Betterment: City Driving – Intersections

Let me begin with a confession: I have a lot of road rage. It isn’t my proudest trait, but if you make a mistake on the road, fear not, I’m screaming at you from the comfort of my driver seat. If I make a mistake, I feel guilty about it for weeks (I STILL feel terrible about my mistake from last week–driving straight through a turn only lane and almost crashing into a van). I scream about driving a lot because I’m constantly worried, constantly in fear that someone else’s stupidity (or my own) is going to cause a pile-up. I am trying my hardest to concentrate 100% on the road–you should too.

I say this because my friend once commented on my road rage with a simple statement: “you must think you’re the best driver on the road.”

I am not the best driver. And whenever I think about defending my “GET OUT OF THE LEFT LANE, IDIOT,” I think of the statistic that says 93% of drivers believe they are better than average. Am I part of this terrible statistic? Probably. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to try to impart some driving wisdom on you.

We’re first going to talk about city driving, specifically intersections. It’s a hot mess most of the time, and I’ve done my fair share of wrong turns. But some stuff needs to be restated.

When making a left hand turn at a green light, you are allowed to drive into the center of the intersection, even if there is oncoming traffic. The purpose of this is simple–by being in the middle of the intersection you guarantee that you will get through the intersection when the light turns yellow and then red, and move traffic along. You are also making room for the cars behind you to go around you–again guaranteeing the flow of traffic.

If you are behind a car turning left, you do not have to wait until they have cleared the intersection to move through–you are allowed to go around them. If you hesitate, it’s possible that the cars behind you will assume you too are turning left, and pass you on the right. ALWAYS CHECK YOUR PASSENGER SIDE MIRROR AND BLIND SPOT BEFORE PASSING ON THE RIGHT. Especially if you are driving in a city any number of things can crop up while you wait at an intersection–cyclists, other drivers, pedestrians.

On the same note, it is highly unsafe to go around a left turning car before the light has turned green. (For example, if you approach a red light and notice the driver in front of you has their left blinker on, you should not wait on their right. Not only are you preventing other drivers from turning right on red, you are putting yourself and the other driver in a dangerous position should they change their mind before the light turns green. Wait behind them until the light has turned, and then go around them.) This is one of my bigger pet peeves, since on more than one occasion I have had to make way for a driver waiting on my right at a red light. If a line has formed at a green light and doesn’t appear to be moving, it is safest to assume that everyone is going straight and the intersection is just too busy to get through. Unless you see left blinkers, do not assume the line is turning left. Wait until you are closer to the intersection (at MOST two or three cars away, with a view of the road past the intersection), and then pass the cars turning left. It may take you an extra red-light rotation to get through, but you’ll ultimately be safer.

One final note on intersections–it is illegal in most states to enter an intersection if you cannot clear it by the time the light changes. That means that if the next light is backed all the way up to your intersection, you have to wait at the green light until there is enough room for your entire car to clear the intersection. If when the light changes to red you are blocking traffic in the other direction you are in violation of traffic laws and can be ticketed. You are preventing oncoming traffic from flowing, and are all around just a selfish tool.

Obviously there are exceptions to all of these rules. First and foremost, your priority should be safety. I also want to note that laws differ from state-to-state. I learned to drive in New York state, and currently live in downtown Minneapolis, MN. I make no claim to know the laws of North Dakota, Oklahoma, Nevada, etc. Always check local laws if you are uncertain. If you believe I am misinformed in any way I welcome comments and dialogue.

Good luck driving! Hopefully you won’t look in your rearview mirror and see me screaming at you any time soon.


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