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Noble v. State (9/4/2015) ap-2473

Noble v. State (9/4/2015) ap-2473

                                                                                         NOTICE
  

               The text           of   this opinion can be corrected before the opinion is published in the                                         

               Pacific Reporter                  .   Readers are encouraged to bring typographical or other formal                                           

               errors to the attention of the Clerk of the Appellate Courts:    



                                                          303 K Street, Anchorage, Alaska  99501  

                                                                            Fax:  (907) 264-0878  

                                                                E-mail:  corrections@ akcourts.us  



                                 IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF ALASKA                                                                 



CURTIS  DONALD  NOBLE,  

                                                                                                                                                                   

                                                                                                                   Court of Appeals No. A-11041  

                                                                                                                                                                                  

                                                             Appellant,                                         Trial Court No. 4FA-10-4690 CR  



                                             v.  

                                                                                                                                  O   P   I   N   I   O   N  

STATE  OF  ALASKA,  



                                                             Appellee.                                            No.  2473  -  September  4,  2015  



                              A                                                                                                                   

                                  ppeal  from  the  Superior  Court,  Fourth  Judicial  District,  

                                                                                           

                              Fairbanks, Randy M. Olsen, Judge.  



                                                                                                                                                 

                              Appearances:   Callie Patton Kim,  Assistant Public Defender,  

                                                                                                                                                              

                              and  Quinlan  Steiner,  Public  Defender,  Anchorage,  for  the  

                                                                                                                                                        

                              Appellant.  W. H. Hawley, Assistant Attorney General, Office  

                                                                                                                                                     

                              of Special Prosecutions and Appeals, Anchorage, and Michael  

                                                                                                                                                         

                              C. Geraghty, Attorney General, Juneau, for the Appellee.  



                                                                                                                                                      

                              Before:  Mannheimer, Chief  Judge, Allard, Judge, and Hanley,  

                                                                            *  

                                                                               

                              District Court Judge. 



                                             

                              Judge MANNHEIMER.  



                              The police stopped Curtis Donald Noble for failing to use his turn signal                                                                                 



when he entered and left a roundabout.                                                      During their ensuing contact with Noble, the                                                     



        *  

               Sitting   by   assignment    made   pursuant   to   Article   IV,   Section   16   of   the   Alaska  

Constitution and Administrative Rule 24(d).                                      


----------------------- Page 2-----------------------

police discovered that he had been drinking, and Noble was later convicted of felony                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                



 driving under the influence.                                                                                                                                                       



                                                                                       In this appeal, Noble challenges the legality of the traffic stop.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                He argues   



that Alaska's existing regulations regarding a motorist's use of turn signals do not apply                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 



to roundabouts.                                                                                       For the reasons explained in this opinion, we agree with Noble that our                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           



 state's existing traffic regulations                                                                                                                                                                                            do not cover a motorist's use of turn signals when                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      



negotiating a roundabout.                                                                                                                                            Therefore, Noble did not commit a traffic violation by failing                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    



to signal when he entered and left the roundabout.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     



                                                                                       However, when Noble's case was litigated in the superior court, the State                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              



 advanced other justifications for the traffic stop.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The superior court did not expressly                                                                                                                                               



rule on those alternative justifications, so we now remand Noble's case to the superior                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  



 court to allow the court to make findings on those proposed alternative justifications for                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                



the stop.                                                 



                                             Underlying facts   



                                                                                       On   November 1,                                                                                                         2010,   the campus police at the University of Alaska                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            



Fairbanks received a report of a reckless driver in a dark-colored Toyota, possibly                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 a  



 Camry, headed toward the campus recreation center.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         



                                                                                       According to the caller, the driver of the car was male, possibly Hispanic.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 



 The caller furnished the numeric portion of the driver's license plate, and the caller told                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          



the police that the three letters of the license plate were either "FJH" or "FHJ".                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               



                                                                                       Two University police officers began to look for the driver of the Toyota.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  



While these officers were looking for the car, their dispatcher searched the department's                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 



 database for a vehicle matching the caller's description of the car.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The dispatcher soon                                                                                   



                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -  2 -                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   2473
  


