Making left turns correctly

I’m sure we’ve all done it — some more to an extreme than others. However, there are drivers that take extreme to fucking dangerous.

In this post, I’m going to talk about when people turning left cut into the on-coming lane (often into the left turn lane on that side of the intersection). A visual display would probably be helpful:

inters car 1-a

This blue car is not following a path of righteousness. It is following a path through the dark side. The side of the road that he/she is not supposed to be on.

This frustrates the hell out of me when I’m entering a turn lane and have to slam on the breaks before I am hit by one of these assholes. I once saw someone turn onto a road and drive about 50 feet on the wrong side of the road before, you know, driving correctly. Thankfully no one was coming the opposite direction so doom and destruction didn’t occur, but this driving habit is horribly dangerous. This can happen:

inters car 1-b

Why do people find it necessary to take this kind of “shortcut.” It’s not really any quicker than making the turn correctly. It’s just, I suppose, a more direct path to get to where you want to go? Unfortunately, it’s fucking stupid to do that! Do you drive in the opposite lane of traffic for a while when you’re planning on making a left turn into a McDonald’s because it’s a more direct path to the drive-thru. NO! YOU FUCKING DON’T! Why? Because either you’ll hit someone or someone will hit you. It’s pretty much common sense (unless you’re insane and running from the cops) that you stay on your side of the road. Just stay there. It’s not difficult. If that is difficult for you, you need to never ever drive again ever in your entire life. Sell your car. Just get rid of it. You won’t need it. You shouldn’t even have a bicycle. That would be even worse.

Anywho, this is the correct path you should be taking when making a left turn:

inters car 1-C redone

You drive forward a bit so the front of your car will be able to make it to the correct side of the road you are trying to turn onto without having to cut off that bottom turn lane. This is step one, and the most important step. How far you drive straight  forward will vary depending on the size of the intersection and the size of the vehicle, but you must go straight FIRST (sorry Paint made the whole “straight line” idea a bit difficult, but you get the idea). Naturally, some problems can occur when there are people trying to turn from both sides of the intersection and there’s not really enough room in the middle to accommodate both, but you can figure it out.

Plan your turn. For those of us that do participate in some sort of automotive sport, this is a pretty automatic judgement. For all of you who drive to work, the grocery store, and the doctor’s office and hate driving in general, this is going to be a mental workout. “Is this far enough? Am I actually going straight? When do I start my turn? Dear god what am I doing with my life?” But it will be okay. I promise. Trial and error. Hopefully your error doesn’t end up being an accident, but when no one’s in that bottom turn lane, don’t cheat. Work on, you know, driving properly and not being a dick. It will pay off in the long run. Just because you got your license doesn’t mean you get to stop learning about the skill of driving.

Check your blind spots… and your not blind spots.

After hearing many stories about being merged into, and being present for many instances of this occurring, I felt it would be a good idea to remind anyone reading that it is important to look around you, all around you, when you are planning to make a maneuver.  The maneuver that causes the most problems is usually changing lanes, but it could include pulling out of a parking space (I tend to be guilty of preferring to look out one side over the other), at an intersection, etc.  The list really could be infinite. I suppose the best way would be to address the issue by scenario.

A. When changing lanes

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So, let’s set up the scene here. We are going to do this from the perspective of the red car driver, indicated by the black square in the red car.  This picture roughly (emphasis on rough) shows the line of sight for the driver looking straight ahead. There should be a constant rotation in where you’re looking.  A very bad habit to get into is locking your vision on the bumper of the car ahead of you.  You may not always have to check the side mirrors, but definitely glance at the review mirror a lot and look ahead (past the car in front of you).  As I’ve said in previous posts, you want to constantly be keeping tabs on all of the cars around you:  Where are they?  How fast are they moving? What’s their driving style? Who’s exiting?  Who’s changing lanes?  Obviously you’re not going to be able to keep tabs on every single vehicle for however long you’re on the road.  You don’t have to spend a lot of energy on this, but you should just be, at minimum, paying attention to your surroundings.

Okay, so, where was I?  Oh yeah, changing lanes.

So, when you’re planning to change lanes, you should thoroughly check the direction you plan to move.  As seen in the picture below, by only relying on your frontal vision (and often rear view and side view mirrors), you miss cars located in your blind spots.  We’ve all heard of them and all our cars have them–some larger than others.  Problems occur when people do not check for vehicles in their surrounding vicinity, blind spot or not.

