A high profile collision involving a school bus turning left at a signal, still under investigation — the news article doesn’t let on who the police believe is responsible for the collision that killed two motorists. The collision occurred in Phoenix at Union Hills Drive, and 12th Street. The speed of the car was reportedly excessive. The bus was turning left, and the car was straight-through; this is a signalized intersection; the news story doesn’t give any indication of the status of the signal.
Note that a driver (or a cyclist or pedestrian) who is already in the intersection “lawfully” (that is to say, they entered on a green) always has the right-of-way over traffic coming from its right or left; even when that traffic gets the green (usually referred to as a “new” green). Put another way, everyone has a duty to wait for the intersection to clear before proceeding.
§28-645(1) (a) Green Indication: “…traffic… shall yield the right-of-way to other vehicles and to pedestrians lawfully within the intersection…”
Comment from user “3287” on a Tucson Citizen forum:
If someone makes a bad left turn in front of you and you react and hit the brakes but can’t stop in time, is it your fault? If you don’t know the answer then please turn in your driver’s license. Here’s the answer….
A.R.S. 28-772. Vehicle turning left at intersection
The driver of a vehicle within an intersection intending to turn to the left shall yield the right-of-way to a vehicle that is approaching from the opposite direction and that is within the intersection or so close to the intersection as to constitute an immediate hazard.
Still confused as to what the law is?
One making a left turn must do so only when it is safe to do so; that is, when approaching traffic will not be endangered and will not be required to suddenly slow down or halt to avoid a collision. Op. Atty. Gen. No 58-82.
Still think the left turn has the right of way?
Smith v. Johnson, 183 Ariz. 38, 899 P.2d 199 (App. Div. 1, 1995), the court held that a bad left turn is negligence per se.
“Statute imposing duty upon left-turning driver within intersection to yield right of way to oncoming vehicles does not allow due care defense; statute is “negligence per se” statute, and left-turning driver must yield to oncoming traffic regardless of whether he diligently looks for such traffic.”
On the topic OF RED-LIGHT RUNNERS colliding with left-turners
For those still wondering about what happens if a red-light runner hits a left-turner, see Negligent driver who killed 5 gets 1-year sentence. The red-light runner in this instance had the best attorney money can buy — I seriously doubt he would have had his client plead guilty to Neg Hom were he not negligent (this however, being a criminal case. Though, if anything, it should be harder to find someone criminally responsible)
Smith v. Johnson, mentioned above, involves a left turn at a NON-SIGNALIZED intersection, there was some “waving on” and also other vehicles that blocked the left-turner’s line-of-sight. In other words, he was negligent.
In Smith, “it was impossible for him (the left-turner) to determine whether his path was clear. In other words, he admitted making a blind turn across traffic”… and quoting Brannigan v. Raybuck,136 Ariz. 513, 517, 667 P.2d 213, 217 (1983). [if that link breaks, same case on Leagle]:
It is the prevailing rule, recognized in Arizona, that a breach of a statute intended as a safety regulation is not merely evidence of negligence but is negligence per se. Orlando v. Northcutt, 103 Ariz. 298, 300, 441 P.2d 58, 60 (1968); W. Prosser, Handbook of the Law of Torts § 36 at 197-200 (4th ed. 1971)
So any red-light runner would also be in breach of a statute, the negligence would or could be shared between the runner and the turner. In particular, §28-645A3, ” traffic facing a steady red signal alone shall stop before entering the intersection” (my emphasis); sounds pretty absolute to me.
In the Arizona Attorney General’s Opinion No. 58-82 mentioned above, the question of what constitutes an immediate hazard are supposedly answered. The issue of signalized intersections isn’t mentioned there, either. They point out, rather unhelpfully that “the instruction to the jury on this question would in every case differ according to the facts of that case”
Interesting historical footnote, the version of 28-772 from the time of that opinion (1958) used to be longer, the last 40 or 50 words have since been lopped off.
Here’s another case where straight-through driver (excessive speed; the color of the light isn’t mentioned) went to prison after killing a left-turner —Laurie Roberts wrote about former state representative Cal Holman who was killed turning left when not one but two speeders plowed into him; Robert Van Brakel, 42, and Travis Aronica, 25. The two speeders are both habitual law-breakers — they might get off with probation, which really shows how dicey these prosecutions can be. “The prosecutor, in court records, wrote that Van Brakel has a “long and disturbing history” of drag racing and speeding and that Aronica has multiple citations for reckless driving and speeding. Liz Holman told me that investigators found that Van Braken has had seven tickets for moving violations in various states since 2004, including one for doing 120 mph in a 75 mph zone. Aronica, she said, has had 13 citations since 2002, including one for doing 88 mph in a 60 mph zone just a few weeks before the Dec. 28, 2007, crash that killed Holman”. One of the defense lawyers said (they are so slimey — but i guess they have to say these things?)
Aronica’s attorney, Jeffery Mehrens, told me his client’s speed, which he placed at 65 mph, was “common” for Scottsdale Road and that Aronica shouldn’t be prosecuted at all. “Under Arizona law, if you turn left you are absolutely required to make sure that it’s clear to do so,” he said. “If you turn left and you are hit, it is your fault. Period.” Translation: it’s Holman’s own fault that he didn’t realize the oncoming drivers were going 22 and 33 mph over the speed limit
Period? well no, of course not. Everyone has a right to expect others to act reasonably. Still manslaughter seems a reach; I would be happier seeing these knuckleheads have their licenses revoked for a good long time. This story didn’t delve into insurance or civil stuff but I wonder, again, who insures guys like these (with so many violations!)? Oh, and a shout out to the NMA-types (the “National Motorist’s Association”) who believe speeding isn’t a big problem. There are some interesting references on the friendsofcalholman.com page about possible legislation to toughen penalties. There is a final outcome in the Holman death: update-on-van-brakels-manslaughter-sentence.
See here for a discussion of how the reverse is claimed to be true in UK(? but is presumably wrong).
Another Red Runner Loses
Casanova v. Nims CA-CV 11-0623. Where the plaintiff, Casanova, who was going straight lost, and lost up through the court of appeals. Nims, the defendant, turned left after the light had turned red. “plaintiffs claim undisputed evidence established Nims was
negligent per se for violating his duty under A.R.S. § 28-772” was rejected by the court… because among other reasons “There was evidence at trial that Nims (the left-turner) looked for oncoming traffic before beginning his turn but did not see Casanova’s (going straight throug) car approaching. At the time (southbound) Nims began his turn, northbound traffic was stopped at a red light and cars were fully stopped in two of the three lanes”