Traffic Question — Right Turn Etiquette

When is it permissible to pull up alongside another car to turn right when they are presumably going straight? Years ago my sister got a traffic ticket for doing that, and the cop said there was no right turn lane where she performed that maneuver.

But I see this being done all the time—I do it sometimes myself—when there is no right turn lane. Does anybody know the laws or guidelines that cover this? I do realize it may vary from state to state.


I’ll be pretty surprised if it turns out you can drive where there’s no lane to make a turn, in any state.

Just because people do it all the time without getting ticketed doesn’t mean it’s legal.

It happens all of the time here in California.

Though I do agree that just because people do it, doesn’t make it legal.

Your description is vague.

If you plan to make a right turn you must be in the right lane (or turning lane). If there is a car already in the right lane ahead of you (assuming no turning lane) and there is room between that vehicle (to its right) and the curb to squeeze in and make a right turn, you are in violation because the lane is already occupied by the vehicle in front of you.

Depends on the jurisdiction. In Florida it’s permissible to make a right turn from the shoulder if there is no traffic flow, under certain circumstances.

It sure happens with great regularity here in CA. (Doing what OP says; not getting a ticket for it, AFAIK.)

Related question: Many streets have bike lanes. They are narrower than regular lanes, and separated from the car lane with a solid white line. Car drivers aren’t supposed to cross the white line into the bike lane.

Except near intersections. I think. As one approaches an intersection, that solid white line turns into a dashed line at most (but not all) intersections. What does that mean? I think it means that a right-turning car should pull into that bike lane, in order to “follow the curb” when making the right turn.

I asked a cop that once. He only said, somewhat cryptically: “A bicycle lane ceases to be a bicycle lane when no bicycle is present there.”

And when the solid white line, separating the bike lane, remains solid when approaching the intersection? Then cars are supposed to stay in the car lane when they make a right turn? (i.e., treat the solid white line as if it is the curb when “following the curb” around the right turn)?

In general, you may not cross a solid line. You may cross an intermittent line.

Corners at intersections are often rounded enough that if the first car has pulled far enough forward and maybe to the left of their lane, there’s often room for the second car to make a right turn without leaving the roadway.

I’ve never before heard of anyone getting a ticket for doing so, but I guess it wouldn’t surprise me that that was technically illegal.

I think it just means cars can go over it while making a turn, but only from their lane - they aren’t supposed to use the bike lane as a turn lane and go around cars in front of them.

I work at a state university and attended a number of Defensive Driving classes which were required for anybody who would drive a university vehicle. The classes used to be conducted by someone purported to be an expert on the subject.

I asked him about that specific question … there being a bike lane where I turned right to go home. The line is solid up to the point of the intersection.

He said that I was obligated—so long as the bike lane wasn’t occupied—to use that lane in order to turn right.

I once had an accident in Columbus, Ohio, when another driver did that to me. I was first in a queue at a traffic light waiting to turn right, with my turn signal blinking. Another driver came up on my right, on the unpaved side of the road, to turn right. When the traffic light turned green, we both turned right into the same lane, and (of course) collided (but without much damage to either car). He called the police on his mobile phone, and when the police officer turned up we both told her our side of the story. The last I saw as I drove off was her still with the other driver, and I assume she was booking him for his manoeuvre.

Apologies for the vagueness.

In this case there is no designated right turn lane. So yes, the vehicle is squeezing between the car in front and the right-side curb to make a right turn.

While it may be a violation, it happens all the time in California. Many people assume that this is a legal maneuver to make … however mistaken that assumption may be.

In California, IIRC from the driver’s handbook and exam, it is limited to 40 feet before the intersection.

That’s based on memory, though.

My uncle is from the UK, and had to take the CA driving test last year to get a state driver’s license due to the amount of time he spends here for his business. He got dinged on the practical test for failing to use the bicycle lane when making a right turn. I assume the reason is to ensure that there is a single line of vehicles turning right, rather than having a car and a bike trying to turn right at the same time, as would make sense if they were using two separate lanes.

I was instructed that the lane had to be clear of bicycle traffic.

Is it possible that he got dinged because it wasn’t clear?

My understanding is that you may not cross a solid yellow line nor a double white line, but that while drivers are discouraged from crossing a single solid white line it is not prohibited.

We’ve had at least two threads within the last year discussing this, and what you say is correct. The rules for your individual state may vary, but generally (and I don’t recall finding an exception), a single solid white line is a strong advisory to stay in your line, but not a prohibition from crossing.

The cars in front of you are waiting for a light change. If there’s room to pull up and turn right then why would anyone just sit there?

Sometimes there’s no room and you’re just stuck. I wouldn’t drive on the grass. But if there is a shoulder then yes I’ll pull up and make my right turn.

Depends on the state, I guess:

If you are over the solid white “fog line”, you are on the shoulder.

Apparently because it is, in fact, against the law (even if it’s a law which is evidently frequently broken).