To: Sue Menow, Attorney at Law
CC: S.B. Peena, Hey Soos
From: Lee Ann Atencio, Paralegal
Does a driver have the right to rely upon another motorist’s turn signal?
It appears after doing investigation and reading on this issue, a driver does not have the right to rely upon another driver’s turn signal, even if it appears their intent is to turn. Although, there are some cases where it is possible the driver of the misleading turn signal could be held comparatively negligent in the accident if they entice the other motorist into the intersection under the pretense of them turning or negligence could be found where the driver had their turn signal on but proceed straight, causing a collision.
Statement of the Facts
Mr. Busted was waiting to turn right onto College Road off of a side road into Bentley Mall, headed west. Another vehicle heading west on College Road has their turn signal on, indicating they are turning right into the Bentley Mall. Mr. Busted relies on the vehicle’s turn signal and turns out onto College Road, pulling out in front of the vehicle. The two vehicles collide. Mr. Busted argues he had the right to rely on the right turn signal given by the driver of the vehicle. The other vehicle involved argues Mr. Busted failed to yield.
The following cases held most motorists who gave turn signals but proceeded not to turn in accordance with the signal could not be held negligent on the basis of such behavior as against motorists over whom the signaling motorist had a right of way, stating motorists do not have the right to rely on such signals. The courts found the motorist traveling on the roadway had the right-away over motorists attempting to enter the roadway from a side street.
In Timmins v. Russomano, 236 N.E.2d 665 (Ohio 1968), held the plaintiff, who turned on her right turn signal as she came upon an intersection, but her intention was to turn beyond the intersection, was not negligent, and the defendant presumed too much when she assumed the signal meant the plaintiff would be turning at the intersection.
The case Bowe v. Jenkins, 455 N.E.2d 707 (Ohio App.1982), the driver of a vehicle on a highway, intending to turn left at an intersection, saw an oncoming car with its left turn signal on and turned left in front of it assuming the turn could be made in safety, but the signaling motorist changed his mind and proceeded straight, hitting the oncoming vehicle. The court held as a matter of law that the motorist who signaled but proceeded straight was not negligent; the driver who turned left violated an absolute duty to yield the right of way to oncoming vehicular traffic and therefore could not recover from the signaling motorist.
The state of Ohio established law reads the driver of a motor vehicle proceeding over a through street or highway in a lawful method has the absolute right of way over a vehicle on an intersecting stop street, and the former may assume that the latter will respect and observe such right of way.
‘If however the former (driver of a motor vehicle having the right of way), just as he is approaching or entering the intersection, discovers that the latter is not yielding the right of way and has thereby placed himself in a perilous situation, it becomes the duty of the former to use ordinary care not to injure the latter after becoming aware of his perilous situation.’
The case supporting this rule and from which the above quote was taken is Morris v. Bloomgren, 187 N.E. 2 (Ohio 1933).
The following cases held the failing to turn in accordance with a turn signal given may be grounds for finding of negligence, but only when it is in combination with other actions that have a tendency to mislead other drivers into assuming the signaling motorist will be turning.
In Greenlee v. Chastain, 146 S.E.2d 378 (Ga.App.1965), the court held the driver on a street who had their right turn signal on and drove so as to suggest to the other driver that they were turning, traveling about 15 to 20 miles per hour, but proceeded not to turn, could not collect damages from the other motorist with which her vehicle collided.
In the state of Mississippi, the court held in case Jones V. Concrete Ready-Mix, Inc., 464 F.2d 1323 (C.A.5,1972) the motorist was misled by another motorist’s signal and showing other indicators of an intent to turn. The court said that it seemed ‘uncontroverted’ that the law would allow a recovery under these circumstances against one who ‘enticed’ another driver into an intersection by a misleading right turn signal. The court would allow recovery if the additional indicators of the intent were present, such as the case with the truck slowing down and getting into the turning lane and then changing their mind, which resulted in a collision. The case was REVERSED and REMANDED.
After speaking with a dispatcher and detective via telephone from the Fairbanks Police Department they stated there are two regulations where the motorist having their right hand turn signal on and then appearing like they were going to turn but instead went straight, causing an accident would be cited with the following regulations:
1. Drivers to exercise care, Alaska regulation 13 AAC 02.545 (b), every driver of a vehicle shall exercise care to avoid colliding with a pedestrian, an animal or another vehicle.
2. Driving on roadways laned for traffic, Alaska regulation 13 AAC 02.085 (a), a vehicle must be driven as nearly as practicable within a single lane, and may not be moved from that lane until the driver has first ascertained that the movement can be made with safety.
Given the exploration on the above cases where the motorist were not found negligent and in various other cases where the motorist were found comparatively negligent do to their actions of enticement, plus the Alaska regulation of drivers to exercise care (a catch all statute). In closing, unless Mr. Busted could clearly show evidence that the other motorist enticed him into the intersection causing the collision; we would not be able to prove negligence in the case of “relying on the right hand turn signal of a motorist.”