Left Turns are Terrible – My Rant and Some Science

There are very few things in life that irritate me. I think most people would say I am pretty happy-go-lucky, relatively easy going and tend to be able to give a joke and take one equally as well. But, the longer I live, the more I grow to detest one thing in particular and that thing is a left turn without a designated lane and traffic signal. For all my English friends out there, I understand that it will be the opposite for you since you drive on the left side of the road, but you get the idea. My daily life is haunted by left turns and the clueless people who embrace them as part of their daily existence. I affectionately label these people “left turners.” I do not intend to insult anyone, but any adult who has not noticed that they are the cause of countless traffic jams, untold billions of dollars in wasted fossil fuels and a huge percentage of the traffic accidents that occur each day just because they engage in left hand turning on the daily simply must, in my humble opinion, be classified as clueless.

Here is the situation as I see it:

We are wasting time and fuel sitting in traffic waiting

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Getting information on this topic isn’t really that easy so I turn to the best reference I have for this particular situation. Since it entails driving, I will use a company whose sole purpose for the past century has been to find faster, more efficient ways of getting around town, the country and the world while conserving fuel and therefore money so that they can deliver your package to you. Enter the United Postal Service or UPS as most of us know them. This company lives and breathes driving efficiency and guess what! They have made a science out of avoiding left turns. I know, I know, avoiding left turns in your daily life means you have to think a little bit and come up with a plan to get around making more right turns that you normally would. Okay! So what! It’s not like your daily life is so dramatically dynamic and different everyday that you couldn’t possibly accomplish this in about 3 minutes. It’s not like some omnipotent jokester magically relocates your home every day as you try to find it as best you can. Your day is like most of the rest of us. You drive the same routes and the same roads and the same places that you normally would. So take a minute and use that thing between your ears and make life easier for all of us while saving yourself some cash on reduced fuel costs.

Here’s what the CEO of UPS has to say:

“UPS engineers found that left-hand turns were a major drag on efficiency. Turning against traffic resulted in long waits in left-hand turn lanes that wasted time and fuel, and it also led to a disproportionate number of accidents. By mapping out routes that involved “a series of right-hand loops,” UPS improved profits and safety while touting their catchy, environmentally friendly policy. As of 2012, the right turn rule combined with other improvements…saved around 10 million gallons of gas and reduced emissions by the equivalent of taking 5,300 cars of the road for a year.”

Don’t believe what the good people at UPS have to say about it? Check out what Myth Busters found when they tested the theory!

Pretty much everyone who pays the least bit of attention to life has to have noticed by now that left turns without a designated lane or traffic signal are terrible. Right? Wrong! I brought this up to a number of people in my work and social circles and they looked at me like I was crazy. To test their hypothesis of me being the only person on the planet who finds left turning annoying and wasteful, I decided to research this a little and guess what…turns out the United States Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration agrees whole-heartedly…….wait for it…….wait for it………WITH ME!

How I feel sometimes.

Yes! In fact, they have produced an entire body of literature on the matter. Indeed, there are smart people who do interesting things for a living that have also drawn the conclusion that left turns are a terrible thing! In fact, there are entire departments at the state and national level dedicated to finding ways to improve traffic efficiency and all of them are working on ways to get around left turns. And as for the knuckle draggers I talked to about this topic that said I was dumb? (I’m kidding, they’re really great people) Well turns out one actually witnessed a wreck of two people turning left and hitting each other head-on and another has a friend whose car was totaled by a left turner. This is a real thing folks!

Wrecks, Wrecks and more Wrecks!

Anti-left turn stuff going on in Maryland, Michigan and North Carolina:

People who use theirs make me so very happy! And proud! And happy! Use yours too!

Roadway planners are hard at work trying to come up with solutions to deal with all kinds of traffic inefficiencies and right in the middle of the mix are the evils of the collision-causing left turn. They have developed a number of types of Restricted Crossing U-Turn Intersection (RCUT) models that are being tested in various areas around the country. One such type is known as the “Michigan Left” because of its early use in the state of Michigan. The results seem promising. Of course with any new thing comes a testing phase where you have to try it out to see how it works then work to improve it from there, but the problem is large enough and takes enough lives and wastes enough fossil fuels to merit the attention of large groups of people working to make the situation better. God bless you good people for the noble work that you do and for the promise that one day my blood pressure will be able to remain at a healthy and normal constant whilst I drive peacefully down a road where I neither have to swerve to miss a rushed person trying to turn left like an automotive laser beam cutting through the line of oncoming traffic, nor sit idly by (pardon the pun) and wait, and wait, and wait for the “left turner” to make their move! Bless-ed be the day when this comes to pass!

As it turns out, researchers have determined that left turns take more brain power to make because left turns require us to make a couple of quick decisions that drivers simply don’t have to make when they are turning right. A left turn without a designated lane or traffic signal has to be timed properly to avoid oncoming traffic. What if the oncoming car speeds up suddenly to get through an intersection? What if there is a car you can’t see that is right beside the one you are shooting out in front of to make the left turn and you get t-boned by that car?

And since driving while texting or emailing is such a popular, and deadly, thing now, one can only assume that doing so while trying to make a left turn complicates the matter further, increasing the risk of wreck and fatalities.

Just a few scary statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation:

  • Cell phones are involved in 1.6 million automobile-related accident each year which cause around 500,000 injuries and 6,000 deaths.
  • A teenage driver who is using his/her cellphone has the same reaction time as a 70-year-old driver who is not using one according to a University of Utah study.
  • A Virginia Tech (my alma mater) study says that texting while driving is 6x more likely to cause a wreck than driving drunk.
  • About 80% of all automobile wrecks involve distracted driving and 11% of all drivers are using cell phones while driving at any point during the day.

Well that’s enough for today! You get the picture. Luckily for people like me, even if you don’t care, there are good guys and gals out there who are on our side and are fighting the good fight to get around left turners and the evil they bring to this world. All joking aside, and I joke a lot so this is really serious, left turns in our traffic system really do increase the risk of injury and also waste countless billions of dollars worth of time and fossil fuels while also putting unnecessary pollution into the atmosphere from sitting by waiting for people to make the left turn they’re so intent on making.

Pay attention while you drive around this week and I guarantee you will begin to notice the things I present here today.

Best to you my friends, stay safe on the roads out there and let’s all look forward to the day when really smart computers will drive us around in vehicles we don’t need to control ourselves so we can talk, text and do whatever we want without killing each other and our environment.

Until then, cheers!

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