Everything You Wanted To Know About Illegal Left Turns In Georgia:
An Illegal Left Turn violation in Georgia can stem from one of multiple statutes:
Georgia Code Motor Vehicles & Traffic Title 40, § 40-6-21 informs drivers about highway traffic signal indications. Under 40-6-21, drivers facing a circular green signal may drive straight through or turn right or left unless a sign at such place prohibits either such turn. Drivers facing a circular red signal may make a left-turn from the left-hand lane of a one-way street onto a one-way street on which the traffic moves toward the driver´s left but shall stop and remain stopped for pedestrians and yield the right of way to other traffic proceeding as directed by the signal at such intersection. The law prohibits making a left turn at a red light at any intersection where a sign is erected prohibiting such left turn.
O.C.G.A. § 40-6-120 (a)(2) informs drivers of the proper methods of turning left at intersections in Georgia. Under this statute, the driver of a vehicle intending to turn left shall approach the turn in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the direction of travel of the turning vehicle.
Real World Thoughts:
Savannah driving instructor, Chuck Garrett, says that turning into the closest lane makes sense. “A lot of folks don't drive with any common sense at all," Garrett says. "It only makes common sense that if you're turning left, to turn into the closest lane to avoid any type of conflict from somebody in a another direction.”
The History of Illegal Left Turn In Georgia:
The language of the statute has not always been so clear. In 2009, the Georgia Supreme Court addressed the language of the former O.C.G.A. § 40-6-120 (a)(2) when a 2007 Driving Under the Influence case came before them. This Driving Under the Influence incident involved a driver from Whitfield County, Georgia who made a left turn onto a four-lane road and was pulled over for turning into the outer, right-hand lane of the two lanes heading east. The Whitfield County driver was arrested and charged with Driving Under the Influence, obstruction of a police officer, and making an improper left-hand turn.
On the left turn law at the time, the Georgia Supreme Court described its language as so "unconstitutionally vague" that a person of "common intelligence" cannot reconcile its meaning. The relevant language of the statute stated: "Whenever practicable, the left turn shall be made to the left of the center of the intersection and so as to leave the intersection or other location in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the same direction as such vehicle on the roadway being entered."
From this language, the statute begins by telling Georgia drivers to be in the far left hand lane before making a left turn. Then, as Whitfield County Public Defender Benjamin Goldberg puts it, the statute becomes incomprehensible.
The Court noted that the verb “leave” rendered two opposing interpretations of the statute. As explained by the Court, “[t]he first interpretation of the statute was that a driver who wanted to make a left turn onto a roadway with multiple lanes had to turn in a manner that left the intersection or other extreme left-hand lane location lawfully available, i.e., open or clear, to traffic moving in the same direction on the roadway the driver had just entered. The second interpretation, under which defendant was convicted, was that a driver who wanted to make a left turn onto a roadway with multiple lanes had to turn so that when he departed from or "left" the intersection or other location, the turning vehicle was itself located in the lane farthest to the left that was lawfully available to traffic moving in that same direction. Thus, the statute could be read as setting forth two contradictory ways for executing a left-hand turn onto a multi-lane roadway.” McNair v. State, 285 Ga. 514, 514, 678 S.E.2d 69, 69, 2009 Ga. LEXIS 298, 1, 2009 Fulton County D. Rep. 1925 (Ga. 2009).
The Georgia Supreme Court Justices unanimously agreed that the statute's language was vague and open for interpretations that differed from its intent, which was to keep left-turning vehicles from cutting across into the outer lane. A criminal statute must give fair warning to citizens before they can be charged with a crime. Accordingly, the Georgia Supreme Court held that O.C.G.A. § 40-6-120 (a)(2) was too vague to be enforced against a driver of a vehicle making a left turn into a multi-lane roadway that lacks official traffic-control devices directing the driver into which lane to turn and is, therefore, unconstitutional under the due process clauses of the Georgia and United States Constitutions.
The Law Was Amended to Make More Sense:
O.C.G.A. § 40-6-120 (a)(2) was later amended to clarify the confusion. The new law reads:
(2) Left turn.
(A) As used in this paragraph, the term "extreme left-hand lane" means the lane furthest to the left that is lawfully available to traffic moving in the same direction as the turning vehicle. In the event of multiple lanes, the second extreme left-hand lane shall be the lane to the right of the extreme left-hand lane that is lawfully available to traffic moving in the same direction as the turning vehicle. The third extreme left-hand lane shall be the lane to the right of the second extreme left-hand lane and so forth.
(B) The driver of a vehicle intending to turn left shall approach the turn in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the direction of travel of the turning vehicle. Whenever practicable, the left turn shall be made to the left of the center of the intersection and so as to exit the intersection or other location in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the same direction as the turning vehicle on the roadway being entered.
(C) In the event of multiple left turn lanes, the driver of a vehicle turning left shall exit the intersection in the same relative travel lane as the vehicle entered the intersection. If the vehicle is in the second extreme left-hand lane entering the intersection, the vehicle shall exit the intersection in the second extreme left-hand lane. Where there are multiple lanes of travel in the same direction safe for travel, a vehicle shall not be permitted to make a lane change once the intersection has been entered.
Consequences of Being Charged With Illegal Left Turn:
An Illegal Left Turn violation in Georgia can have many implications. It can provide an officer a reasonable suspicion as a basis for stopping your vehicle, it can cause an accident, and it can even lead to a misdemeanor vehicular homicide charge, which is when someone involuntarily causes the death of another through a violation of the traffic laws.
Like any other traffic offense in Georgia, an Illegal Left Turn can result in a fine, community service, license suspension for too many points, or be the basis of a more serious offense. Being cited for a traffic offense does NOT make you guilty.
If you have been charged with an Illegal Left Turn or any other traffic offense in Georgia, contact the Georgia Traffic Ticket Lawyers in our office today. We are here when you need us most. Contact Us Now!!