Is It Legal in Colorado To Creep Into Intersections While Yellow?
You know the scenario. You're turning left at an intersection, but there's a never-ending barrage of oncoming traffic you need to wait for. Your light is green, but you know that any second it's going yellow and about to turn to red. You don't want to have to wait through another light cycle, either for a green arrow or worse: a dreaded green without an arrow, causing you to have to wait through the onslaught of all that oncoming traffic again.
So, naturally, you pull out into the intersection and patiently wait, with your turn signal on, for all the traffic to pass through. Your light turns yellow and you break a sweat, hoping for the cars coming at you to obviously start slowing for the yellow and ultimately red you know they're looking at too. And when it's clear everyone is stopping - almost always after the light has fully turned red - you gun it out of the intersection and make your left turn, usually as the cross street's traffic has just received a green and begins to barrel down on you.
Everyone made it safe. No harm, no foul, right? Well, it's kind of murky at best.
Reddit is afire with people saying the turn arrows around Fort Collins have gotten much shorter as of late, and while we cannot deny or confirm such an accusation, we can dig into the law a bit.
Colorado Revised Statute 42-4-604 outlines every possible scenario except this one, specifically. I'm not a legal expert, but I'll try my best. Let's take the first bit of it first:
Vehicular traffic facing a circular green signal may proceed straight through or turn right or left unless a sign at such place prohibits such turn; but vehicular traffic, including vehicles turning right or left, shall yield the right-of-way to other vehicles and to pedestrians lawfully within the intersection and to pedestrians lawfully within an adjacent crosswalk at the time such signal is exhibited.
Makes sense, right? Easy peasy. You have a normal green and you can go as long as there's no traffic or people you need to yield for. Got it. Next?
Vehicular traffic facing a green arrow signal, shown alone or in combination with another indication, may cautiously enter the intersection only to make the movement indicated by such arrow or such other movement as is permitted by other indications shown at the same time. Such vehicular traffic shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians lawfully within an adjacent crosswalk and to other traffic lawfully using the intersection.
Clear as day. Got a green arrow? You're up, with no restrictions aside from yielding to pedestrians that may be crossing the street. Now here's where things get a little weird.
Vehicular traffic facing a steady circular yellow or yellow arrow signal is thereby warned that the related green movement is being terminated or that a red indication will be exhibited immediately thereafter.
OK, right. We all know that red comes after yellow. But can you go out there in the intersection to wait or not? Ah, it's not explicitly addressed here. In other words, yellow means "we've told you the light is going to turn red, but it's not red yet."
All signs here, and precedent from the fact millions of cars make this move daily across the United States, must mean it's perfectly okay to proceed into the intersection to wait, right?
Not so fast. There's this nugget right here, from the Colorado Driver Handbook:
If you are turning left, you should wait at the stop line or crosswalk until there is a gap in traffic large enough to allow you to pull into the intersection and complete your turn. Pulling into the intersection to wait to turn left blocks the intersection for emergency vehicles, limits visibility for oncoming traffic and puts you in a position to get in an accident if the light changes and oncoming traffic runs the red light while you are making your turn. Never turn the front wheels towards the left while you are waiting to turn. If you happen to get rear ended, you would be pushed into oncoming traffic.
Well, the party was fun while it lasted, I suppose!
Legal to make the turn? Most likely going to depend on a case by case basis and how careless or careful you are at making that last second left.
Advisable to make the turn? Absolutely not. For the sake of safety, you really should wait behind the line until you know you can make the turn, before proceeding out into the intersection.
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