Illegal left turn?

I left my house this afternoon, drove to the end of my street, and proceeded out as I usually do. I made a left turn into the center turn lane and merged into northbound traffic when it was clear. The difference today was that as soon as I did this I was pulled over by not one, but two cops who happened to be driving by. I had no idea what I did wrong, but the cop was happy to explain it to me.

It seems that the way I made my left turn into the street, the way I always make left turns at intersections like this, the way everyone makes left turns at intersections like this, is illegal. Apparently you can use this center lane when making a left turn off the street it on, but not when turning into traffic. This is what I was doing:

Left turn

I do this all the time and I constantly see other people doing it too. When did this become illegal? Has it always been and I just never noticed?

After apologizing profusely and many utterances of “Yes Sir, I understand”, the cop let me go without writing me a ticket. Good thing too, as I’ve already got three too many tickets on my driving record and don’t particularly want another one.

Update: It seems the cop doesn’t know what he’s talking about.


mrgrifter says:

You know, we have so much crime in LA, why do cops waste their time pulling people over for minor traffic violations. And TWO of them stationed on YOUR side street. Geez. I was pulled over for crossing before the “walk” sign had changed once. It is RIDICULOUS.

raindrops says:

everything is illegal… stop breathing, or they’ll come for you

so now we can’t use the cheese lane to merge?

remind me again why I let them live…

kscaldef says:

Your cop was full of it. From the CVC:

21460.5. (a) The Department of Transportation and local authorities in their respective jurisdictions may designate a two-way left-turn lane on a highway. A two-way left-turn lane is a lane near the center of the highway set aside for use by vehicles making left turns in both directions from or into the highway.

© A vehicle shall not be driven in a designated two-way left-turn lane except when preparing for or making a left turn from or into a highway or when preparing for or making a U-turn when otherwise permitted by law, and shall not be driven in that lane for more than 200 feet while preparing for and making the turn or while preparing to merge into the adjacent lanes of travel. A left turn or U-turn shall not be made from any other lane where a two-way left-turn lane has been designated.

(emphasis added)

See also the California Drivers Handbook

Kenn Christ says:

You know, I was wondering about that. You’ve saved me the bother of looking it up, thanks.

Now I know why he didn’t write me a ticket for it. What an asshole. I wonder if I should call the PD and report it? Too bad I didn’t get his name.

saraicat says:

Cops really hate you, honey. :\

Ray Chamberlin says:

Why are the words in the explanation that are made bold made so? Only the word ‘from’, in the last sentence, should be bold. That is, this section of the Vehicle Code only says you shall not turn left FROM any lane other than the center lane; not that you shall not turn INTO any but that lane.

Kenn Christ says:

I fail to see what that has to do with the legality of the turn I made (what, five years ago now?). Notice that it also clearly states that what I did is allowed.

Ray Chamberlin says:

I was referring to “Cop Talk” on p. 7 of that newsletter.

James says:

I’ve known this about left turn lanes for a long time, and never use it as a merge lane. If trying to make a direct left turn onto the street takes too long, try turning right instead, then turning left onto another street, so you can turn around and turn right off that street in the direction you’re trying to go, its actually typically faster than using the middle lane as a “merge lane” and is completely legal.