Traffic Tip Tuesday: Lane change at an intersection

A few weeks ago one of our readers asked about the legality of making a lane change while in an intersection. I had to do some research on this question because I wanted to make sure I provided the correct information.

I was taught in driver’s education, many years ago, making a lane change in an intersection was an illegal movement; in some states it is. New Mexico does not address this in statute, which identifies this behavior specifically. New Mexico does have other statutes which address how to properly make a lane change: roadways laned for traffic (66-7-317), turning movements and required signals (66-7-325) and required position and method of turning at intersections (66-7-322).  Additional information about each statute may be found at  http://www.nmonesource.com/nmnxtadmin/NMPublic.aspx

A more common and unsafe driving action I see on a daily basis, whether on or off duty, is drivers making unsafe lane changes in a turn. For example, drivers making a left turn from one multilane roadway to another and not turning into the appropriate lane. Let’s use 20 Street and East Main Street as an example. I regularly see drivers in the right most left turn lane on eastbound 20 Street, make the left turn and then enter the furthest right lane of travel onto eastbound Main Street. The correct lane choice for that turning position is to turn into the center eastbound lane. I have observed the second driver in the turn bay, take the turn wide to the right and then pass the first vehicle while still in the turn.  Both of these situations are covered under the roadways laned for traffic statute as seen below.

66-7-317. Driving on roadways laned for traffic.

Whenever any roadway has been divided into two or more clearly marked lanes for traffic the following rules in addition to all others consistent herewith shall apply:

  1. a vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from such lane until the driver has first ascertained that such movement can be made with safety;
  2. upon a roadway which is divided into three lanes a vehicle shall not be driven in the center lane except when overtaking a [and] passing another vehicle where the roadway is clearly visible and such center lane is clear of traffic within a safe distance, or in preparation for a left turn or where such center lane is at the time allocated exclusively to traffic moving in the direction the vehicle is proceeding and is signposted to given [give] notice of such allocation; and
  3. official signs may be erected directing slow-moving traffic to use a designated lane or designating those lanes to be used by traffic moving in a particular direction regardless of the center of the roadway and drivers of vehicles shall obey the directions of every such sign.

  History: 1953 Comp., § 64-7-317, enacted by Laws 1978, ch. 35, § 421.

In conclusion, just because a certain movement may not be covered under state statute or city ordinance, doesn’t mean it is safe. We all need to be courteous to each other as drivers. Please remember to drive defensively and safely.

Snowbarger, MartinMartin Snowbarger has been a law enforcement officer for 18 years. He’s worked for the Farmington Police Department for 15 years and in Raton, NM for three years. Officer Snowbarger has been with FPD’s Traffic Division since 2003 and has been a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician and Traffic Collision Reconstructionist for 11 years.

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