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Crime / Court

April 11, 2012

The use of turn signals is required by law

Editor's note: Wonder whether you should sue your neighbors over their bratty kids and barking dogs? Worried about fighting a traffic ticket in court? Think your brother cheated you out of your father's estate? Send your legal questions to andrew@attorney-myers.com, then watch this column for an answer.

Yes, turn signals are required under the law. With degenerating driving habits, this issue actually went all the way up to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, which reviewed the rules of the road embedded in state statutes.

A motor vehicle operator in Dover was in one of those left-turn-only lanes, stopped at a red light. When the light turned green and a turn was made without a turn signal, police made a stop, found the driver impaired and placed her under arrest for drunken driving.

The issue is whether the police had reasonable suspicion to support stopping the vehicle and making further inquiry. The driver argued that she was not required to use a turn signal because she was in a left-hand-only turn lane, where there was already present a traffic control device warning motorists in the left turn only lane, and where it is physically impossible to take a right turn or to proceed straight, due to road configurations.

But the court found the language of RSA 265:45 very clear, stating no person shall turn any vehicle "without giving an appropriate signal." The law requires a turn signal 100 feet prior to the turn. The defendant also argued that there were no other vehicles around, so no turn signal was required. That argument failed.

All police need to support a vehicle stop is an articulable suspicion, and the court found failure to use a turn signal was enough. The case is State of New Hampshire v. Smith, decided March 23, 2012.

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