Vehicles turning left must yield to oncoming traffic

All too often we see the results of vehicular crashes that occur when one driver attempts a left turn across the oncoming traffic lane without yielding to oncoming vehicles. 

The Georgia Driver’s License Manual, at page 40, paragraph 4,  includes the following instruction:

When making a left turn at an intersection, alley or driveway, yield the right-of-
way to all traffic from the opposite direction, then proceed when it is safe to do so.

Georgia Code § 40-6-71 states the legal rule:

The driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the 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 which is within the intersection or so close thereto as to constitute an immediate hazard.

The Georgia Pattern Jury Instructions summarize the rule as follows:

The driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left within an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction that is within the intersection or so close to it as to constitute an immediate hazard.

This rule is  important because we have to have clear rules about who has the right of way on the road, so there is no ambiguity about whose turn it is to proceed at an intersection.  It’s important because when a driver chooses to turn across a traffic lane without yielding to vehicles coming from the opposite directions, it can cause injury and sometimes even death to innocent people.   Ironically, it is seldom the driver of the car turning left that is hurt badly because he or she is shielded from the impact that happens on the passenger side of his or her car.   

And yet we continue to see drivers flinging themselves and their vehicles across oncoming traffic lanes — like possums crossing a country road  — without even looking at oncoming vehicles.  Too often it is a driver or passenger in an oncoming vehicle who is injured while trying desperately to avoid hitting the vehicle that blithely turns across their lane.

The Shigley Law Firm  represents plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases statewide in Georgia, and in other states subject to the multijurisdictional practice and pro hac vice rules in each state. Ken Shigley was designated as a "SuperLawyer" in Atlanta Magazine and one of the "Legal Elite" in Georgia Trend Magazine. He is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, Chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute and former chair of the Georgia Insurance Law Institute. He particularly focuses on cases arising from truck wrecks and accidents (tractor trailers truck wrecks, semi truck wrecks,18 wheeler truck wrecks, big rig truck wrecks, log truck wrecks, dump truck wrecks.

  • David Warren

    Florida law is quite similar.
    The Florida Driver’s Handbook, at page 20, states that vehicles turning left must yield the right-of-way if another vehicle is approaching from the opposite direction.
    This is based upon Section 316.122 of the Florida Statutes which states:
    “The driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the 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, or vehicles lawfully passing on the left of the turning vehicle, which is within the intersection or so close thereto as to constitute an immediate hazard.”
    Jury instructions have been modeled after the text of the statute itself. Gordon v. Colbert, 789 So.2d 471, 473 (Fla. 4DCA 2001); Gonzalez v. Rose, 752 So.2d 39 (Fla. 3DCA 2000).
    Moreover, even when a vehicle has a green arrow to turn left, our state appellate courts have emphasized that:
    “Green arrows are no insurers of a turning vehicle’s safety. A driver cannot pull out into the path of an on-coming car when he or she could have avoided the accident by not making the turn.”
    Salman v. Cooper, 633 So.2d 570 (Fla. 4DCA 1994).
    “But I had the right-of-way!”, yells an obstinate driver. Wrong. As the Florida Driver’s Handbook states (again, on page 20):
    “Who has the right-of-way in Florida? The answer is no one! The law only says who must yield (give up) the right-of-way. Every driver, motorcyclist, moped rider, bicyclist and pedestrian must do everything possible to avoid a crash.”
    Almost 30 years ago our courts clearly stated the rule that:
    “It is true that a motorist entering an intersection with a favorable traffic signal has the right to assume that others will obey the law and yield the right-of-way to him. However, it is equally true that a motorist who proceeds into an intersection must also use reasonable care. He must exercise reasonable care to determine that there is no impending traffic which would impede safe passage through the intersection.”
    U.S. Fire Ins. Co. v. Progressive Cas. Ins. Co., 362 So.2d 414, 415 (Fla. 2DCA 1978).
    A recent article out of Hawaii has the best advice for motorists making left turns: Be patient.
    You can read the article at this link:
    http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2005/Apr/17/ln/ln09p.html

  • shattered knee

    5 years ago I was hit by a suv turning left. She paid the ticket for failure to yield and I won a summary judgement. the appeal overturneed the judgement saying it was an issue for the jury, now she’s suing me for lawyer bills. Even though she admitted to striking me sideways on my bicycle breaking my knee and foot the insurance lawyer contends I should have been watching out for her. This is upside down justice which is no justice at all. This insurance company and lawyer are crooks.