the middle of the U-turn?

That's exactly what happens at zillions of traffic-light-controlled
intersections throughout the country, not just in Steeltown USA,
whenever the opposing left-turn arrows are illuminated at the same
time. Foax seem to manage to negotiate those most of the time
without sensing any conflict and without crossing paths so as to
actually collide.

Or, if you have ever watched what happens when two cars are trying to
turn left, in opposite directions, through a crossover in a divided
highway that is _not_ at a signal-controlled intersection, you will
have noted that the maneuver flows smoothly if each stays close to the
edge of the section of median barrier that had been to its left just
before it began the maneuver, and which median section ended as the
crossover roadway began - which will cause each car, while in the
median crossover, to pass by each other's LEFT side. But, if one of
the drivers (usually, a newbie, or a geezer, or someone unfamiliar
with the area) insists on passing to the other guy's RIGHT, all kinds
of confusion ensues, and the OTHER people behind both of them who are
ALSO waiting to turn left in opposite directions, get completely
gridlocked due to the interweaving of the paths of the opposing
vehicles that resulted only because one of them tried to pass the
other on its RIGHT. Sometimes common sense just has to trump what
people who over-analyze things think "must" be required by the traffic
laws, while in such a median crossover.

> <==================<===========<=======================<
>                                  \   /
>                                   ^ v
>                                   ^ v
>                                  /   \
>
> >===================>==========>=======================>
>
> This is a problem: US drivers are very much used to seeing opposing
> traffic on their left, _not_ on the right.  So some significant number
> of drivers would move to the right, trying to get on the "correct"
> side of the opposing traffic, and end up
>    a) driving head-on toward opposing traffic
>    b) onto a ramp that would lead them to driving the wrong way on the
>    thruway.

Oh, separate ramps in your Pitt example. That _is_ a different
situation than the plain old median crossover paved cut-through
between two sides of a divided highway that _I_ was talking about, and
also different than the two-left-turns-on-green-arrow-simultaneously
situation that commonly occurs at controlled intersections. One can
see the possibilities of confusion, especially since, on freeway
ramps, one cannot always tell _where_ the ramp you're on will
ultimately take you.

Note that in the older, traditional, "cloverleaf" type of interchange
between two controlled-access highways (freeways), where _every_ turn
is made to the RIGHT, the traffic on the outer (relatively straight)
connector roadways (those who actually _are_ intending to change
course to their right) will pass to the right of the traffic on the
inner (more circular) connector roadways (which, together, form the "4-
leaf clover" this type of interchange is named after), as one might
expect. But, in a more modern "flyover" interchange such as the 4-
level jobbie in downtown Lost Angles, the left-turning vehicles will
actually be on a leftward-curving connecting roadway to get from the
northbound Harbor Freeway to the westbound Hollywood Freeway, and in
doing so will be passing very close by (although on a separate
roadway) to traffic heading in the opposite direction on one's RIGHT -
the people heading from the southbound Harbor to the eastbound
Hollywood/101.

For pix, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stack_interchange

That doesn't matter for RoW purposes, legally, if they are totally
separate and non-intersecting roadways, but it's disconcerting
nonetheless.

> Engineers tried putting a raised divider between the two crossover
> ramps, and some drivers would _still_ drive over the divider to get to
> the "right" side.  Then they put up a 3' high barrier.  Drivers would
> reverse direction and drive around the barrier.  IIRC they eventually
> put up a 6' high opaque barrier to keep drivers from seeing the
> opposing traffic.

Sounds like they finally figured out how to turn off the "you're going
the wrong way" signals the human brain kept sending to some of the
drivers even though they were in fact on the "right" side before
panicking. Good solution, akin to that of putting blinders on a
horse in harness so he wouldn't be "spooked" by the other horse
trotting along right alongside him. Sometimes people can be as dumb,
or at least as beholden to their reptilian, emotional-response,
instinctual-reflex brainstems, as are horses and other "lesser"
creatures.

Stuart A. Bronstein

unread,
Aug 15, 2010, 12:56:09 PM8/15/10
to
bg...@nyx.net (Barry Gold) wrote:

> Besides the historical precedent that Jacobs explained at
> length, I want to note that, barring _exceptionally_ bad road
> design or blatantly illegal maneuvers, it is impossible (in the
> US) to have two cars, each of which is approaching from the
> other guy's right side.

I wouldn't exactly say impossible. In San Francisco (and I'd imagine
in other places as well) there is a street that part of is one way in
one direction, the other part is one way in the other direction, and
they both face each other.

--
Stu
http://downtoearthlawyer.com

Barry Gold

unread,
Aug 17, 2010, 12:48:43 PM8/17/10
to
In article <Xns9DD56515C2E6Ds...@130.133.4.11>,

See the exception above: I would call that _exceptionally_ bad road
design.

