Will OKC’s New Law on Signaling Lane Changes Reduce Car Crashes, Injuries?

Every Oklahoma driver knows you are supposed to signal when changing lanes. But have you ever heard of anybody actually getting a ticket for failing to do so, or even causing a car accident?

New OKC Ordinance Took Effect Earlier This Month

You may start hearing about Oklahoma City police writing tickets for failure to signal a lane change, as a result of a new ordinance adopted earlier this month. The new city law requires OKC drivers to signal for at last 100 feet before changing lanes. Penalty for violation is $172.

How far is 100 feet? A few feet more than the length of the Thunder’s basketball court (94 feet). A few feet more than 30 yards on a football field (90 feet). A little more than the distance between the bases on just about any baseball diamond (90 feet).

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Applying some basic math, if you’re traveling 40 mph, it takes 1.7 seconds to travel 100 feet. That’s “One-Mississippi, Two-Mississipp.”

It was already an OKC requirement to signal for 100 feet before turning at an intersection (OKC Municipal Code § 32-240). OKC drivers were also required to signal before changing lanes, but no required distance was specified for lane changes. Here’s the new law: §32-191 Changing Lanes (click on the “amended” version).

Would enforcing the new law reduce crashes, fatalities and injuries on OKC roads and highways? It sure might.

What about those drivers who weave in and out of traffic, switching lanes two or three times between one stoplight and the next? Obviously, those reckless drivers don’t have much regard for the law or public safety, but maybe they will be deterred if they know their speeding ticket could now be accompanied by an additional $172 violation for failure to signal.

Already a State Law

Actually, Oklahoma state law already contains the 100-foot requirement to signal lane changes. So why do we need a city law that says the same thing?

It is a hassle for city officers to issue a citation based on a state law. It is much more convenient for them to file and prosecute the offense in municipal court. Making it more convenient means they are more likely to write such tickets.

Dangerous drivers sometimes attempt to defend themselves in court by arguing that they were confused by differences between state and city laws. Conforming the city law to the state law eliminates that argument.

The new ordinance was sought by the OKC PD and Police Chief Bill Citty said it will be enforced.

Primary Offense

In addition to possibly making OKC roads a little safer, the new ordinance has another important legal significance. It makes failure to signal a lane change a primary offense. In other words, it gives an OKC police officer probable cause to stop a vehicle. Of course, it was already a primary offense to fail to signal a lane change, but the 100-foot requirement makes that offense easier to define and prosecute.

A police officer who stops a driver for failure to signal a lane change can then scrutinize the driver for other possible violations, such as driving under the influence.

Public Reaction

Judging from more than three dozen comments on a recent News9 news story, most drivers seem to support the stricter provision. About half the commenters praised the new rule, and only three commenters posted opinions against it.

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Some commenters said it is more important to enforce other unsafe driving practices, especially speeding and driving slow in the left lane (the passing lane). A few commenters also said they will be on the lookout to see if OKC police obey the new law themselves.

An Old Complaint

After all is said and done, it may be that nothing much changes due to the new law.

I came across a Daily Oklahoman article from 1995, that’s 20 years ago, complaining about drivers who don’t signal their lane changes. And that article referenced a Letter to the Editor from 35 years before that, that’s 1960, that complained about the same thing.

Some things never change. If you are concerned about an injury you received after a car accident, contact an Oklahoma City car accident lawyer of Hasbrook & Hasbrook today for a free consultation.