----------------------- Page 3-----------------------

 found an entry for a silver Toyota Camry with                                                                                                                                                                                                  a   license   plate that matched the one                                                                                                                                   



described by the caller.                                                                                             This vehicle was registered to Walter Galauska.                                                                                                                                                                                                     



                                                                   About 20 minutes later, the police found this vehicle in a campus parking                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             



lot.   The police decided to keep this vehicle under surveillance for a while, in case the                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     



driver returned.                                                                 



                                                                   Just before 1:00 p.m. -                                                                                                 i.e., approximately 45 minutes after the initial 911                                                                                                                                                                             



call to the police dispatcher - a man (later identified as Noble) approached the Toyota                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   



and got into the front passenger seat.                                                                                                                                                        After sitting there for a short time, the man got                                                                                                                                                                               



behind the wheel,                                                                            started the car,                                                                 and drove away.                                                                             The police followed                                                                                              him in an                             



unmarked car.                                                             



                                                                   When Noble drove through a nearby traffic roundabout, he did not use his                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      



turn signal, either upon entering or leaving the roundabout.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Shortly after Noble left the                                                                                              



traffic circle, the police pulled him over - ostensibly, because Noble had committed two                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    



traffic infractions by failing to signal upon entering and leaving the roundabout.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        



                                 Alaska   law   relating   to   a   motorist's   use   of   turn   signals,   and   why   we  

                                  conclude   that   Alaska's   existing   law   does   not   require   signaling   at  

                                  roundabouts   



                                                                   The issue before this Court is whether Alaska law requires motorists to use                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                



turn signals when negotiating a roundabout.                                                                                                                                                                                



                                                                   (Alaska law defines "roundabout" as "a circular intersection [constructed]                                                                                                                                                                                                                                



around a rotary traffic island, where two or more roadways join and the vehicular traffic                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        



is directed to travel in a single specified direction around the perimeter of the ... traffic                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   



                                                                                                                                                                                             1  

island."   See   13 AAC 40.010(a)(66).)                                                                                                                                                            



                  1  

                                  Compare the Federal Highway Administration's                                                                                                                                                                                    Manual on Uniform Traffic Control                                                                                                      

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 (continued...)  



                                                                                                                                                                                                             - 3 -                                                                                                                                                                                                       2473
  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              


----------------------- Page 4-----------------------

                         Alaska has several traffic regulations that expressly apply to roundabouts.                                                             



For instance, a driver entering a roundabout must yield to any vehicle that is already on                                                                  

                                                                                    2     Drivers  must  not  change  lanes  in  a  

the   circulating   roadway   in   the   roundabout.                                                                                                         

roundabout, or exit a roundabout, until the movement can be made safely. 3  

                                                                                                                                                     

                                                                                                                                           And within  



                                                                                                                                                   4  

                                                                                                                                                      

a roundabout, a vehicle in front has the right-of-way over the vehicles behind it.  



                         Alaska also has a traffic regulation - 13 AAC 02.215 - that governs the  

                                                                                                                                                          



use of turn signals.   But this regulation does not contain any provisions that expressly  

                                                                                                                                               



refer to roundabouts.  

                                          



                         Subsection (a) of the regulation requires motorists to signal their intention  

                                                                                                                                                



to "turn a vehicle or move [a vehicle] right or left upon, onto, or off a roadway".  And  

                                                                                                                                                        



subsection (b) of the regulation declares that when a motorist signals their intention to  

                                                                                                                                                            



turn or move their vehicle to the right or left, the  signal "must be given continuously  

                                                                                                                                        



during the last 100 feet traveled by the vehicle before turning".  

                                                                                                                     



                         Alaska's regulation on the use of turn signals mirrors the provisions of  

                                                                                                                                                            



Section   11-604   of   the   1969   Uniform   Vehicle                                            Code   (Part   2,   "Rules   of   the  

                                                                                                                                                        

Road"). 5          Subsection (a) of Uniform Vehicle Code  11-604 declares, "No person shall  

                                                                                                                                                        



       1  

             (...continued) 

                                                                                                                                                   

Devices (2009 edition, incorporating revisions 1 and 2), Section 1A.13,  180, which defines  

                                                                                                                                                           

"roundabout" as "a circular intersection with yield control at entry [i.e., yield signs at all  

                                                                                                                                                        

points of entry], which permits a vehicle on the  circulatory roadway to proceed, and with  

                                                                                                                                 

deflection of the approaching vehicle counter-clockwise around a central island."  

