Is It Illegal To Change Lanes In An Intersection In Tennessee?

  • Time to read: 5 min.

We found no statute in Tennessee that prohibits changing lanes in an intersection.

But you can still get a ticket if you do it.

There are other traffic laws with relevancy in Tennessee. Read on to learn more.

Is It Illegal To Change Lanes In An Intersection In Tennessee? (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).

Tennessee roadways with markings for a minimum of two lanes are covered under statute § 55-8-123 (2020):

A vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from that lane until the driver has first ascertained that the movement can be made with safety;

Upon a roadway that is divided into three (3) lanes, a vehicle shall not be driven in the center lane except when overtaking and passing another vehicle where the roadway is clearly visible and the center lane is clear of traffic within a safe distance, or in preparation for a left turn or where the center lane is at the time allocated exclusively to traffic moving in the direction the vehicle is proceeding and is signposted to give notice of this allocation

Source: Tennessee Code § 55-8-123 (2020)

Turning movements at or on intersections are legislated under statute § 55-8-142 (2020):

No person shall turn a vehicle at an intersection unless the vehicle is in proper position upon the roadway as required in § 55-8-140, or turn a vehicle to enter a private road or driveway, or otherwise turn a vehicle from a direct course or move right or left upon a roadway, unless and until this movement can be made with reasonable safety. No person shall so turn any vehicle without giving an appropriate signal in the manner provided in §§ 55-8-143 and 55-8-144 in the event any other traffic may be affected by this movement.

No person shall stop or suddenly decrease the speed of a vehicle without first giving an appropriate signal in the manner provided herein to the driver of any vehicle immediately to the rear when there is opportunity to give this signal.

Source: Tennessee Code § 55-8-142 (2020)

For vehicles that plan to make a left turn at an intersection, statute § 55-8-129 (2020) provides guidance:

The driver of a vehicle within an intersection intending to turn to the left shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction which is within the intersection or so close thereto as to constitute an immediate hazard, but the driver, having so yielded and having given a signal when and as required by this chapter, may make the left turn, and the drivers of all other vehicles approaching the intersection from the opposite direction shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle making the left turn.

Source: Tennessee Code § 55-8-129 (2020)

The right-of-way when reaching an intersection or entering it is clarified in statute § 55-8-128 (2020):

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 or drive.

When two (2) vehicles enter an intersection from different highways or drives 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: Tennessee Code § 55-8-128 (2020)

Passing vehicles traveling in opposite directions is legislated under statute § 55-8-116:

Drivers of vehicles proceeding in opposite directions shall pass each other to the right, and upon roadways having width for not more than one (1) line of traffic in each direction, each driver shall give to the other at least one-half (½) of the main-traveled portion of the roadway as nearly as possible.

Source: Tennessee Code § 55-8-116 (2020)

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.

Let’s face it, moving lanes in an intersection demonstrates poor planning on the part of the driver.

Usually, this should be performed before reaching the intersection to avoid needing to do it later.

If It Is Not Illegal In Tennessee To Change Lanes In An Intersection, Why Did I Get A Ticket?

You violated some other driving law.

Lane changes in themselves shouldn’t get you a ticket in Tennessee unless they were performed with disregard for the safety of others, a failure to signal, or other driving issues.

Law enforcement officers aren’t looking to pull up drivers for no reason. They do so when they see driving techniques or behaviors that raise questions about whether they should be behind the wheel.

Therefore, the reason(s) could have been due to speeding, not signaling, or late signaling before a turn, a sudden deceleration causing difficulties for other drivers, or something else.

What Happens If A Car Accident Results?

If you changed lanes in an intersection and a collision resulted, the outcome for you really depends on the circumstances of the situation.

If serious physical injury or property damage resulted, you could be looking at a civil proceeding to resolve the question of the damages.

If the behavior leading up to the crash was extreme (such as speed, distractions, intoxicants), you could be facing criminal charges.

If you are concerned about the accident, confer with a Tennessee motor vehicle accident attorney (even if you have insurance) early on in the case to get your questions answered.

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Is It Illegal To Change Lanes In An Intersection In Tennessee