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Turn signals in roundabouts? Court opinion says state law offers little guidance on issue

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Posted at 3:01 PM, Mar 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-09 15:01:34-04

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Court of Appeals recently ruled on a law many state and local lawmakers, as well as drivers, have been wondering about for years – Do you have to use a turn signal in a roundabout?

The short answer? No, you don’t.

In 2018, a police officer in Kosciusko County saw a man exit a roundabout without using his turn signal. The officer believed that was a traffic infraction and pulled the man over. A search of his vehicle led to criminal charges of possession of methamphetamine, possession of paraphernalia and operating while intoxicated.

But the man filed a motion to suppress the evidence, meaning he believed it was obtained illegally. A trial court agreed, and the state of Indiana appealed the order.

In Judge Terry A. Crone’s opinion, he wrote that Indiana’s laws on using turn signals have “not often been discussed.”

The main entry in Indiana code on using a turn signal states:

"A signal of intention to turn right or left shall be given continuously during not less than the last two hundred (200) feet traveled by a vehicle before turning or changing lanes. A vehicle traveling in a speed zone of at least fifty (50) miles per hour shall give a signal continuously for not less than the last three hundred (300) feet traveled by the vehicle before turning or changing lanes."

The Indiana legislature has enacted few statutes that regulate what drivers should do while in a roundabout. In 2017, Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a law that gives vehicles at least 40 feet long the right-of-way in roundabouts. In the same year, the city of Carmel, known as the “Roundabout Capital of the U.S.,” considered a proposal to require drivers use turn signals when exiting a roundabout.

The council rejected the proposal. Carmel City Councilor Jeff Worrell said he received more negative feedback about the idea than anything else he's been involved with on the council.

Crone wrote that it would be “nonsensical” to read current Indiana law to mean that a turn signal is required when entering a roundabout, but what about exiting? He said applying current Indiana law to the question is still problematic.

For example, how and when would drivers be required to signal? When exiting the roundabout, even if they are going the same direction they entered (similar to going straight though an intersection)?

Would drivers only use right turn signals, or would they use left to signal that they’re not going to exit the roundabout?

Those questions led the court to affirm the trial court’s opinion to suppress the evidence against the man. He encouraged the Indiana General Assembly to create laws regarding using turn signals in roundabouts.

“All of this convinces us that [Indiana law on using turn signals] is a square peg that cannot fit into the roundabout hole,” Crone wrote.