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How a Kennewick DUI case spurred a court ruling on turn signals

Washington now has clarity on turn signaling. (WSDOT)

This is one of the biggest complaints we get about congestion: People do not use their turn signals. Drivers were put on notice with a recent Washington State Supreme Court ruling that you might have missed over the holidays.

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When I saw this over the break, I was a little confused. I was fairly certain that using your turn signal is required by law. The law seems pretty clear to me that “a signal of intention to turn or move right or left when required shall be given continuously during not less that the last 100 feet traveled by the vehicle before turning.”

The driver’s manual is clear as well: “Turn on your turn signal in the direction you are moving.”

But the requirement to use your turn signal was recently challenged in court, making it all the way to the state Supreme Court. A Kennewick man was turning into a “left turn only” lane. He used his signal, but it cycled off after he moved into the lane. He was pulled over by a State Trooper and arrested for drunk driving.

The arrest was thrown out after his lawyer successfully argued in a lower court that once the driver was in the “left turn only” lane, his intentions were clear, and so he no longer needed to have his signal on.

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But the day after Christmas, the state Supreme Court ruled that the man was required to reactivate his turn signal, even after he was in the left turn only lane. It was a unanimous decision.

So, not only do drivers need to use their signals every time they turn or change lanes, which I believe is something everyone should know, but they need to keep their signals flashing even in turn-only lanes. If your signal cycles off, you need to reactivate it, or you face the possibility of being stopped.

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