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When is a "turn signal" actually required?

Posted Thursday, January 2, 2020 by Andrew Charles Huff

Must a driver always use a turn signal when making a turn or changing lanes when the applicable statute says “when required?” This was the issue before the State Supreme Court regarding a statute governing when a driver must use a turn signal, specifically RCW 46.61.305, which contains the phrase “when required” regarding the use of a turn signal.

The plain language of RCW 46.61.305 requires a turn signal to be used “when required” when making a turn or lane change. But does this mean a driver must always use a turn signal?

In this case, the appellant David Brown did not signal continuously while his vehicle turned left through an intersection and was stopped for violating the turn statute RCW 46.61.305. Although Mr. Brown did initially use his turn signal to enter a designated turn lane, he failed to use his signal when actually making the turn. He was then stopped by a police officer for allegedly violating this statute.

On appeal, the State Supreme Court ultimately found that RCW 46.61.305 does in fact require a driver to signal his or her intent to turn or change lanes on a roadway. The phrase “when required” relates to the manner in which that signal is made and because Mr. Brown did not continuously signal his intent to turn left, he violated RVW 46.61.305 and the stop was valid.

State of Washington v. David J. Brown, No. 96884-5

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