               

      See http://mutcd/fhwa.dot.gov/pdfs//2009r1r2/pdf_index.htm  



      2  

             13 AAC 02.120(d).  

                                                



      3  

             13 AAC 02.120(f).  

                                                



      4  

             13 AAC 02.120(e), (g).  

                                                       



      5  

             The Uniform Vehicle Code is model legislation dealing with traffic laws.   It  was  

                                                                                                                                                        

                                                                                                                                        (continued...)  



                                                                            - 4 -                                                                      2473
  

                                                                                   


----------------------- Page 5-----------------------

turn a vehicle or move right or left upon                                                                                           a   roadway ... without giving an appropriate                                                          



signal in the manner hereinafter provided."                                                                                          And subsection (b) of Uniform Vehicle Code                                                                               



  11-604 declares that "a signal of intention to turn or move right or left ... shall be given                                                                                                                                                               



continuously   during not                                                     less   than   the   last   100   feet   traveled   by   the   vehicle   before  



turning."  



                                          One   might   assume   that   these   signaling rules                                                                                            apply   to   all roads                                       and   all  



intersections.   But these provisions were drafted before roundabouts became widespread                                                                                                                                                     



in this country.                                  



                                          The Uniform Vehicle Code has not been amended in the past fifteen years.                                                                                                                                                                



According to the website of the National                                                                                              Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and                                                                                        



Ordinances, the last amendments to the Uniform Vehicle Code were approved in the year                                                                                                                                                                             



2000.    (Other changes were suggested in 2002, but have not yet been approved.)                                                                                                                                                                               And  



none of these changes mention roundabouts - because very few states had to worry                                                                                                                                                                           



about roundabouts at the turn of the twenty-first century.                                                                                                                            



                                          According to                            Modern Roundabout Practice in the United States                                                                                                                (1998), a   

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 6   the  first  two  

publication   of   the   National Cooperative                                                                                     Highway   Research   Program,                                                                                                   



modern-style  roundabouts  in  the  United  States  were  constructed  in  1990;  the  first  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 



roundabout built to replace a signal-controlled intersection was constructed in 1992; and  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    



the first dual-circle roundabout built to control the entrance and exit ramps of a freeway  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   



           5  

                     (...continued) 

drafted by the  National  Committee  on Uniform Traffic  Laws  and  Ordinances,  a private  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

non-profit organization.  Many of the members of this organization are state governments.  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

See www.ncutlo.org. - "Who We Are and What We Do".  

                                                                                                                                                                              



           6  

                     Available at:  http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_syn_264.pdf  

                                                            



                                                                                                                                 - 5 -                                                                                                                           2473
  

                                                                                                                                            


----------------------- Page 6-----------------------

                                 7  

was built in 1995.                  As of October 1997, there were only three dozen roundabouts in the                                                      



                                                                                         8  

entire United States - none of them in Alaska.                                               



                         In fact, according to the Alaska Department of Transportation's website,  

                                                                                                                                                  



Alaska had no roundabouts in 2000 (the year in which the Uniform Vehicle Code was  

                                                                                                                                                          

                            9   Even today, there are fewer than two dozen in our entire state. 10  

last amended).  

                                                                                                                                                           



                         Because the signaling provisions of the Uniform Vehicle Code (and all the  

                                                                                                                                                            



state traffic codes that are based on the Uniform Vehicle Code) were written before there  

                                                                                                                                                         



were any modern-style roundabouts, various agencies - both governmental and non- 

                                                                                                                                                         



governmental - have openly acknowledged that our existing traffic laws can not readily  

                                                                                                                                                     



be applied to roundabouts.  

                                                     



                         For        instance,           the       Federal           Highway             Administration's                    publication,  

                                                                                                                                          

                                                                                                              11  acknowledges that "[t]he  

Roundabouts:                  An Informational Guide  (2nd ed.  2010),  

                                                                                                                                                      



2000  Uniform  Vehicle  Code  (UVC)  ...  does  not  provide  specific  guidance  for  

                                                                                                                                                           

roundabouts." 12                 This publication notes that "[s]ome states have begun to update their  

                                                                                                                                                         



                                                                                                  13  

 [vehicle] code to include guidance for roundabouts."  

