Help with CA Traffic Law
April 16, 2012 10:13 AM   Subscribe

What are the proper rules of the road for this intersection?

The intersection is controlled by a traffic light. As you can see, when traveling East bound on Hopkins St, drivers can turn right on Sacramento St through a short "cut through" road, about 10 feet long.

First, what is the proper name for this road?

More importantly, what are the correct right of way rules? I recall once learning that right turns like this don't follow the traffic light, since they never actually enter the intersection. Instead, they should always yield to pedestrians crossing Sacramento, and yield to vehicles turning left from Hopkins even if the light is green, and should proceed on the "cut through" without stopping if traffic is clear, even when the light is red. But I can not find any relevant section of California Traffic Law to confirm or refute that.
posted by Frayed Knot to Law & Government (23 answers total)
I think it would really depend on what kind of signage is posted. I know of at least one intersection here where drivers on the equivalent of Sacremento would have the right of way to make a right turn onto Hopkins without stopping (because drivers on both sides of Hopkins have a stop sign).

In general, I'd say going through the "cut through" without stopping is a bad idea and it should be treated as making a right-on-red (i.e. come to full stop, proceed when safe).
posted by RonButNotStupid at 10:21 AM on April 16, 2012

The right of way depends on markings. In some cases, the cut through will simply have a yield sign and will need to yield to any other traffic and not be controlled by lights, in this case, however, there is clearly a light directed at the people going through the cut through, so they would need to stop at the light when it is red (although would then be able to turn after making sure no one else is coming), and would have right of way over people turning
posted by brainmouse at 10:22 AM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

...left on a green light.
posted by brainmouse at 10:22 AM on April 16, 2012

there is clearly a light directed at the people going through the cut through, so they would need to stop at the light when it is red (although would then be able to turn after making sure no one else is coming), and would have right of way over people turning

I can't quite tell, but if that red light is a red arrow, then there's absolutely no going through the cut-through until the light turns green.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 10:40 AM on April 16, 2012

and should proceed on the "cut through" without stopping if traffic is clear, even when the light is red.

Based on my street-view look at it, I'd say no no no! There are two lights there. One looks like it's for left-turning cars (that is, cars turning left onto Hopkins from Sacto); the other sure looks like it's there to catch the notice of cars turning right from Hopkins onto Sacto. If the light is red, you must stop before proceeding.

For safety's sake, that's an intersection where I would yield to Hopkins traffic even if I technically had legal right of way.
posted by rtha at 10:45 AM on April 16, 2012

Is the left turn protected (arrow) or unprotected? Generally, left turns crossing traffic pretty much never have the right of way, so the right turner wins by a hair in my estimation. I don't have a CVC cite, tho.

Whatever the law, it's still illegal to crash into someone while insisting on the right of way, though.
posted by rhizome at 10:47 AM on April 16, 2012

I can't quite tell, but if that red light is a red arrow, then there's absolutely no going through the cut-through until the light turns green.

California allows right-on-red unless specifically prohibited. If you check streetview, there is a sign describing the situation when using the right turn cut (stop on red).

As well there doesn't appear to be a westbound left arrow, so the westbound left-turner is last on the right-of-way list. Sorry.
posted by rhizome at 10:53 AM on April 16, 2012

In the street view here theres a sign reading RIGHT TURN ON RED AFTER STOP.
posted by Lanark at 10:55 AM on April 16, 2012

Yeah, but I think if the westbound left turner has a green, the opposing right-turner does too.
posted by rhizome at 10:55 AM on April 16, 2012

In the street view here theres a sign reading RIGHT TURN ON RED AFTER STOP

Oh I didn't even see that -- that's incredibly clear and unambiguous. The right turners are subject to the light, but can right turn on red after a stop as normal, and since there's no yield they have right-of-way over left-turners coming the opposite direction, though, as many people said, obviously use common sense.
posted by brainmouse at 10:59 AM on April 16, 2012

Without going into street view, I would assume it's a right turn on red after stop (and reading previous comments, that seems to be the case). That's kind of the default right-on-red law -- proceed after stopping if the way is clear.

On another, sort-of-unrelated note: The most confusing intersection I've come across has got to be this one. There are many traffic lights and turn lanes and good signage here, but you still have to rely largely on luck!
posted by tckma at 11:45 AM on April 16, 2012

I would refer to the roadway in question as a channelized right-turn lane.
posted by grouse at 11:51 AM on April 16, 2012

Thanks, everyone! I live in this neighborhood, and every driver seems to have his/her own opinion on the right of way between those in the channelized turn and those turning left on Sacramento. It doesn't help that the left turn is unprotected. Even worse, the East bound light turns red about 60 seconds before the West bound light, so there is a period where left turners clearly have the right of way, but folks in the channel may not know it!

There doesn't seem to be anything in the CVC about channelized right-turn lanes, but I did find some info on the CA DOT website, so that is indeed the right term.

