Rules of the Road: Can I turn right off Sunset to Barkley without stopping?

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDOctober 6, 2013 

Question: When you are turning right onto Barkley Boulevard off of Sunset Drive in the protected turn lane, what is the proper action when the lanes continuing straight on Sunset have a red light? Most drivers seem to take the turn without stopping, but there have been several times I've seen that an accident was barely avoided when someone came to a full stop where the crosswalk would be and drivers behind them weren't expecting it.

If there ever was a stop line there, all traces of it have been worn away by traffic. If pedestrians are waiting to cross they would have the right of way, but otherwise should traffic in that lane stop on a red light?

Answer: When you make the right turn onto Barkley Boulevard from Sunset, you are using a lane that is set aside for that movement. The traffic signals for Sunset Drive have no control over the protected right-turn-only lane. Additionally, there are no other vehicles that can legally enter that lane until they have passed the end of the concrete divider, at which point they are required to signal and make a safe lane change to the right, yielding to the vehicles that are already in the lane.

There has never been a stop line in that lane and yes, you would need to stop for a pedestrian if they were waiting to cross the road.

Q: I stop at the lights at the Fred Meyer on Lakeway Drive all the time. When I turn left I never go when the left-turn arrow is red. The left-turn lane has its own light system and it's either a green arrow, yellow arrow or red arrow. I see people turning left on the red-light arrow when it is safe when the neighboring light for going straight is green. I thought if the traffic lane had its own light you have to follow the directions of the lane's particular light. True?

A: You are correct. The left turn on the red left-turn arrow would be an illegal turn, subject to a $124 ticket.

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David Wright is a retired officer from the Bellingham Police Department who is now on the Whatcom County Traffic Safety Task Force.

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