Is It Illegal To Change Lanes In An Intersection In New York?

  • Time to read: 5 min.

No, we did not find a statute on the books that make it illegal to change lanes in an intersection in New York.

Given how busy traffic commonly is in NYC though, we’d avoid changing lanes this way if at all possible.

To learn more about the relevant motor laws in The Big Apple, read on.

Is It Illegal To Change Lanes In An Intersection In New York? (EXPLAINED)

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Where Are The Laws That I Can Look To In Order To Confirm Whether Lane Changes In An Intersection In This State Are Legal/Illegal?

The best place to look to confirm whether a maneuver is legal (or not) is the current and applicable laws of the state you are present in (not the DMV handbook or a news article).

Both the approach to an intersection and how to enter it is covered under New York § 7-26-1140:

The driver of a vehicle approaching an intersection shall yield the right of way to a vehicle which has entered the intersection from a different highway.

Multiple connecting highways onto intersections is also legislated too:

(b) When two vehicles enter an intersection from different highways at approximately the same time the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right of way to the vehicle on the right.

Source: New York § 7-26-1140

The positioning and best way to make left or right turns are confirmed in New York § 7-28-1160. First right turns are stipulated:

(a)  Right turns. Both the approach for a right turn and a right turn shall be made as close as practicable to the right hand curb or edge of the roadway or, where travel on the shoulder or slope has been authorized, from the shoulder or slope.

Then left turns on roadways that run in both directions, and intersections, are legislated:

(b) Left turns on two-way roadways. At any intersection where traffic is permitted to move in both directions on each roadway entering the intersection, an approach for a left turn shall be made in that portion of the right half of the roadway nearest the center line thereof and by passing to the right of such center line where it enters the intersection and after entering the intersection the left turn shall be made so as to leave the intersection to the right of the center line of the roadway being entered. Whenever practicable the left turn shall be made in that portion of the intersection to the left of the center of the intersection.

Source: New York § 7-28-1160

Different statutes provide legal clarity regarding overtaking. The New York § 7-25-1122 statute covers overtaking on the left side:

(a) The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left thereof at a safe distance and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle.

The need to give way to the overtaking vehicle is also covered in the B section:

  (b) Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle on audible signal and shall not increase the speed of his vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.

Source: New York § 7-25-1122

Passing or completing an overtaking maneuver with vehicles traveling in either direction is included in New York § 7-25-1121:

Drivers of vehicles proceeding in opposite direction shall pass each other to the right, and upon roadways having width for not more than one line of traffic in each direction each driver shall give to the other at least one-half of the main-traveled portion of the roadway as nearly as possible.

Source: New York § 7-25-1121

Neither changing lanes nor overtaking at an intersection was found to be prohibited, as long as it is conducted safely.

Why Do People Generally Think That It’s Illegal To Change Lanes In An Intersection?

It is pretty common to be taught that you should not change lanes in intersections while learning to drive.

The assumption is often made that the reason is that there’s a law prohibiting it, when in fact, it is just a bad idea.

The traffic in New York is a common cause for complaint when frequently being stuck in it.

Nevertheless, because it’s usually so busy night or day, it is still uncommon to see vehicles changing lanes while passing through an intersection.

It might seem logical to think that changing lanes there would be illegal. But for the majority of states haven’t passed a law making that the case, including New York state.

However, should you try it, and it results in an accident, it won’t be a pretty situation for you. Rest assured of that.

Not Illegal In New York To Change Lanes In An Intersection? Ok, So Why Did I Get A Ticket?

Getting a ticket for poor driving is most often for a good reason. It does depend on the situation though.

Certainly, if you changed lanes out-of-the-blue combined with late signaling leaving other drivers almost no time to react, that’s an issue. Accidents can easily result from this type of driver behavior.

A vehicle that was preparing to make a left turn pausing longer than expected causing backed-up traffic, because of your lane change is another.  

Other reasons might be the cause of receiving a ticket too.

What Happens If A Car Accident Results?

Car accidents are worrisome because there is often plenty of blame to go around.

Let’s face it, people are worried about their premiums rising and don’t want to acknowledge where fault reasonably lies.

If you’re right in the middle of the mess, then you should accept that it might make sense to confer with a New York motor vehicle accident attorney.

That’s the case even if you do not feel that you caused the accident.

Also, where there are mangled vehicles or injuries to other people, then you need to consider hiring a New York criminal defense law, especially if the circumstances involved distracted driving or reckless driving.

They’ve seen it all before and know what you should do and say.

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Is It Illegal To Change Lanes In An Intersection In New York