                                                                                                        



      7  

            Id., page 12.
          



      8  

                                            

            Id., pages 13-14.
  



      9  

                                                                                                                                      

             See http://www.dot.alaska.gov/stwddes/dcstraffic/roundabouts.shtml
  



       10  

                                                                                                                               

            Ibid.; see also http://www.alaskaroundabouts.com/akround.html
  



       11  

                                                                                                                                             

            National Cooperative Highway Research Program, Report 672, available at: 

                                                                                                                      

      http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_rpt_672.pdf  



       12  

                                        

            Id., page 2-21.  



       13  

                       

            Ibid.  



                                                                                    

                                                                            - 6 -                                                                        2473
  


----------------------- Page 7-----------------------

                         Likewise,   the   CH2MHill white paper on the design and implementation                                       



                                                                                                                     14  

of roundabouts, "Modern Roundabouts Training Workshop",                                                                                                      

                                                                                                                        acknowledges that one  



                                                                                                                                                               

of the "legal considerations" for governments that are considering the construction of  



                                                                                                                                                               

roundabouts is that "[the] Uniform Vehicle Code ... does not provide clear directions on  



                           15  

roundabouts".      



                         The underlying difficulty  is  that the signaling requirements of 13 AAC  

                                                                                                                                                          



02.215 and UVC  11-604 were designed for linear intersections.  These requirements  

                                                                                                                                           



become problematic when applied to roundabouts,  because of the way in which the  

                                                                                                                                                             



entrances and exits of roundabouts are configured, and the way traffic flows through a  

                                                                                                                                                                 



roundabout.  

                         



                         For example, in the present case, the State argued that Noble violated the  

                                                                                                                                                              



signaling law  by  entering a  roundabout  without  signaling.                                                         As  we  have  explained,  

                                                                                                                                                



 13 AAC 02.215(a) requires motorists to signal their intention to "move [their vehicle]  

                                                                                                                                                     



right or left upon, onto, or off a roadway".   And it is true that motorists must "move"  

                                                                                                                                                    



their vehicles to the right as they enter a roundabout (because roundabouts are circular,  

                                                                                                                                                    



and because traffic moves counterclockwise within a roundabout).  

                                                                                                                               



                         But when motorists move to the right upon entering a roundabout, they are  

                                                                                                                                                              



simply following the roadway - much as if they came to a curve in the road.  It seems  

                                                                                                                                                        



counter-intuitive to require all motorists to activate their right-turn signals when entering  

                                                                                                                                                     



a roundabout if they simply wish to drive around the center island and continue in their  

                                                                                                                                                           



original direction of travel.  

                                                    



       14  

             Available   as   a   pdf   download   at:   www.greatstreets-stl.org.     Follow   the   link   to  

"Residential Neighborhood", then, under the category "Design", follow the link to "Choices                                                          

&   Guidelines",     then   "Intersections",   then   click   on   the   "Resources"   tab   and   choose  

"Roundabouts 101 -                  The Modern Roundabout".                           



       15  

            Id., page 43.  

                                    



                                                                             - 7 -                                                                        2473
  

                                                                                     


----------------------- Page 8-----------------------

                                    Moreover, if a motorist                                            did   activate their right-turn signal, this right-turn                                                    



signal might well confuse other motorists who were already inside the roundabout, or                                                                                                                                                 



who were waiting to enter the roundabout from a different direction.                                                                                                                        Seeing the right-                



turn signal, these other motorists might easily suppose that the signaling motorist actually                                                                                                                           



intended to turn right (onto an intersecting road) rather than continuing straight through                                                                                                                             



the roundabout.                              



                                    Because of the substantial difficulties in trying to apply the existing turn-                                                                                                             



signal regulations to the                                           new   environment of the roundabout,                                                                        at least one state has                            

                                                                                                                                                                     16      Most other states have  

enacted new regulations that expressly govern roundabouts.                                                                                                                                                                    



simply adopted an ad hoc  approach - not amending their codified law,  but instead  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        



creating web sites and informational pamphlets that contain instructions to motorists  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  



about  the signals they should use when negotiating a roundabout (even though these  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            



instructions are apparently not based on the codified law).  

