Written by Gregory Monte.
Last week I discussed using the right shoulder to pass another car that is turning left: Using the Shoulder to Pass a Car Turning Left. Is it Legal?
Today I want to talk about a related issue – the legality of using the shoulder to turn right at an intersection.
Based my research, it appears that only Texas specifically allows this practice – Transportation Code § 545.058. Driving on Improved Shoulder:
“An operator may drive on an improved shoulder to the right of the main traveled portion of a roadway … to decelerate before making a right turn …”
The Curious Case of Pennsylvania
The only other state that might possibly allow this action is Pennsylvania, although you wouldn’t realize this just by reading the main “passing on the right” statute – Title 75, Section 3304:
“The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass upon the right of another vehicle only under one of the following conditions: (1) When the vehicle overtaken is making or about to make a left turn … (2) Upon a roadway with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width for two or more lines of vehicles moving lawfully in the direction being traveled by the overtaken vehicle, except that such movement shall not be made by driving off the roadway.”
Because “roadway” is defined in Title 67, Chapter 212 as the part of the road “used for vehicular travel, exclusive of the … shoulder,” Pennsylvania appears to prohibit the use of the shoulder to pass on the right except when a car is turning left.
Pennsylvania Is Not as Clear-Cut As You Might Think
But I used the phrase “appears to prohibit” for a reason.
When you read Pennsylvania’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices Section 212.101, reference is made to the Pennsylvania Handbook of Approved Signs. One of the approved signs is the NO TURNS FROM SHOULDER SIGN (R3-3-3). The wording used to describe this sign suggests that shoulders can be used for turning unless specifically prohibited:
“The No Turns From Shoulder Sign (R3-3-3) may be used at locations where it is desired to prohibit vehicles from using the shoulder to make a right or left turn.”
The way I interpret this, the sign is not used to remind motorists of a pre-existing prohibition on using the shoulder. Instead, it is used to actually prohibit use of the shoulder at certain locations (but allow its use at others).
Putting it another way, if it were universally true that a turn from the shoulder was prohibited, then why would a sign be needed to indicate that prohibition? Granted, the sign might simply be used to remind motorists not to turn from the shoulder. While this is possible, I would argue that this is not the case.
What is my proof?
- 01 The DO NOT DRIVE ON SHOULDER (R4-17) sign (see Figure 2B-10) may be installed to inform road users that using the shoulder of a roadway as a travel lane is prohibited.
- 02 The DO NOT PASS ON SHOULDER (R4-18) sign (see Figure 2B-10) may be installed to inform road users that using the shoulder of a roadway to pass other vehicles is prohibited.
This means that Pennsylvania specifically authorized the No Turns From Shoulder sign for a reason – to prohibit turns at certain locations. If this wasn’t the case, the state could have just used the more general Federal sign suggestions. Instead it only uses:
- No Turns From Shoulder
- Keep Off Shoulder
Worth Fighting a Ticket?
The specific language used in a statute matters. For this reason, I believe that Pennsylvania’s “where it is desired to prohibit” leaves open the possibility of using the shoulder to turn right. The Federal wording, on the other hand, clearly indicates that using the shoulder is prohibited. The signs highlighting this fact are options which can be used to remind motorists of the prohibition.
If I got a ticket in Pennsylvania for using the shoulder to turn right, and there was no sign telling me I couldn’t, I would probably challenge it in court just for the fun of it.
Would I win?
Usually I like to find court cases to back up my interpretations of the statutes. In this case, I couldn’t find anything in Google Scholar specifically related to this particular sign. It would therefore be a case of first impression. I would relish presenting my argument to any court willing to listen …
… and who knows? It just might work.