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Arizona Left-Hand Turn Laws

One of the most common causes of car accidents in Arizona is a driver breaking the rules of the road. Speeding, running red lights, and texting while driving are all examples of broken roadway rules that often result in harmful collisions. Some of the most misunderstood laws in the Grand Canyon State are left-hand turn laws. Left-hand turning accidents are common, especially in crashes involving motorcycles. Learn the details of Arizona’s left-hand turn laws to help prevent catastrophic accidents.

The Danger of Left-Hand Turn Collisions

Left-hand turn collisions are so perilous because in most cases, oncoming vehicles are traveling at high rates of speed. The driver making the left-hand turn may fail to notice an oncoming vehicle, misjudge its distance or speed, or make the turn negligently or recklessly. Turning directly in front of, or on top of the oncoming vehicle at high speed can mean a catastrophic or fatal crash.

To the oncoming vehicle, a left-hand turn crash is similar to crashing into a wall at a high speed. The oncoming car will absorb most of the impact. It’s easy to see how left-turn accidents can be fatal – especially if either vehicle is a motorcycle. When making this potentially deadly traffic maneuver, the turning driver must pay careful attention to the rules of the road.

What Are the Laws in Arizona?

First and foremost, the driver should look at the specific traffic control devices at the intersection. Some intersections may have left-turn arrows, while others use green lights. If the intersection has only an arrow, drivers making left turns must wait for the green arrow. If there is an arrow and a green light, the driver can either proceed on the green arrow or proceed with caution at the green light. When a traffic light shows just a green circle, here are rules you should follow as a driver:

  1. Yield the right-of-way to all other traffic, especially vehicles oncoming in the opposite lane (the lane the turner needs to cross).
  2. Yield to vehicles already in the intersection and those close enough to constitute an “immediate hazard.”
  3. Signal your intent to turn left at least 150 feet in advance of the intersection.
  4. Make sure there are no pedestrians or bicyclists in the crosswalk of the street you’ll be entering.
  5. Make sure there are no other vehicles in your path. Other vehicles should not have to suddenly slow down or stop to allow you to cross.
  6. Allow plenty of time for your vehicle to cross one or more lanes of traffic.

If there is no traffic light, the driver making the left-hand turn should wait until oncoming traffic is completely clear to make the turn. Drivers should never jet out in front of oncoming vehicles, or “shoot the gap.” Accidents can occur if the turning driver misjudges how fast the oncoming vehicle is traveling. This is especially common at night, when it’s more difficult to tell how close or far away a pair of headlights is from the intersection. When in doubt, the turning driver can always make three right turns and then cross the intersection going straight instead of making a left turn.

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