                                                                                                                                                                



                                    For example, the New York Department of Transportation web site advises  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                         



motorists who are leaving a roundabout to use their right turn signal to let other drivers  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                         



know that they intend to exit the roundabout - but the web site ignores New York's  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

"signal for at least 100 feet" rule 17 and instead tells motorists to use their signal "as soon  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

as [they] pass the exit prior to [their] desired exit". 18   And the web site does not instruct  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       



motorists to use a turn signal when entering a roundabout.  

                                                                                                                                                                 



          16  

                  See  Oregon Statute  811.400.                                                   



          17  

                  New York Laws, Title 7, Article 28 (Vehicle and Traffic Law),  1163(b).  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                



          18  

                  https://www.dot.ny.gov/main/roundabouts/guide-users/motor-vehicle  



                                                                                                                - 8 -                                                                                                          2473
  

                                                                                                                          


----------------------- Page 9-----------------------

                       The   Washington   Department   of   Transportation's   web   site   contains   no  



recommendation for using turn signals in single-lane roundabouts, but the site instructs                                                 



                                                                                                                                          19  

motorists to use their right turn signal before they exit a multi-lane roundabout.                                                             



                                                                                                                                         

                       The  State  of  Wisconsin's  web  site  dealing with  roundabouts  instructs  



                                                                                                                                              

motorists to use a turn signal in one circumstance:  they should use their right-turn signal  



                                                                                                             20  

                                                                                        

to indicate that they are getting ready to leave the roundabout.  



                       The Federal Highway Administration's web site tells motorists the same  

                                                                                                                                               



thing:  that when they are negotiating a roundabout, they should use their turn signal in  

                                                                                                                                                     



                                                                                                 21  

one circumstance:  "to indicate [their] intention to exit".  

                                                                                                       



                       The State of Iowa's web site gives the following advice about turn signals:  

                                                                                                                                                         



" 'Should I use my turn signal?' Answer :  Yes.  Especially when exiting the roundabout.  

                                                                                                                                                         



                                                                                                                                         22  

This allows vehicles waiting to enter the roundabout to know your intentions."  

                                                                                                                                             



                       In contrast, the State of Virginia has two different web sites that provide  

                                                                                                                                           



inconsistent recommendations regarding the use of turn signals.  One of these web sites  

                                                                                                                                                



tells motorists to always signal their turn "just past the exit prior to [their] desired exit"  

                                                                                                                                                



                                                                                     23  

(regardless of which  exit they intend to take).                                           The other web site tells motorists  

                                                                                                                                       



(1) that if they intend to turn right (i.e.,  to go approximately 90 degrees around the  

                                                                                                                                                  



circle),  they  should  use  their  right-turn  signal  from  the  time  they  approach  the  

                                                                                                                                                 



roundabout; (2) that if they intend to go straight through the roundabout, they should not  

                                                                                                                                                  



signal; and (3) that if they intend to turn left (i.e.,  to go approximately 270 degrees  

                                                                                                                                          



      19  

            http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/safety/roundabouts   



      20  

            http://wisconsindot.gov/Pages/safety/safety-eng/roundabouts/works.aspx  



      21  

            http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/intersection/roundabouts/fhwasa08006/  

                                                                                                                          



      22  

            http://www.iowadot.gov/traffic/roundabouts/roundabouts_faqs.htm  

                                                                                                                           



      23  

                                                                                                              

            http://www.virginiadot.org/info/resources/roundabouts.pdf  



                                                                               

                                                                        - 9 -                                                                  2473
  


----------------------- Page 10-----------------------

around   the   circle),   they   should   use   their   left-turn   signal   when   they   approach   the  



roundabout, then switch to their right-turn signal "when passing the exit before the one                                                 

                      24   (Some of these recommendations are less than intuitive.)  

to be taken".                                                                                                            



                      Finally, we turn to the information available to Alaska motorists concerning  

                                                                                                                              



roundabouts.  

