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Misconceptions about free left turns could cost drivers

Drivers who are taking left turns at red lights might want to make sure they are doing so legally, KIRO Radio's Chris Sullivan reports. (File photo)

We’ve all heard of the free right turn after coming to a stop, but a lot of drivers don’t realize they can also take a free left, in certain circumstances.

Several drivers on MyNorthwest.com commented that they routinely take free lefts onto freeway on-ramps, believing that it was legal to do so.

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Here’s the scenario: They are sitting at a light with a red left-turn arrow. They turn left onto a freeway on-ramp, against the red arrow, once on-coming traffic has cleared.

They believe the law allows this. I wasn’t so sure.

The law (RCW 46.61.055, section 3-c) allows drivers to take a right after stopping at a light onto a “one-way street carrying traffic in the direction of the right turn.” It also allows drivers to take a left turn under the same circumstances, onto a one-way street in the direction of the turn, unless prohibited.

Some drivers believe that allows them to make left turns against the arrow onto freeway on-ramps.

I checked with the police, including the state patrol, and they say that is not true. Freeway on-ramps are not considered one-way streets unless marked as such.

So drivers who make that move could be subject to a ticket. The law was made for surface and neighborhood streets, not freeway on-ramps.

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