Seth

unread,
Aug 17, 2010, 2:53:47 PM8/17/10
to
In article <Xns9DD56515C2E6Ds...@130.133.4.11>,
Stuart A. Bronstein <spam...@lexregia.com> wrote:
>bg...@nyx.net (Barry Gold) wrote:

[with a few exceptions]


>> it is impossible (in the US) to have two cars, each of which is
>> approaching from the other guy's right side.

>I wouldn't exactly say impossible. In San Francisco (and I'd imagine
>in other places as well) there is a street that part of is one way in
>one direction, the other part is one way in the other direction, and
>they both face each other.

Wouldn't they have to be driving on the left sides of the road to have
the other approaching on their right?

Seth

Matt Carter

unread,
Aug 18, 2010, 12:04:01 AM8/18/10
to
Mike Jacobs wrote:
>
> it is mathematically impossible

> to have two vehicles be approaching each other ON A
> COLLISION COURSE both from each other's right, OR both from each
> other's left.

Ok, I'll bite. I think it is possible if the collision "course" is
not a straight line, but rather a spiral curve of decreasing radius.

For example:

Suppose you have two vehicles, A and B, at opposite points on a
circle, both traveling clockwise at equal speeds. (They are not on a
collision course yet.) Now, suppose that they gradually (and at the
same rate) make their turns increasingly tighter, continuing to spiral
around the same center point. Eventually, both vehicles will attempt
to occupy the same center point and will collide.

For the entire time leading up to the collision:
A is approaching from B's right, so B must yield to A, but
B is approaching from A's right, so A must yield to B.
Both seem to have superior right of way over the other.

If the spirals are instead counterclockwise, each vehicle is
approaching from the other's left.

I think this latter case is interesting when considered in the
historical context of ships that were steered by people standing on
the right (starboard (steer board)) side. (Thanks, Mike, for the
history lesson.) In most cases, when vessel A is approaching vessel B
from B's left, A's right side can see B, but B's right side can't see
A, so B has right-of-way. But in this case (counterclockwise
tightening spirals), each vessel is approaching the other from the
other's left, even though its right side cannot see the other. So,
each vessel has the unfortunate situation of no visibility of the
other (assuming a starboard-only watch) AND no right of way over the
other. So, the boats could theoretically collide, neither having ever
seen each other, and neither having had the right of way.

In the clockwise case, both ships could see each other before the
collision (assuming a starboard watch). So despite both apparently
having right of way (by approaching from the other's right), both
ships would change course to avoid the collision.

> Heaven knows why the USA (and, eventually, most of the rest of the
> world) eventually decided, either before or after motor vehicles were
> invented, that each driver should stay to the RIGHT of each other when
> passing on a parallel course in opposite directions. I haven't
> researched it, and I haven't a clue - anyone care to look, and report
> back? But I have heard the tale that the old English rule arose to
> protect highway users in the "bad old days" of tenuous control of the
> Realm by the Crown, when the constant risk of bandits and highwaymen
> seeking to rob travellers meant that one should always pass an unknown
> approaching party to that party's LEFT

You mean "that party's RIGHT", right? (Passing on oncoming traffic's
RIGHT means keeping to one's own LEFT.)

Mike Jacobs

unread,
Aug 22, 2010, 2:44:21 PM8/22/10
to
On Aug 18, 12:04 am, Matt Carter <r_q_einstein-...@yahoo.com> wrote:
> Mike Jacobs wrote:
>
> > it is mathematically impossible
> > to have two vehicles be approaching each other ON A
> > COLLISION COURSE both from each other's right, OR both from each
> > other's left.
>
> Ok, I'll bite.  I think it is possible if the collision "course" is
> not a straight line, but rather a spiral curve of decreasing radius.

I disagree. Because, in determining who is located to whose right,
we are not looking at the curving path of each vehicle or vessel, but
rather, at any given point, to WHAT THE OPERATOR SEES as he looks out
his front window. With the line of reference being the extended
centerline (to Euclidean infinity) of the vehicle or vessel, there are
only 3 possibilities: the other vehicle or vessel the helmsman sees
may be (a) to his left, (b) to his right, or (c) directly in front of
him.

If the other vehicle is directly in front, and is going in the same
direction, then the RoW rule says the overtaking vehicle or vessel is
the one which must bear wide so as not to collide with the slower
vehicle or vessel in front (or, of course, the following vehicle or
vessel can simply moderate its speed, to remain in line astern). If
they are going in opposite directions, i.e. on a head-on collision
course, _each_ vessel must bear to its own _right_, so that they pass
with their port side (red) nav lights facing each other (meaning,
"don't proceed further in this direction or you will hit me" as we
established earlier in this thread). Maybe +that's+ where USA roads
got their pass-on-the-right rule.

