California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

704. Left Turns (Veh. Code, § 21801)

The statute just read to you uses the word “hazard.” A “hazard” exists if any approaching vehicle is so near or is approaching so fast that a reasonably careful person would realize that there is a danger of a collision [or accident].

[A driver who is attempting to make a left turn must make sure that no oncoming vehicles are close enough to be a hazard before he or she proceeds across each lane.]

New September 2003

Directions for Use

The bracketed paragraph should be given in appropriate cases involving multiple lanes of oncoming traffic. (Sesler v. Ghumman (1990) 219 Cal.App.3d 218, 227 [268 Cal.Rptr. 70].)

Sources and Authority

  • Vehicle Code section 21801(a) provides: “The driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left or to complete a U-turn . . . shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles approaching from the opposite direction which are close enough to constitute a hazard at any time during the turning movement, and shall continue to yield the right-of-way to the approaching vehicles until the left turn or U-turn can be made with reasonable safety.”
  • “We hold section 21802, subdivision (a), requires that where, as here, some, but not all, of the oncoming vehicles have yielded their right-of-way to a left- turning driver, that driver has a continuing duty during the turning movement to ascertain, before proceeding across the next open lane(s), if any vehicle is approaching from the opposite direction so close as to constitute a hazard.” (Sesler, supra, 219 Cal.App.3d at pp. 224–225)
  • Noting that in 1957 the Legislature added the phrase “at any time during the turning movement” to this section, the court in In re Kirk (1962) 202 Cal.App.2d 288, 291 [20 Cal.Rptr. 787], reasoned that “if the oncoming vehicle in the lane closest to the left turning vehicle surrenders its right of way by indicating to the operator of the left turning vehicle that it desires him to proceed, such operator may not proceed beyond that first lane of traffic, now effectively blocked by the waiving vehicle, if in fact other vehicles approaching in any of the other oncoming lanes will constitute a hazard to the left turning vehicle during the turning movement.”

Secondary Sources

6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, §§ 879, 880

California Tort Guide (Cont.Ed.Bar 3d ed.) §§ 4.10–4.11

2 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 20, Motor Vehicles, § 20.68[2][g] (Matthew Bender)