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The picture below with all the pretty colors shows where you should check before making a maneuver, depending on the direction.  If the driver is planning to move into the left lane (top lane), he or she should look to the lime green and neon blue sides. And by look I mean actually turning to the side/turning around enough to completely see the area to which the car will be moving.  Mirrors lie.  Always look.

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If the driver wants to move into the right lane (bottom lane), he or she should look into the purple and neon blue area.  Again, actually turn and look.

And you should look before you make your move.  I occasionally will look as I’m changing lanes, which has led to a swift adjustment back into my original lane. If you do end up getting into one of those situations where you got lazy and didn’t look, and you happen to be running into someone, don’t keep going into that lane.  Go back to your original spot, maybe show some sort of apologetic gesture (not the middle finger), and wait until the coast is clear for you to move into the lane.

It really should be obvious–just look where you want to go.  If someone’s there, don’t go yet.  If someone’s coming up behind you super fast, don’t go.  If no one’s in the space you wish to occupy, go for it.

 

B. When backing out of a parking space

The main thing to remember here is to back out of a parking space slowly.  You never know what crazy driver/pedestrian is going to wander behind you.  Again, look behind you and to the sides.  You can follow a general pattern when backing out of a space:  look to the right, look to the left, back out a little bit, stop.  Look to the right, look to the left, back out a little, stop.  Do this until you’re more than half way out of the space.  After assuring that you won’t hit anyone or anything, you can go ahead and finish your maneuver to exit the parking space.  Sounds simple, but I’m pretty sure some people just don’t look…. or look once and assume that’s sufficient.  Or back up too far when someone’s behind them waiting to pull into the spot and get dangerously close to hitting them.  *Awareness of surroundings is key*

Or–you could just avoid Walmart parking lots during peak shopping hours.


[[this post has been in the works for a couple days now, and as I was coming home from work today, this old fart in a Mercury decided to merge into me after I had changed lanes.  He wasn’t signaling either.  I honked my horn, and saw him turn to see me.  About two second later, still not signalling, he tries to push his way into my lane in front of me.  So, I sorta angrily passed him in an exit only lane, and yeah.  But seriously people!  There was plenty of space after to me to get into the lane, and it’s not like the lane was ending any time soon.  Also, if you cut someone off, SPEED THE FUCK UP!  Didn’t I post that a long time ago?!  Ugh.  Anywho.  End mini-rant.]]

GET OFF THE PHONE!!!!!!

It makes you drive like a complete and utter douchebag!

In many states, it is illegal to use a handheld cellular device while driving.  But has that stopped anyone?  About as much as speed limits stop people from speeding.

People texting at lights miss the light turning green, which pisses everyone off.  People texting or talking on the phone tend to go a lot slower while driving, or go up and down in speed constantly, which pisses everyone off.  They also fail to maintain their lane most of the time, so they have to jerk the car back onto the road or back into their lane to avoid hitting people, which also pisses everyone off.

The whole talking-on-the-phone-while-driving thing is obviously more problematic in states where it is not illegal to do so. The amount of times I feared for my life while encountering someone operating a vehicle while at the same time attempting to operate a phone is astronomical.  I’m sure this is no different from anyone else’s experience.

Driving is the sort of the thing that should not be part of a multitasking endeavor.  You multitask with little things, like talking on the phone while cooking dinner perhaps.  Or talking on the phone, typing on the computer, drinking coffee, and making frantic gestures to someone in the same room.  These are small things.  Unless you catch the house on fire while cooking, you’re not going to hurt anyone.  As cheesy as those anti-texting-while-driving PSAs may be, they’re in essence true.  You are far more likely to hurt/kill yourself and someone else if you’re multitasking while driving.  So don’t do it.

  • If you’re running late, don’t apply make-up, shave, or eat breakfast in the car.  First of all, your car deserves more respect than to have gross shit like that in it.  McGriddle wrappers from weeks past should not remain in the vehicle.  If you must eat something, eat at red lights, then put it down when you must drive again.
  • If you must talk on the phone for some reason while driving, make it brief or pull over somewhere to ramble.  Seriously, if you’re behind or next to someone driving like a dick, there’s a pretty big likelihood that they’re on the phone.  Or just a terrible driver.  It’s 50/50 at times.
  • Do not multitask while driving.  Driving is a very mentally active activity.  You should be taking in and processing the sensory data surrounding you at all times.  What are the traffic conditions ahead and behind me?  Where are all the cars in my line of sight?  Where are all of the cars behind me?  What are the driving personalities of those in close proximity?  Where am I?  What’s my nearest exit?  What lane should I be in?  Are there police anywhere up ahead or behind?  How fast am I going?  How fast is everyone else going?  What are the road conditions?  What’s the meaning of life?  I can understand how driving can get a little mundane if it’s a familiar drive or if it’s a long drive through the middle of nowhere, but that doesn’t mean you should try to watch a movie or play a game on your iPhone while driving.
  • The only multitasking I approve of is singing along with the music you’re listening to.

