Drivers who make a left turn in the face of oncoming traffic may also face a traffic ticket, under a measure signed into law by Gov. Brad Henry.
The new law, which goes into effect on Nov. 1, eliminates language that permitted a driver to turn left after signaling and pausing in an intersection, and which required oncoming drivers to yield to the turning driver. The change means drivers must wait until all oncoming traffic has passed before attempting a left turn.
“The old law dated to the very early days of traffic laws, before cars had turn signals and when traffic moved more slowly,” said state Rep. Wallace Collins, D-Norman, who authored the new language. “These days, most drivers wait for all oncoming traffic to pass before attempting to make a left turn, and this will simply require that all drivers employ that common sense practice.”
Although originally proposed in a different bill that did not get a hearing in the state Senate, the language was added as an amendment to House Bill 2322, which also deals with laws governing motor vehicles. State Rep. Paul Roan, author of HB2322, accepted Collins’ language as a “friendly amendment” to his bill.
“This is an issue of public safety, and as a retired State Trooper, that’s a subject I have pretty strong feelings on,” said Roan, D-Tishomingo. “When a driver is making a left turn, they should have the responsibility for making sure that they can turn safely. This change will require them to do so and puts the liability on them if their turn results in an accident.”
The portion of the law effecting the change is named the Casey Lewis Act, in memory of a central Oklahoma man who died in 2007 after a car turned left in the path of his motorcycle. The driver of the car that killed Lewis was not cited because the driver stopped in the intersection and signaled before making the turn, in compliance with the law then in effect. The Casey Lewis Act was endorsed by the Department of Public Safety.
“This law comes too late to help Casey Lewis, but I believe it will help to prevent future accidents of the kind that took his life, so I am grateful for having the opportunity to play a role in making this change,” commented Rep. Collins.
Other portions of HB2322 clarify the definitions of motorcycles and Class D motor vehicles. The bill received universal support in both legislative chambers, passing with a 95-0 vote in the House of Representatives and a 44-0 vote in the State Senate.
Source: Oklahoma Legislature