Some days, I think I might avoid making left turns and just make a bunch of right turns instead. This is because the left turn crash is one of the most common car accident scenarios that I see in my Phoenix, Arizona personal injury practice. Often, a driver enters the intersection eagerly waiting for a chance to turn left. As the light turns from yellow or even red, the driver turns left in front of another vehicle coming from the opposite direction - failing to yield.
A car turning left must yield to vehicles approaching from the opposite direction. This is true regardless of whether the light turns yellow or even red. In Arizona, the highest duty to yield is placed upon the driver turning left. In many of these cases, the person running the red light gets a citation for the red light violation and the driving of the car turning left is surprised to receive a citation for a violation of the following statute:
The driver of a vehicle within an intersection intending to turn to the left shall yield the right-of-way to a vehicle that is approaching from the opposite direction and that is within the intersection or so close to the intersection as to constitute an immediate hazard.
This Arizona law does not limit the duty to yield the right-of-way based upon the color of the traffic signal. A driver turning left at an intersection must yield to all vehicles that are in the intersection or "so close to the intersection as to constitute an immediate hazard;" this is very broad language and even includes vehicles that are running a red light. In a crash scenario where one car runs a red light and another fails to yield, there is typically some blame for both drivers which is the legal concept of comparative fault.
If you are turning left, yield to all approaching vehicles and better yet, wait an extra second before making your turn safely, even if the light is turning red.
Jay Ciulla is a Phoenix, Arizona Attorney who helps people with car accident, personal injury and wrongful death cases. Call for a free consultation (602) 495-0053.