America’s love affair with the outside turn lane

Drivers, I have only one urgent request. Sure, there are tons of things you people do that awaken The Anger, but there’s one habit you drivers seem to have that I just can’t understand. The worst thing is, I don’t even hear other people complain about it in day to day life.

What is your intense fascination with the outside left turn lane?

I’ve drawn a very simple illustration to …… illustrate what I’m talking about:

How often has this happened to you? You need to make a wide left so you can get to a place on the right side of the road immediately after you turn. This is one of the purposes of the wide turn lane. The other is to allow more people to make the turn at once. Most traffic lights in the Phoenix Metro area have red/green left turn arrows, meaning time is of the essence.

So you roll up to the light and every driver is stacked up in the outer turn lane, and you really have no choice. You have to get over to the right quickly, so you suck it up in get behind everyone else. The red arrow turns green. You beg the driver in front to notice. Often times they don’t. Things finally get moving. The arrow turns yellow and you’re still several cars back, so you curse, and you hit the brakes. Then, something fascinating happens. The car immediately in front of you punches it. Flies through the light with dubious legality, leaving you the only poor sap waiting to make your turn in the next cycle.

Now this is the part where it turns from “mild annoyance” to “societal blight” – everyone that made the turn from the outer lane goes straight on down the road. Nobody turns into the parking lot where you were trying to go. They had no reason to stack up in that lane.

And yet, they always do. Almost without exception, when drivers have the choice between the two turn lanes, they take the outside one regardless of where they need to go next or how many cars in already there. They have defeated both purposes of having two turn lanes. This is what I don’t understand. Are people afraid of committing to the turn? Do they want to preserve the freedom to do a dickish move and pull out of the turn at the last minute and go straight? Is it like people who prefer the aisle seat on planes?

Either way, the curriculum in driver’s ed needs to be updated to squash this phenomenon. And yes, the reason I think this is because MY time has been wasted.

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