Tuesday, January 9, 2018

After you stop at a stop sign...

I was reminded today by this photograph of a conversation I had a number of years ago with a police official in Woodstock.

I had been stopped one day for turning left from East Todd Ave. into Highway 47. I made my left turn and stopped in the two-way, left-turn lane because of heavy northbound traffic. The first car stopped and let me pull over into the northbound lane. Then the overhead flashing lights came on, and I pulled over into a church parking lot.

I knew that I had properly used the lane, and I knew that Woodstock PD had been writing many tickets for violations over the years. And many would have been violations, because drivers too often use the center two-way, left-turn lane as a driving lane, and not just for turns. But I suspected some tickets were not correct.

The officer accepted my explanation, after I showed him the Illinois Rules of the Road, where it stated expressly that a turn could be made into the two-way, left-turn lane. I recall his honest comment that he had been an officer for many years and hadn't known that. He issued a Warning, instead of a citation.

I asked the City of Woodstock for a legal opinion, and the first letter back from the outside law firm had about five paragraphs. The first four paragraghs said my turn was legal, and the fifth, concluding paragraph said, "Therefore, the turn was illegal" (or words to that effect). So I asked the then-City Manager to get another opinion from the City's outside law firm. The second letter confirmed that my turn had not been unlawful.

I felt the training at the Woodstock PD was in error and met with a police official.

We were discussing two-way left-turn lanes, and he insisted that it was illegal to make a left turn from a driveway or side street into a two-way, left-turn lane, such as on Highway 47 (N. Seminary) north of McHenry Avenue. He said that the arrows painted on the roadway surface and the signs on the side of the road only indicated turns out of the lane, not into it. I explained that the roadway marking and signs on the shoulder were "traffic control devices" and that you had to read the statute to learn what the law said.

Then I asked him if he would come across a Stop sign on his way home that night. He said he would. "Do you have a cell phone?" Yes, he said. "After you stop, you'll have to call your wife and tell her you won't be home for dinner, because nowhere on that Stop sign does it say 'Go'."

Just in case you are thinking that I have a smart answer for everything, I don't. The officer had to issue me a Warning, because he had stopped me - even though I had, in fact, not violated the law. That's why I complained higher up. The officer was polite, respectful, professional and courteous. No complaints there. And he was just following orders, even though the orders were wrong.

I later received an email from WPD that officers would no longer be writing tickets to drivers who made a left turn into a two-way, left-turn lane. The driver, of course, has to stop or safely and quickly move over into the traffic lane.

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