Signaling to Change Lanes? Not the Same as for Turning.

Written by Gregory Monte.

This post is an update of my previous attempt to explain why you don’t have to continuously signal for a specified number of feet before you change lanes.  I first wrote about this back in September – How long do you have to signal before you can change lanes on a highway?

In that earlier post, I concluded that NY requires the same type of signaling before turning or changing lanes: “signaling requirement apply to both ’turns’ and other vehicular ‘movements,’ such as lane changing.”

Pennsylvania, on the other hand, makes a distinction:‘before turning’ means before a vehicle makes a turn onto another roadway, not before a person changes lanes.” 

Colorado and Pennsylvania Are Similar

It turns out that Colorado takes a stand similar to Pennsylvania.  Here is the background information about a case (People v. Burnett, 2019 CO 2 – Colo: Supreme Court 2019) which deals with this issue:

 “Burnett was a passenger in a black sedan traveling along Highway 21 in El Paso County. Trooper Stephen Wall watched as the driver engaged the sedan’s turn signal, allowed it to flash twice for less than 200 feet, and then changed lanes. Trooper Wall stopped the sedan.”

Because Trooper Wall believed that Burnett had violated Title 42, Article 4, Section 903 of Colorado’s Motor Vehicle Code, he pulled him over.  The law reads as follows:

“A signal of intention to turn right or left shall be given continuously during not less than the last one hundred feet traveled by the vehicle before turning” 

Notice that changing lanes is not mentioned in this subsection of the statute, only actual turning.  Changing lanes is referred to later on in another subsection:

“The signals … shall be used to indicate an intention to turn, change lanes, or start from a parked position …”

Here the law does specify that a signal must be used to turn and change lanes, but there is no mention of how long it has to remain activated before the motorists moves to a new lane.  As a result, the Colorado Supreme Court decided that Burnett had not violated the law and should not have been pulled over:

“It is plain from the text of the statute that a driver is not required to signal continuously for any set distance before changing lanes on a highway; the statute only requires that a driver use a signal before changing lanes.”

Beating a Ticket Based on a Technicality

Now, I do realize that this sounds like a petty difference in terminology, but the specific wording of a law matters.  As you will be aware if you read my blog on a regular basis, the nuances in the law provide technicalities which enable you to beat traffic tickets.  My son won his stop sign case in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas based on just such a technicality.  If you want to read about it, check out my three free PDFs which describe the strategy he followed.  I wrote them specifically to beat a stop sign ticket in Pennsylvania, but the method applies to all states and even other types of traffic tickets (like speeding, lane changes, etc.).


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