I personally do not like to drive with passengers.  I’m not very talkative while I drive because I find myself not really listening to my passenger(s).  I have met some wonderful drivers who can hold conversations and drive perfectly well.  I, however, cannot.  When I drive, I don’t much like doing anything else other than drive.  I enjoy the act of driving, so why not focus on that?  Not everyone enjoys driving, just like not everyone enjoys spicy foods… Except people that don’t like spicy foods tend to avoid them, whereas people that don’t like driving are clogging the roads like plaque in arteries–and they’re just as dangerous.  And on that strange metaphor, I’ll leave with this summary:  While driving, drive; while talking on the phone, talk.  Just don’t do them at the same time.

Don’t pull out in front of people when there is no one behind them

This is a pretty common problem everywhere.  You’re at a light or a stop sign, and traffic is pretty light.  There’s someone waiting to turn right.  There is a small gap between you and the car in front of you and absolutely no one  behind you.  The car waiting to turn decides to gun it to make it into the gap between you and the car in front of you.  90% of the time, they’ll pull out quickly, and then proceed to go at a ridiculously slow speed, causing you to slam on your breaks and ask the traffics gods what you did to offend them to deserve this.

A major part of driving is working together.  The other part is patience.

Let us diagram this:

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(Sorry for the small size…  Didn’t plan it that way.  And I’m really sad I couldn’t make it bigger because the stop sign I drew is totally baller.)

As we can see here, the black car is looking to make a right turn.  There is a potential space between the maroon car and the blue car, but there is also plenty of open space after the blue car.  All the black car needs to do is wait for the blue car to pass, and then they will be able to make their turn without endangering themselves or others.

This scenario applies to light traffic.  If you’re at the intersection above, but there’s a long line of never ending cars, then you may have to take advantage of small gaps or people turning.  There is a right and wrong way to do this though.

You may be able to pull out into traffic if someone makes a right turn onto the street you’re coming from:

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This can be tricky though.  Are they actually turning?  Did they just leave their blinker on?  Are they turning into this street or the next street?  How quickly will they make the turn?  Will they make the turn from the shoulder allowing the cars behind them to pass, therefore eliminating your chance to turn?  You must take into account all the factors before you make a decision.  If the gray car in the picture above is not turning from the shoulder and can successfully block people from passing them during their turn, I would wait until the car just starts to make its turn before I’d pull out into the lane.  You can’t always trust people’s signals, and there isn’t a re-do button if you pull out in front of them and end up causing an accident because they weren’t actually turning (not experienced first hand).  If the situation seems unsafe, wait.  You won’t get in an accident if you chill at the stop sign a little longer (unless of course you get rear-ended by some asshole, but let’s not assume the worst case scenario.)

Another option is to go for it when you do see any opening.  The important part of squeezing oneself into gaps in traffic is acceleration.  If you’re going to pull out in front of someone, you better speed the fuck up.  Obviously, it will depend on the car you have as to how big of a space you need.  If you’re in an R8, you’ll probably be able to accelerate to an acceptable speed pretty quickly so you don’t need too big of a gap.  If you’re in a Tacoma, you won’t be able to accelerate as quickly as the Audi, and you’re a bit bigger, so you’ll need to wait for a larger gap.  Whatever you do, DO NOT pull out in front of someone and proceed to go slower than the flow of traffic.  Leave a following cushion between you and the car ahead of you, but do not let that car get too far away.  Keep up with the speed of traffic, and maybe the person you cut off will forgive you.  Go slowly, and they’ll plot to kill you in your sleep.

Please keep in mind that there is always the option of waiting for a safer scenario.  You may be waiting at that stop sign for a couple minutes before an acceptable gap opens up, but waiting is a lot better than crashing.

STAY IN YOUR GODDAMN LANE!

Well.  It happened again today.  The same kind of incident that led to the start of this whole blog thing.  Someone else decided to completely ignore my existence and come on into my lane right into me.  Thankfully I was able to avoid any kind of collision this time, but this does warrant a rant and pictures.

