Left Turn Collisions

Pursuant to New York Vehicle and Traffic Law §1141, the applicable statute when discussing the duty imposed on operators of motor vehicles when turning left onto a roadway, in relevant part, sets forth as follows:

"The driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left within an intersection... shall yield the right of way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction which is within the intersection or so close as to constitute an immediate hazard."

In addition, at issue in this case is the offending motorist's violations of VTL §1163 and §4-03 of the Traffic Rules of the City of New York. These statues set forth a motorist's obligations when attempting to make a left turn (on a green light) through an intersection:

§ 1163: Turning Movements: (a) No person shall turn a vehicle at an intersection... or otherwise turn a vehicle from a direct course... unless and until such movement can be made with reasonable safety..."

§ 4-03(a)(1)(i): "Vehicular traffic facing such signals (green) may proceed straight through or turn right or left... But vehicular traffic, including vehicles turning right or left, shall yield the right of way to other vehicles within the intersection at the time the signal is exhibited."

A violation of VTL §1141 constitutes negligence as a matter of law. Salce v. Check, 23 A.D.451, 805 N.Y.S.2d 608 (2nd Dept., 2005)

See also, VTL §1160(b). Further, VTL §1163(a) provides "no person shall turn a vehicle at an intersection... unless and until such movement can be made with reasonable safety." See further, VTL §1146 where "every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any [vehicle] upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the horn when necessary." Further, New York Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1163(a) that provides "no person shall turn a vehicle at an intersection... unless and until such movement can be made with reasonable safety."

See, Comments under New York Pattern Jury Instructions § 2:79, that "the driver of a vehicle intending to turn left at a green traffic signal must yield the right of way to any oncoming traffic within the intersection or so close as to constitute an immediate hazard."

The Appellate Division's stance regarding failure to yield the right-of-way cannot be clearer. A pedestrian / bicyclist struck by a vehicle that was making a left hand turn who failed to yield the right-of-way to a person lawfully within the intersection establishes a prima facie case against the operator of said vehicle because he proceeded into the intersection when it was unsafe to do so, or failed to observe the approach of the pedestrian / bicyclist in violation of that driver's duty to see that which is there to be seen.

Consider, Cadeau v. Gregorio, 104 A.D.3d 464, 961 N.Y.S.2d 106 (1st Dept., 2013) (summary judgment against left turning vehicle affirmed; "Defendant…made a prima facie showing that she was not negligent by submitting evidence that, within fraction of seconds of her seeing it in the left-turn lane on the opposite side of the intersection, the vehicle operated by defendant…made a left turn across the path of her oncoming vehicle and that she applied her brakes very hard but could not avoid the collision. Tyne and the injured plaintiff, who was traveling in Tyne's vehicle, failed to raise an issue of fact in opposition, since their contention that Gregorio was traveling at an excessive speed or otherwise failed to avoid the accident was unsupported by any evidence."); Griffin v. Pennoyer, 49 A.D.3d 341, 852 N.Y.S.2d 765 (1st Dept., 2008) (summary judgment against left turning vehicle affirmed; "Plaintiff submitted evidence in admissible form, including her affidavit and a police report containing admissions by defendant, demonstrating that defendant made an abrupt left-hand turn into the path of plaintiff's vehicle, which was passing through an intersection with a green light in its favor and the right-of-way, and that plaintiff was free from any negligence. This evidence, which demonstrated that defendant violated Vehicle and Traffic Law §1141, was sufficient to establish plaintiff's entitlement to judgment as a matter of law on the issue of which driver was responsible for the accident.") and Vasquez v. Hernandez, 44 A.D.3d 339, 841 N.Y.S.2d 874 (1st Dept., 2007) ("The evidence submitted with Rivera's motion established that he had the right of way when defendant Hernandez made a left-hand turn in front of his vehicle. Since plaintiff offered on competent evidence of Rivera's negligence for the occurrence of the accident, summary judgment should have been granted...")

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