                         



                      The roundabout at issue in the present case is located on the campus of the  

                                                                                                                                          



University  of  Alaska  at  Fairbanks.                           The  Fairbanks  campus  has  a  web  site  -  

                                                                                                                                          



http://news.uaf.edu/roundabout-road-rules/  - that provides guidance to motorists on  

                                                                                                                                           



how to use this roundabout.  

                           



                      According to  the  University's  web  site,  (1)  no  signal is  needed  when  

                                                                                                                                      



entering  the  roundabout,  but  (2)  a  right-turn  signal  is  advisable  when  leaving  the  

                                                                                                                                          



roundabout:  



                        

                      While  the  roundabout  on  campus  seems  to  flow  pretty  

                                                                                                               

                      smoothly, there may be some confusion regarding the use of  

                                                                                                                      

                      turn  signals.           No  signals  are  required  when  entering  the  

                                                                                                                    

                      roundabout, but you will want to use your right  hand turn  

                                                                                                                   

                      signal to indicate your exit point from the roundabout.   The  

                                                                                                                  

                      Alaska Department of Transportation has more information  

                                                                                                      

                      about roundabouts online.  

                                                                   



                      As      indicated   in   the   text   just   quoted,   the   Alaska   Department   of  

                                                                                                                                          



Transportation  sponsors  a  web  site  dealing  with  roundabouts:  http://www.alaska- 

                                                                                                               



roundabouts.com.                   This  web  site  includes  a  section  entitled,   "How   to  Use  a  

                                                                                                                                            



Roundabout", but this section contains no instructions to motorists regarding the signals  

                                                                                                                                    



they should use when entering a roundabout, driving within it, or leaving the roundabout.  

                                                                                                                                                



      24  

           www.virginiadot.org/info/resources/round/ModelHighwayCodeforRoundabouts.pdf  

Note :      The  address  of  this  web site  contains  the  language,  "Model  Highway Code  for  

                                                                                                                                          

Roundabouts".  Unfortunately, there is no such model code.  

                                                                                               



                                                                   -  10 -                                                             2473
  

                                                                            


----------------------- Page 11-----------------------

                                                                               To sum up this discussion:                                                                                                                                           There is a section of Alaska's traffic                                                                                                                                                                                                   law,  



  13    AAC   02.215(a)-(b),   that   prescribes   rules   for   when   motorists   must   signal   their  



 intentions.   But these rules were formulated before we had roundabouts, and it is difficult                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                



-  and sometimes potentially dangerous - to apply these rules to roundabouts.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        



                                                                               As we have explained, it is widely acknowledged that provisions like 13                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     



AAC 02.215 -                                                                                  i.e., provisions drawn from the Uniform Vehicle Code - do not apply                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         



to roundabouts.                                                                               Many states have published                                                                                                                                                    ad hoc                                      advisory rules for the use of turn                                                                                                                                        



 signals in roundabouts, but these advisory rules are not consistent among the states, and                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           



many of these rules are patently inconsistent with the provisions of the Uniform Vehicle                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      



 Code.    



                                                                               The result is that no one can determine, with any degree of surety, what                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      



rules apply.                                                         For instance, in the present case, police officers employed by the University                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            



 of Alaska Fairbanks stopped Noble because they believed that he committed a traffic                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          



 infraction by failing to use a turn signal when he entered the campus roundabout.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              But  



the University's own web site advises motorists that no signal is required when entering                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   



this roundabout.                                                                                  



                                                                               The University police officers also believed that Noble committed a traffic                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        



 infraction by failing to activate his turn signal at least 100 feet                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        before he exited the                                                                                      



roundabout.    



                                                                               As   we   explained   earlier   in   this   opinion,   13   AAC   02.215(b)   requires  



motorists to signal for at least 100 feet before turning left or right.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               But just as it is                                                                        



unclear whether the act of entering a roundabout constitutes a right turn, it is also unclear                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  



whether the act of leaving a roundabout constitutes a turn (either to the left or the right).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                



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                                Moreover, the entrances and exits of many roundabouts are less than 100                                                                                               



                          25  

feet   apart.                                                                                                                                                                                         

                                   According to  the  testimony  in  the  present  case,  this  was  true  of  the  



                                                                                                                                           

roundabout located at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  



                                                                                                                                                                                                      

                                At the evidentiary hearing, one of the police officers candidly admitted that  



                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

it would have been potentially dangerous for Noble to comply with the 100-foot rule.  



