Who knew that such a basic driving topic could have so many associations? Certainly not me, but as time has gone on making left turns seems to be worthy of some attention.
For example, I know of a very good friend of mine who REFUSES to make left-hand turns across traffic, unless no other route can be determined. When I first heard that, I wondered how that could be possible?! I mean, how could one accomplish day-to-day driving from point A to point B without making a left-hand turn? But, she assures me that it can be done, and she has done it many, many times a day, in fact. Of course, it takes up to three right-hand turns to make the same route as one left-hand turn would make. Knowing how frustrating traffic can be at the best of times these days, I can’t imagine going through all of that trouble, but I guess ‘a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta’ right? To answer the obviously looming question of why one would go through all of that hassle just to avoid left turns becomes easily explainable when you realize that a major accident in the first few weeks of driving, because of a left-hand turn gone wrong, has left her with a lifetime sentence of right turns only, it seems reasonable. While I have had my fair share of left-hand turn scares and wake-up calls, I truly cannot imagine mapping out my each and every route according to this self-inflicted rule. However, as I have learned thus far in life, it is not my place to pass judgement, and I certainly can empathize with her situation. Do left-hand turns with a green arrow make a difference in her case? No, I don’t believe so, but I know of a few too many intersections that could certainly benefit from those arrows, that’s for sure, which brings me to the second of three left-hand turn anecdotes that I thought were note-worthy.
My husband and I live out in the country now, and have for almost three years. Reluctantly, we made the move, and I say reluctantly only because the neighbouring highway (our main route in and out) scared/scares the pants off of me. As the youngest and only girl in my family, highway driving was the right and privilege of my two older brothers, so in part my fear is bourne out of my inexperience with highway driving, in general. Though, to be fair to myself, the highway that I am speaking of is currently in the process of being twinned due to its many fatalities over the years. Needless to say this undivided stretch of road is well-known to many and those who travel it know all to well of its reputation. And, road-goers close to our area could easily name the intersection where a left-hand turn arrow is desperately needed, but seemingly missed. How this can be, we do not know. I am sure that you can name a few intersections like this yourself.
Local town papers have included articles/Letters to the Editor demanding that something be done at the intersection, but nothing. Political candidates have strategically placed signs at election times stating how we should be thanking them for their efforts in bettering the roadways knowing full well how risqué the intersection is. All I can say here is…well, actually, I best not comment on this one, but I am sure you can read into my thoughts. My husband and I have threatened to write a letter to the county, or make a call, which I will admit we have yet to do. But RCMP are clearly aware of the problem, as they have stationed themselves there on many an occasion. While we appreciate their efforts to curb (excuse the pun here) people passing in the right-hand lane, it is simply a band-aid to the problem. In the short time that we have been out here, we have witnessed many an incidence of people playing Russian roulette with their lives and just as importantly, the lives of others simply to avoid waiting for those needing to turn left. My husband and I call it ‘the need to be first at all costs’ mentality. Regardless, it is hard to watch the careless risks taken on a daily basis when a simple turn arrow could literally save lives. What I want to know is how coveted are these left-turn arrows?! Why do they seem to be so difficult to acquire? And, why is it that some of the green arrows that already exist only allow four cars to go through at a time? I understand that traffic patterns and flow are tricky and must be maintained, but surely we can do a better job, right?! Or is it left?
On a lighter note, for those who are willing and able to make left-hand turns where green arrows exist, well, that is a whole other story. A story that I find rather entertaining as I analyze, and sometimes willingly play, each of the characters in the two left-turn lanes-merge-into-one showdown. You gotta love how this all unfolds, as everyone scrambles to get their place in the one lane that continues on and it all begins with the approach to the intersection itself. Well ahead of time, you can see people counting cars that are already stopped in each of the two lanes-their vehicles teetering between the two, as they carefully calculate their placement in either the left or right lane knowing fully that it is the left one that ends.
I usually try to pull into the right lane off the start, so that I don’t have to play the switcheroo game. But, like everyone else, depending on time, the all-mighty commodity these days, I may or may not decide to wait it out if I know the four-car limit has already been reached. Most often, at the time I commute, I can usually score the third or fourth spot on the right side of the two left-turn lanes. In this situation, I get to eye up the people coming up behind me or to the left. Once they’ve established which lane to settle for, each has a distinguishable mannerism. Those to the left are often eyeing up us right-handers, already guessing which vehicle/personality they might be able to over-take. Though, occasionally, you get the person who appears non-chalant about the whole process. Those to the right, behind me, have already decided that they are okay to wait, if necessary. I think of them as ‘chillers’, be it extra time on their hands or the fact that they are just super laid back. As the coveted green arrow begins, my theories get put to the test, as I guess who will try to over-take me and/or when, in the turning process, they will decide to make their move. Some floor it and make it clear that they are coming into my lane come hell or high water. I’ve learned that it ain’t worth the fight, though sometimes I find myself challenging them until I realize that I, too, have been in their shoes before and likely will be again. Of course, being a generally good citizen, it can feel good to leave plenty of room and just let them on in with the hopes of a small courtesy wave. Notice I said ‘hopes of’? Others wanting my lane will meticulously time their move waiting and watching, watching and waiting, for just the right space to squeeze into, sometimes profusely waving in thanks if you were thought to have helped in any way.
If I find myself on the opposite side of the fence (aka the left side), I am now the one who is trying to eye up my right-hand competition for the whole take-over process. If it’s a jacked-up truck or a sports car, forget it. An Suv’er? Maybe, maybe not depending on whose behind the wheel. A small family-type car? That’s probably the best bet, although I’ve learned to NEVER assume. The ‘grandma’ types (not necessarily old and gray-just slower and seemingly mild-mannered) can surprise the heck out of you, as I have since learned–not that I am trying to stereotype anyone. Being in a truck myself (albeit not jacked-up), I could try the floor-it strategy, but I tend to be the meticulous one knowing full well which part I am playing, as I watch and wait for my turn to ‘sneak’ on over to the right side, being sure to give my little wave of thanks for the day because I may very well be the one awaiting the wave on tomorrow’s drive.
So, the next time you are in traffic, give some extra thought to the concept of left-turns, and when you find yourself at an intersection, I’ll leave it to you to decide whether or not to embrace the left-turn, or the right-turn, as my good friend does. Meanwhile, I wish you many safe, happy travels:-). Until next time…..