When turning left, if you can't see, you can't go

Left-turn road safety

A reader wrote to me, describing an intersection where collisions occur regularly, some resulting in fatalities.

He observed the opposing left turn lanes in one direction don't line up directly across from each other. but are offset by a few feet. The result is through traffic in one direction is more obscured by standing vehicles than it is in the other.

To complicate matters, one direction has a protected left turn signal and the other direction does not.

Regardless of the state of the intersection, one of the issues here is left-turning drivers who will turn, even though they cannot see well enough to insure their turn will be safe. You cannot rely on a yellow or red light to stop oncoming drivers.

If you watch videos from Vancouver's Worst Drivers, you will often see examples of collisions where a left-turning driver, leaving a parking lot or lane, will drive through a gap in stopped traffic to reach the intended lane.

They are (often) involved in a crash with through traffic on their right as they exit the gap, unseen until the last moment.

Some drivers ask themselves: Why has the vehicle ahead of me stopped? Regardless of the fact you may have a clear lane adjacent to it to pass by, this should be a question you ask yourself every time.

(The stopped) driver might be aware of a hazard such as a pedestrian in a crosswalk or a vehicle exiting from a parking lot that you don't see yet.

In most cases, there is nothing wrong with waiting. Rushing in without considering the situation carefully is inviting a collision to occur.

If traffic volume doesn't allow a full view, wait for the light to turn red and after all traffic has stopped complete your left turn. You have right-of-way over all other traffic to clear the intersection if you do this.

Ignore drivers behind you who would like to force the issue. They can wait for the next cycle of (traffic) lights and follow your example.

Going around the block after turning right to exit the lane or parking lot might cost you a few moments, but the right turn is far safer than running the gauntlet through waiting traffic to turn left.

That could be a situation where being polite can actually contribute to a crash.

If the left-turning driver has yielded to you, taking your right-of-way instead of politely stopping to let him or her exit may be the safe action to take. They will not be encouraged to proceed unsafely by your kindness.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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