So here’s a diagram of the incident:

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Twice I’ve had the inside lane follow the orange trajectory.  THIS IS SO VERY VERY WRONG!!!!  Sure, it could work if there’s no one next to you, but ALWAYS ASSUME THERE IS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  If you really need to get into my lane, get into my lane before the turn or signal and make your way into my lane some other time.  Is this really that fucking difficult?!  No.  No it is not…  It’s simple really:

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I stay in my lane, you stay in your lane, and everyone is happy.  Every gets where they’re trying to go without having to file an insurance claim.

The next area where I get constantly cut off is actually the next intersection after the above intersection on my way to work.  I really need to find a different way to go to work.

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This is what the turn SHOULD look like, however, people in the outside lane seem to think that they can just slip into the inside lane through the turn.  This happens a lot at other intersections as well.  If you are in the right lane of a double turn lane, you will end up in the right lane after the turn.  If you are in the left lane of a double turn lane, you will end up in the left lane after the turn.

Please maintain your lanes.  It’s really simple and can save you a ton of hassle and heartache.

Merging

So, today we’ll be talking about merging onto highways.  A fair number of problems on the highway could be solved if people knew how to merge properly.  The rest are fixed through knowing proper lane assignments.

Here, I’m just going to talk about regular highway merging.  Construction zone merging and other such stuff can be solved in sentences, not pictures:  take turns and don’t be the dick that tries to speed to the front of the line.  It’s still going to take forever no matter where you are.

Back to my point.  In essence, merging is just changing lanes.  Only difference is that your lane is ending soon.

Let’s just start with some basics.  For the love of all that is holy, DO NOT TRY TO MERGE ONTO A HIGHWAY GOING 45 MILES PER HOUR!!!!!!!  (unless traffic is moving slow, then fine, but under normal circumstances, don’t ever do that.  It doesn’t work and pisses off everyone else trying to merge behind you.)

So, let’s diagram this.

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If you happen to be the white or blue car in this situation, move into the other lane.  It’s common courtesy to move out of the lane that people are trying to merge into when you can.  You then move back into the right lane once you’ve passed the  merging cars.

If you are the black or red car in this situation, your goal is to get up to speed.  The purpose of an on-ramp is to give you ample time to get up to highway speeds… so use it!  It is so aggravating to be behind someone cruising down the on-ramp at a steady 40 mph when traffic is clearly going 20mph faster.

Now, if merging was always that simple, there would be no need for this post and life wouldn’t suck.  Well, that’s a bit of a stretch, but still.

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“difficult” merging doesn’t have to be that difficult.  As you probably didn’t notice, there is no speed limit and no one has an indicated speed.  These rules apply at any speed.  Whether traffic is steadily moving at 55, 65, or 6 miles per hour (though I doubt there’d be gaps going 6 mph) these are rules to go by to assure a safe merge.

At the number 1 diamond thing, you want to be checking the road.  Quick glances at the lane of interest are best–don’t run off the road, that’s bad.  It’s the “gathering intel” stage of the merge.

Orange diamond number 2 is planning. *start signalling*  After you have collected information about the lane, it is time to adjust your speed (reasonably… not slowing down to 30 until something opens up) so that you can seamlessly move into the space that you found.

Several spaces are circled in magenta (or pink for those who didn’t grow up with a 64 box of crayola crayons).  Some of them are a bit tight, others have more space.  Depending on the size of your car, you should plan to hit one spot over another.

Again, the people in the right lane have responsibilities too.  Driving is a group activity as much as each of us doesn’t want it to be.  The green car is able to move into the left, so it should do so.  The other cars are unable to move into the left lane, but they can still slow down or speed up to create openings for cars merging into the lane.  (some people don’t appreciate when you allow them to merge in front of you though… I’ve gotten the middle finger for doing this.  I hate people.)

Anywho, it’s a bit of a difficult dance sometimes when merging into heavy traffic.  Some people merging don’t get the hint that there is a space being created next to them that they can easily take, and then there’s people that for some reason will not for the life of them have someone merge in front of them.  Other times no one is cooperating and you basically have to cut someone off to get on the highway (D.C., I’m looking at you.)

Know Your Lanes

Today I witnessed a pretty bad case of road-rage that could have easily been avoided by people knowing the proper use of lanes.  This is always a problem on the highway, and I have to wonder how the hell people haven’t heard or figured out that lanes have a bit of an order to them.  Today, I will try to explain how everyone can get along on multi-lane roads.

Let’s start with a diagram, shall we?