I live in this neighborhood, and want the city to fix this mess, so thanks for all the great info!
posted by Frayed Knot at 12:39 PM on April 16, 2012

When using the channel, I would yield to the left turners crossing my path. For one, my stop sign is implicitly also a yield sign. Second, because of the positioning, they enter the road first. Once they turn, they establish lane ownership.
posted by colinshark at 12:47 PM on April 16, 2012

In agreement with colinshark. Think of the same intersection but as a 4 way. You would yeild to the people proceeding south and this is essentially the situation with the left turning traffic; they complete their turn before you and are southbound traffic when you are attempting to merge.
posted by Mitheral at 12:56 PM on April 16, 2012

A right turn on a red light requires you to stop and yield to other cars before you can proceed. The sign at the intersection pictured (right turn on red after stop) does not mean you have the right-of-way once you have stopped!

Actually, too many ignorant drivers do not drive that way. Many's the time I've been turning left on a green arrow and had to brake for a car turning right on a red light... directly into my path! idiot drivers... *grumble*
posted by exphysicist345 at 1:03 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

This is essentially a T-intersection. The signals are odd because you don't normally signalize a T-intersection. Stop signs are enough as the similar intersection at Albina shows. It isn't needed for progression because there isn't even a light at California St. Most likely some politician pushed for the lights against all common sense and it got put in.

Lights take precedence so the sign is unnecessary. Most states now allow right turn on red so again the sign is unnecessary. Cars always yield to pedestrians in the cross walk except on green although even a green light is no excuse to run down a little old lady.
posted by JJ86 at 2:09 PM on April 16, 2012

I am a civil engineer, but not a specialized traffic engineer, but sometimes I get to dabble in it. Here is what I think is going on-

This is an example of a traffic engineer trying to solve several problems and not having good choices. The pork chop island (seriously-this is the technical term) is there to serve as a pedestrian refuge and to line up the cross walks with the opposing ramps on Sacramento and Hopkins. In addition it moves the peds out to where they are more visible to drivers and approximately where the drivers are going to be looking for them. This is all requirements of good design and ADA requirements for handicapped accessible ramps, especially concerning the detectable warning strips (the yellow rectangles at the bottom of ramps with bumps all over them) and where they point the visually impaired. You can't orient them to send the ped out into nowhere without a receiving ramp and you want the path across the traveled way (the road) to be perpendicular and as short as possible. So far the design is good and in line with modern practices.

The slip lane through the intersection is poorly done, you don't see these vary often for left turn lanes and it leads to people getting run over. It was put in to make the left turn from Sacramento to Hopkins more gradual and not so sharp since you have an acute angle than people will not be used to turning through. I suspect that, historically, people would make this left turn and tend to swing wide into Hopkins oncoming traffic causing accidents and the slip lane was put in to solve that. However any car movement through that slip lane is going to cause conflicts with oncoming traffic. That slip lane really should be close off to vehicular traffic or the whole intersection realigned so that it is a 90 deg tee into Hopkins. The only reason I can think of is either to accommodate large vehicle movement (buses and semi's) or a left over from when the roads where one way?
posted by bartonlong at 3:02 PM on April 16, 2012

In Australia, we call those channels slip lanes
posted by goshling at 3:18 PM on April 16, 2012

woops, got my right and left messed up. the rest of my comment still stands.
posted by bartonlong at 4:13 PM on April 16, 2012

I'm a little bit unclear about what is going wrong at this intersection. It seems pretty clear what should happen. That small lane between the island and curb should only be used by eastbound traffic on Hopkins making a right turn onto Sacramento. It the eastbound light on Hopkins is green, traffic can make a right turn without stopping (unless there are pedestrians.) If the light is red, then traffic stops before making a right turn (unless there are pedestrians.) Traffic going from Sacramento onto Hopkins is controlled by the light at end of the crosswalk on the eastern corner of the intersection.

You're not saying that people making a left from Sacramento onto Hopkins are turning before the intersection, crossing the double yellow line on Sacramento, going the wrong way up the small right turn lane, blowing through traffic on eastbound lane of Hopkins across the double yellow line on Hopkins and then continuing westbound, are you? Because that would be all kinds of crazy.

Reading that out loud it seems like what you are saying is, "what happens when an eastbound driver on Hopkins makes a right hand turn onto Sacramento at the same time that a westbound driver on Hopkins makes a left hand turn onto Sacramento?" Is that correct? If so, the California DMV Driver Handbook says, "When you turn left, give the rightof- way to all vehicles approaching that are close enough to be dangerous. Also, look for motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians." Driver making the left turn yield to drivers making the right turn because colliding with a right turning car is dangerous.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 6:43 PM on April 16, 2012

I used to live next to an intersection with a very similar situation. The drivers turning left almost never stopped when there was traffic turning right on the other side (through a cut through), which ends up intimidating the right turning traffic into stopping. There was a dedicated light for the cut through and a LEFT TURN YIELD ON GREEN sign on the other side. Cops didn't even follow that dang sign. Be careful, maybe just avoid this intersection completely if at all possible.
posted by symbollocks at 7:57 AM on April 17, 2012

I drive through this intersection all the time. The traffic coming up Hopkins (towards Monterey Market) is supposed to stop before turning right, as the sign indicates, but as there are (almost) no other intersections like this in Berkeley – drivers have to think about what to do.

There was a similar turn for a few years between 2004 and 2009 on Northbound Oxford at Hearst. Cars probably got into trouble there, too. It's now a narrow path for bikes only.
posted by zippy at 4:43 PM on February 28, 2013

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