Written by Gregory Monte.
Worrying About a Silly Ticket
On my way to work each day I travel on a local road that ends with three possible choices (see picture above):
I can turn left into a private driveway, go straight into another private driveway, or turn right onto Monroe Street. Every time I come to this point in my commute, the same question goes through my head:
“If I don’t put my right turn signal on and a cop is behind me, can he give me a ticket?”
I realize this may seem like a completely trivial concern to most, but I am always on the lookout for possible ways to beat silly traffic tickets, and I honestly think that failure to signal at this “intersection” would be an unfair traffic ticket.
Wouldn’t you agree that a cop giving a ticket in this situation would be going a bit over the top? I am pretty sure that residents of the town would agree because I have never seen anyone signal to turn right onto Monroe Street.
Opinions are Like …
Of course, your or my opinion about whether a ticket in this instance is justified or not is irrelevant when it comes to the law. If you actually do get a ticket in a situation like this and think you are going to convince a judge that you are innocent based on your opinion, you are going to end up disappointed. This is why I recommend a three-prong approach to fighting unnecessary/silly tickets.
I will be focusing on the third prong of this strategy today. If you want to know more about the full strategy, I outline it at the end of this post. You can also read all the details of this method in my free eBook (a link is provided later)
But before I talk about this “third prong,” let me remind readers that I have discussed the turn signal question several time previously:
Because none of those posts cover the type of situation that I experience in my daily commute, I decided to do some further research.
The Court Case That Answers the Question?
The third prong of my strategy involves finding actual court cases which can be used to beat traffic tickets. If you can cite a case where a defendant won and the circumstances were similar to yours, the judge will almost always rule in your favor. Google Scholar is the place to go to find these cases. In fact, I was quickly able to find a case from 2020 which answered the question I asked earlier: “If I don’t put my right turn signal on and a cop is behind me, can he give me a ticket?”
Even though this case deals specifically with the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code, it led me to other similar cases from other states which all pretty much agree that the answer to the question is an (almost) unequivocal “yes.”
Here are the circumstances as described in the decision:
“Officer Jason Myers of the City of Latrobe Police Department was on duty in a marked patrol car when he initiated a vehicle stop at the intersection of Lincoln Highway and Industrial Boulevard in the City of Latrobe. As Hydock approached the intersection in the right lane, he proceeded to turn right onto Industrial Boulevard without stopping or using his right turn signal.”
The picture shown below shows the intersection in question.
As you can see, Hydock was not required to stop because he was making a right turn (Except Right Turn) – but was he required to signal? The initial court said no:
“On March 19, 2019, the trial court … [concluded] that Hydock ‘was not required by the Motor Vehicle Code to signal a right turn at the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Industrial Boulevard …”
The Superior Court, however, disagreed because the statute (Title 75, Section 3334) specifically requires a signal when turning (and there is no doubt that Hydock was turning because the sign actually has the word “turn” on it):
“Here, the signage at the subject intersection which states ‘Except Right Turn,’ clearly acknowledges that Hydock was making a right turn onto Industrial Boulevard from Lincoln Avenue.”
Other State Decisions Which Support This Conclusion
A Vermont Supreme Court decision from 2018 (State v. Cook, 203 A. 3d 509) provides a nice list of other state decisions related to turn requirements. As you will read, the bottom line is that, almost without exception, you have to signal when turning:
- New Hampshire: State v. Smith, 163 N.H. 427, 42 A.3d 845, 847 (2012) – New Hampshire law contains no exception excusing use of turn signal even when in left-turn only lane and even when it is physically impossible to turn right or go straight due to road configurations
- New York: People v. Tamburrino, 26 Misc.3d 930, 892 N.Y.S.2d 852, 854 (Saratoga Spring City Ct. 2009) – New York law creates absolute duty to use turn signal even when turning right from right-turn-only lane
- Ohio: State v. Smith, 2004-Ohio-791, ¶ 8, 156 Ohio App.3d 238, 805 N.E.2d 171 – “when required” language in Ohio turn signal statute did not make use of turn signal conditional and turn signal is required even if in turn-only lane
- Pennsylvania: Commonwealth v. Brown, 64 A.3d 1101, 1106 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2013) – turn signal required under Pennsylvania statute that contained no exception for turn-only lanes
- Texas: Wehring v. State, 276 S.W.3d 666, 671 (Tex. App. 2008) – explaining that turn signal is required under Texas law even in situations, such as turn-only lane, where there is only one direction to turn
The Potential Exceptions
That same Vermont Supreme Court decision also outlines the possible exceptions to the turn rule:
- Oregon: State v. Padilla, 119 Or. App. 27, 850 P.2d 372, 373 (1993) – adopting presumed-course-of-travel test where driver is required to use signal only if deviating from presumed course of travel
- Georgia: State v. Goodman, 220 Ga. App. 169, 469 S.E.2d 327, 329 (1996) – Georgia statute contemplates instances in which a turn on a roadway can be made with reasonable safety without the use of a turn signal, i.e., where a signal is not necessary to alert other drivers of a motorist’s intention to turn
- North Carolina: State v. Ivey, 360 N.C. 562, 633 S.E.2d 459, 461 (2006) – outlining North Carolina statute, which requires use of turn signal whenever the operation of any other vehicle may be affected by such movement
The Three-Prong Method Summarized
If you get a ticket, there are three steps to take to determine if it is worth contesting. The first two are fairly obvious but the third is the most important.
- Read/Understand the statute you allegedly violated.
- Interpret this statute to see if you really violated it (i.e. look for possible technicalities in the way the law was written that you can take advantage of)
- Find case law to either support or reveal any technicalities that exist in the statute.
I can’t stress enough that part three of the method is the most important, and yet most traffic help websites don’t talk about this much at all. This is why I am a harsh critic of these websites which are, in reality, just “fronts” for law firms who don’t want you to fight the ticket on your own. Instead, they want you to hire them (which is why they don’t tell you all that you need to know).
If you are interested in my research into lame traffic ticket websites, I suggest you check out the following blog posts:
And for a discussion about how my website is superior, check out:
- The Traffic Ticket Defense Blog – Its value and legitimacy explained to all of the doubters (and haters) out there.