A reader writes to me describing an intersection where collisions occur regularly, some resulting in fatalities. He has observed that 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 that 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 this intersection, one of the issues here is left turn drivers who will turn even though they cannot see well enough to insure that their turn is 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 involved in a crash with through traffic on their right as they exit the gap, unseen until the last moment.
Why has the vehicle ahead of me stopped? Regardless of the fact that you may have a clear lane adjacent to it to pass by, this should be a question that you ask yourself every time. That 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 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 that would like to force the issue. They can wait for the next cycle of the light 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.
This 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 them exit may be the safe action to take. They will not be encouraged to proceed unsafely by your kindness.