                                                                                                                                                                                                    

The officer explained that a lengthy right-turn signal could confuse other drivers who  



                                                                                                                                                                                                       

were waiting to enter the roundabout; it might cause them to falsely conclude that the  



                                                                                                                                                                                                    

signaling driver  was  getting ready  to  leave  the  roundabout  at  a  closer  exit  -  thus  



                                                                              

potentially leading to a collision.  



                                                                                                                                                                                                   

                                In sum, there is no clear way to apply the signaling provisions of 13 AAC  



                                                                                                                                                                                              

02.215 to roundabouts.  Theoretically, this Court could attempt to construe this regula- 



                                                                                                                                                                                                        

tion to clarify how its signaling rules might apply to roundabouts.                                                                                                   But  there  is no  



                                                                                                                                                                                                       

obvious way to do this.  The departments of transportation of various states, facing the  



                                                                                                                                                                                                    

same problem, have created different ad hoc rules for signaling in roundabouts.   The  



                                                                                                                                                                                   

differences in these ad hoc rules reflect differing assessments of the safety implications  



                                                                                                                                                                                                      

of  requiring  (or  not  requiring)  signaling  in  various  circumstances,  as  well  as  the  



                                                                                        

practicality of enforcing these rules.  



                                                                                                                                                                                            

                                In other words, any "clarification" of the law in this area would actually  



                                                                                                                                                                                          

amount to creating new rules, based on a weighing of facts and policies that is normally  



                                                                                                                                                                                                        

entrusted to legislatures or executive agencies.  For this reason, we decline to stretch the  



        25  

                For example, the CH2MHill white paper on roundabouts (see footnote 14) divides                                                                                                 

them into six categories by size.                                          Id.  at 14.           The smallest size, the "mini-roundabout", has an                                                         

inner circle with a diameter of 45 to 80 feet (                                                          i.e., a circumference of between 140 to 250                                                  

feet).   The next size up, the "urban compact roundabout", has an inner circle with a diameter                                                                                             

of 80 to 100 feet                       (i.e., a circumference of between 250 to 315 feet). In roundabouts of these                                                                                

sizes, entrances and exits will normally be less than 100 feet from each other.                                                                                                  



                                                                                                -   12 -                                                                                           2473
  


----------------------- Page 13-----------------------

language of 13 AAC 02.215 to try to make it apply to roundabouts.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Instead, we hold that                                                                                         



the existing regulation simply does not apply to roundabouts.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   



                                                                                     Accordingly, Noble did not violate the provisions of 13 AAC 02.215 when                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    



he failed to use his turn signals either when entering or leaving the roundabout in this                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  



 case.    



                                                                                     (We encourage either the legislature or the Department of Public Safety to                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        



 address this issue if they believe that it is appropriate to have codified law defining the                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  



use of turn signals in roundabouts.)                                                                                                                                                                                            



                                            Why we remand this case to the superior court for further consideration of                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

                                          Noble's motion to suppress                                                                                           



                                                                                     When Noble's suppression motion was litigated in the superior court, the                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 



 State advanced alternative theories as to why the traffic stop was justified, apart from the                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  



turn signal issue.                                                                                       The State argued that the stop was justified because Noble matched the                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                



 description of the registered owner of the vehicle, and because there was an outstanding                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 



warrant for the owner's arrest.                                                                                                                                                                  The State also argued that the police had probable cause                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      



to arrest Noble for reckless driving, based on the contents of the earlier 911 call to the                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   



 campus police dispatcher.                                                                                                                                            



                                                                                     These proposed alternative justifications for the stop remain unresolved.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        



We therefore remand this case to the superior court to allow the court to rule on these                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          



 other theories.                                                                             



                                           Conclusion  



                                                                                     We REVERSE the superior court's ruling that the traffic stop in this case                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         



was   justified   because   Noble   failed   to   use   his   turn   signals   when   negotiating   the  



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----------------------- Page 14-----------------------

roundabout.   However, we REMAND this case to the superior court for further findings                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 



and rulings on the State's proposed alternative justifications for the traffic stop.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       



                                                                             We do not retain jurisdiction of this case.                                                                                                                                                                                                       



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