Otherwise, one or the other vehicle will always be to the right, and
the remaining one will be to the left, of each other's extended
centerlines. There is no other option. You get your result only by
assuming that the curving, inward-spiraling path _is_ the coordinate
system upon which these decisions must be based, like moths spiraling
in to a flame or like the order of seeds on a sunflower. We're not
talking about a Fibonacci series and Zeno's paradox here, we're just
talking STRAIGHT LINES and common sense. It's the uneducated,
ordinary-seaman helmsmen and ordinary teamsters and drivers these
rules were invented for, not hair-splitting philosophers and
mathematicians.

OMG, can you imagine the chaos if traffic laws were actually designed
to require motorists to have the brains of a Newton or a Liebnitz and
mastery of advanced calculus, to figure out what to do next? Duck
and cover, foax.

> For example:
<lovely Fibonacci example, snipped>

> Eventually, both vehicles will attempt
> to occupy the same center point and will collide.

And as we all know, only _one_ sunflower seed can be smack dab in the
middle at one time. And, when moth meets flame, the flame wins.

> For the entire time leading up to the collision:
>   A is approaching from B's right, so B must yield to A, but
>   B is approaching from A's right, so A must yield to B.
> Both seem to have superior right of way over the other.

I suppose it is theoretically possible for two vessels on the open sea
to get into such a situation. But how could two motor vehicles on a
public road ever do so, as long as both vehicles were _also_ following
the markings and signals that require them to occupy only a certain
portion of the pavement? A "traffic circle" that led opposing
traffic to meet head-on in the middle would be an _extremely_ bad
design, IMO. And even in centers of traffic chaos such as Italy,
India, and Israel, I don't think any such roadway exists.

It would make a great theme for a head-trippy animation short,
though.

<snip example of 2 boats engaging in ever-tightening spirals on
collision course with each other>


> So, the boats could theoretically collide, neither having ever
> seen each other, and neither having had the right of way.

Yes, they could, _IF_
(a) neither vessel maintains a bow watch or port watch;
(b) neigher vessel makes a circular (not spiral) "clearing turn"
first, to make sure there _are_no_ potentially conflicting vessels
within range, before beginning the spiralling maneuver (that is, none
that are close enough that their courses could intersect, until the
spiral maneuver had been completed), and, if
(c) they _both_ maintained their inward-spiraling course to _exactly_
the same center point. Wouldn't that be a coinkydink? Otherwise,
as some point, one vessel _will_ be visible to the other, and the one
which sees the danger of collision will have a duty to do something to
avoid it.

However, it is a fact of life that mid-air collisions, and collisions
at sea, DO happen, and they are usually due to one or the other (or
both) of the vessels or aircraft in question approaching from each
other's blind spot, without having done adequate clearing turns, and
without both operators having a full situational awareness of what
other traffic is in the vicinity, along with that other traffic's
courses and speeds, before making its blind-side-creating maneuver.
Humans _do_ make mistakes. And then, the right-of-way rules are
invoked by the lawyers in the aftermath, to determine which of the
operators (or maybe both of them) screwed up.

> In the clockwise case, both ships could see each other before the
> collision (assuming a starboard watch).  So despite both apparently
> having right of way (by approaching from the other's right), both
> ships would change course to avoid the collision.

Right.

> > Heaven knows why the USA (and, eventually, most of the rest of the
> > world) eventually decided, either before or after motor vehicles were
> > invented, that each driver should stay to the RIGHT of each other when
> > passing on a parallel course in opposite directions.

I think we just figure that out, above; it comes from the _nautical_
rule of "passing on the right" of the oncoming vessel, whenever two
vessels approach each other head-on on a collision course.

<snip>


> > the old English rule arose to
> > protect highway users

<snipo>


> > when the constant risk of bandits and highwaymen
> > seeking to rob travellers meant that one should always pass an unknown
> > approaching party to that party's LEFT
>
> You mean "that party's RIGHT", right?

No, I meant "to the left" of the unknown approaching party, FROM THE
ACTOR's point of view, that is, from the POV of the person making the
_decision_ of whether to bear right or bear left, +not+ from the
approaching party's POV. That's the POV we usually refer to when we
say that in the USA traffic "passes on the right" but in England it
"passes on the left." We were talking about the English case. It
was also clear from context (which you snipped) that I meant the
person making that decision would want to keep _his_own_ sword hand
(right hand) on the side closest to the strange party that his party
was passing on the highway (we're talking _groups_ of travellers
travelling together, here - only a fool, a brigand, or a beggar would
travel alone, in that age of highwaymen and brigands).

I see where the confusion arose. When I said "_to_that_party's_
LEFT" you thought I meant from the approaching party's POV, right?
Left? Right? Who's on first? I dunno.

> (Passing on oncoming traffic's
> RIGHT means keeping to one's own LEFT.)

What I meant, to put this to rest, is that one kept ONE'S OWN sword
hand closest to one's opponent, and therefore kept one's carriage or
group of horses riding together, TO THE LEFT side of the road, from
ONE'S OWN point of view, when passing oncoming traffic on an old
English road. And presumably one did the opposite, keeping to the
right, in colonial America, following the nautical rule instead.