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The left lane is the passing lane.  Note:  I am not calling it the “fast lane” for a reason.  Fast is relative.  You may think you’re going fast, when you really aren’t, which pisses off everyone behind you that wants to go faster.  It is not your job to block them to the speed limit–it makes everyone mad.

As for 3-lane highways, I tend to just leave the far right lane for super super slow vehicles/trucks and cars preparing to exit from the highway.

MOST IMPORTANT RULE!

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Always always always try to stay in the right lane.  There is really no shame in driving in the “slow lane”.  Remember, the left lane is for passing.  When possible, move back into the right lane after passing someone.  If you are not passing someone, you have no business being in that lane.

The following scenarios are in reference to highways.  Multiple lanes in city driving is a bit different because you have people preparing to turn every-which-way, so therefore it is more difficult to have a consistent lane pattern.  I wish that the left-lane-is-only-for-passing rule applied more strictly in those situations, but, life isn’t fair.

 

So let’s begin:

Exhibit A.

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Keeping in mind THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE, we’ll start on a two lane highway.  As you can see, there are two cars more or less side by side driving the same speed in front the of the red car, who wishes to drive at a higher speed.  First off, if you are the red car in this situation, DO NOT TAILGATE!  Unfortunately, tailgating seems to be the only way to get people to know that you want to pass because they just can’t stay in their respective lanes.  If you are the green car in this situation, be aware of your surroundings.  Are you driving the same speed as the car next to you for an extended period of time?  What brought you into the passing lane in the first place?  Realize that there is someone behind you.  What I do when I’m the green car in these situations is speed up in order to pass the black car.  To alert the person behind me that I intend to get out of their way, I’ll signal when I’ve passed about half the length of the car next to me.  And please, ALWAYS signal.

Where problems occur in these situations: One obvious issue is tailgating which is bound to happen if the black and green car continue to collaborate to hold up traffic.  The second major issue in this situation occurs when the green car finally passes the black car, but will not move into the right lane.  The person in the red car would be patiently waiting for the green car to get out of the way, and will end up even more frustrated when the car does not move.  Of course, it must be clear for the green car to move into the right lane.  If there were two or three or four or more cars lined up directly in front of the black car, there really isn’t much the green car can do, except go faster than those cars in the right lane to keep traffic moving.

This situation can easily be solved by staying in the right lane until you need to pass someone.  Two cars occupying different lanes and going the same speed is a GIANT no-no.  Trucks do this all the time in Pennsylvania and is one of the most ann… okay maybe not the MOST annoying thing… but it’s very aggravating to be stuck in that situation.

2.

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(The pink car should say 65 mph… not mpg, but that could technically work…)

Welcome to the scenario that I swear to god almost caused someone to get shot today.  Still keeping in mind THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE, this one is the most frequent and the most aggravating.  I repeat:  The left lane is for passing.  If you are not passing someone, get out of the lane.  In the situation today, I was behind a lifted truck who was behind a Subaru.  The truck was the red car in the diagram, and the Subaru was the white car.  The Subaru was driving at relatively the same speed as the people in the middle lane, maybe a couple mph faster.  The truck and I would have preferred to be going several mph over what the Subaru was doing.  However, despite ample opportunity, the Subaru would not go into the right lane.

I highly discourage passing in the right hand lane, but sometimes, those are really the only lanes open when they shouldn’t be (again, if people knew how lane assignments worked, this problem wouldn’t exist).  Anywho, traffic was relatively heavy, so there was no alternative to get around the slow moving Subaru.  Eventually, a very unsafe gap opened up, and the truck cut off the person in the right lane to get into that lane, and then severely cut off the Subaru to get back into the passing lane.  The Subaru had to brake hard, inappropriate hand gestures were exchanged, and then the Subaru decided to chase the truck, with both of them cutting off a ton of people in the process, for a good 5 to 7 minutes.  While watching it was slightly amusing, I couldn’t help but think how easily this situation could have been avoided (hence the post today).

Where problems occur in these situations: See the above story.  It causes people to start passing in the right lane, throwing hand signals everywhere, yelling at people from their cars.

The point of all this is simple:  If you are in the left lane and there is no one next to you, move into the adjacent lane.  If you are not passing someone, do not stay in the passing lane.  That’s really all that everyone needs to remember.  Everyone needs to train themselves to always need to be in the right lane/middle lane.  One should not cruise down the highway in the passing lane if there is a long stretch of open lane in the right lane.  Have I gotten my point across yet?  No?  FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STAY IN THE RIGHT LANE!!!!!  (Unless you’re passing someone, of course)