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Ask the Motor Cop | Changing lanes in an intersection: Yes or no? 


Question: Hi Jerry, my name is Bailey and I have a question that I would really like to get a straight answer on. Is it legal to change lanes in an intersection?  

— Bailey 

Answer: Thanks for your question, Bailey. The answer to your question is yes. There is no law in the California Vehicle Code that prohibits this movement but there is a lot of understanding connected to this, so let’s discuss it. 

First of all, there are no lanes in an intersection. The proper way to ask this question should probably be, “Can I change directions driving through an intersection?”  

Again, yes you can. 

And now we have to talk about two separate scenarios. No.1: Let’s say that you make a lane change somewhere, where lanes are applicable, and interfere with traffic. The violation would be 21658 (a) California Vehicle Code: “A vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practical entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from the lane until such movement can be made with reasonable safety.”  

No. 2: Let’s say that you change direction in an area where there are no lanes and you interfere with traffic. Now, that can’t be considered an unsafe lane change because there were no lanes. It would now be an unsafe turning movement in violation of 22107 California Vehicle Code: “No person shall turn a vehicle from a direct course or move right or left upon a roadway until such movement can be made with reasonable safety and then only after the giving of an appropriate signal in the event any other vehicle may be affective by the movement.” 

There sure is a lot to understand asking such a simple question, isn’t there? So, if you enter an intersection from the No. 2 lane and end up on the other side in the No. 1 lane and not interfering with any traffic, no violation. Nothing in the vehicle code prohibits it. 

Not a good practice, in my opinion, and would probably try to avoid it only because people usually don’t expect it and it is rarely executed. 

Drive carefully, Bailey. 

Jerry Schlund, a Santa Clarita Valley resident, is a retired Los Angeles Police Department motor officer with over 24 years riding. He was a certified radar instructor — both laser and doppler — and was instrumental in California vehicle code amendments. He was a traffic school instructor for 25 years. Have a question for the motor cop? Send your questions to [email protected]   

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