#1
Old 07-11-2006, 07:59 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: My House
Posts: 820
Center Turn Lanes

Lately I've been wondering a lot about traffic laws with regards to center turn lanes. Running the mile or so between my parent's road and my Granny's road, Rt. 60 has 4 regular lanes and a center turn lane. Everytime I make a left hand turn onto or off of it, I think about what I am and am not allowed to do.

First, when turning into the turn lane in order to make a left hand turn, is there any rule about how far you are allowed to drive in it? I know if you are at a light and there is a break in the yellow lines that you are supposed to wait until the break, but what if you aren't turning at a light? And what if you are turning at a light, but there is a big line of cars in the regular lane, and you just want to get over to get the green arrow?

Secondly, when you are making a left hand turn onto the main highway, and going into the turn lane, how far and how fast can you drive in the turn lane before merging into traffic? Today I was making a left hand turn out of the grocery store only to go a little ways (just past a small car lot and a pizza place) to turn left onto my parents road. It's maybe a quarter mile. Did I need to merge over into the regular traffic only to get right back over into the turn lane? It seems too long to be running in that lane, but also stupid to get over and then right back.
#2
Old 07-11-2006, 08:34 PM
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Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 27,157
I have never seen an actual distance rule about center turn lanes although I am sure that some states have them. That isn't the idea though. You are supposed to be in them for as short as possible just because it is the safe and correct thing to do. You sound like a young driver. I am just old enough to mildly scold you and verify that you can cause mayhem by misusing the center turn lanes. It confusing other drivers and is truly dangerous. Even if your state does not have an actual distance rule, there is always a catch-all careless and reckless driving charge they can hit you with and it usually isn't cheap. I did that stuff when I was young and it can get scary in the blink of an eye.
#3
Old 07-11-2006, 08:36 PM
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I have never seen an actual distance rule about center turn lanes although I am sure that some states have them. That isn't the idea though. You are supposed to be in them for as short as possible just because it is the safe and correct thing to do. You sound like a young driver. I am just old enough to mildly scold you and verify that you can cause mayhem by misusing the center turn lanes. It confusing other drivers and is truly dangerous. Even if your state does not have an actual distance rule, there is always a catch-all careless and reckless driving charge they can hit you with and it usually isn't cheap. I did that stuff when I was young and it can get scary in the blink of an eye.

Ok, I just found a regulation for one state (California) and it is only 200 feet. Your state will probably be similar but remember that is the upper limit.
#4
Old 07-11-2006, 10:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shagnasty
Ok, I just found a regulation for one state (California) and it is only 200 feet. Your state will probably be similar but remember that is the upper limit.
Right.
The center turning lane is for expediting movement of traffic needing to turn out of or into the far side of the road. It is not for traveling per se.
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#5
Old 07-11-2006, 10:14 PM
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I assume you are talking about these?

You usually are supposed to use the lane to turn OFF of the street, and it can be considered unsafe or illegal to use it to merge.

What Shagnasty says about 200ft sounds accurate in CA. You are NEVER allowed to use the lane to pass. Again, in California, and probably many other states, you can only pass when the dotted line is closest to you.

Legally, I believe you are supposed to get over to the main lane in your scenario #2.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RachelChristine
And what if you are turning at a light, but there is a big line of cars in the regular lane, and you just want to get over to get the green arrow?
Probably technically illegal/unsafe, but almost everyone does that.
#6
Old 07-12-2006, 10:05 AM
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Location: New Orleans, La.
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No cite, but a cop told me once that if you're turning across traffic onto a road like this, when you get a break in traffic coming from the left, but not the right, you're supposed to cross to the center lane (out of traffic) and stop and wait for a break in traffic coming from behind you.

Also, the point of turning lanes is so that you don't have to slow down in the regular traffic lanes. You move into the turning lane and then put on the brakes, therefore not disrupting traffic in the regular left lane. So if the speed limit is 35-45 mph, you're not going to travel very far in that lane.
#7
Old 07-12-2006, 11:16 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Long Beach, California
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According to the California Driver Handbook, one is expected to use the center turn lane when turning left onto a road that has one. That said, I very rarely see this done.

From the California Driver Handbook - Laws and Rules of the Road - Use of Lanes (bolding mine):
Quote:
Center Left Turn Lanes

A center left turn lane is in the middle of a two-way street and is marked on both sides by two painted lines. The inner line is broken and the outer line is solid. If a street has a center left turn lane, you must use it when you turn left (VC 21460.5[c]) or start a permitted U-turn. You may only drive for 200 feet in the center left turn lane. This lane is not a regular traffic lane or a passing lane. To turn left from this lane, signal and drive completely inside the center left turn lane. Do not stop with the back of your vehicle blocking traffic. Make sure the lane is clear in both directions and then turn only when it is safe. Look for vehicles coming toward you in the same lane to start their left turn.

When turning left from a side street or driveway, signal and wait until it is safe. Then drive into the center left turn lane. Enter traffic only when it is safe.

You may drive across a center left turn lane.
There is a diagram accompanying that paragraph; car D illustrates the turning-into-the-center-lane idea. To me, it's unclear whether one is required or merely allowed to use the center lane when turning onto a road that has one. Either way, it is very rarely done, and I think most people mistakenly believe that it's illegal. I used to believe such, and I still never do it because it's so unexpected - which makes it something of a danger right there.

Obviously, this only applies in California.
#8
Old 07-12-2006, 11:54 AM
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Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 5,889
Quote:
Originally Posted by brad_d
According to the California Driver Handbook, one is expected to use the center turn lane when turning left onto a road that has one. That said, I very rarely see this done.
The Colorado code was written the same way many years ago when I took my first driving test. It was explained to me (by the examiner) that I should not apply this rule at controlled intersections. (but thats not what it said!)


I've lived and worked a couple places where traffic at busy hours was such that this was the ONLY feasable way to make a left turn onto the road. In one case there was a traffic light a half block away that would provide a break in the "coming from the left" traffic, but that same light would back up the "coming from the right" traffic such that there would be no hole to turn into.


Just curious, what is the supposed problem with using such a lane to merge into traffic as discribed?
#9
Old 07-12-2006, 12:04 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Charm City, Hon
Posts: 3,380
I'd like to reiterate that stopping once you turn left into such a lane is very important; merging at speed is very dangerous. I witnessed a nasty near-accident that resulted from doing this incorrectly. Driver A had turned left and was heading south in the center turn lane, accelerating up to merge speed. Driver B was heading northbound, preparing to make his left turn. Driver B spied a gap in oncoming traffic, but his view of the turn lane just ahead was obscured by a large truck in front of him. Driver A had checked her blind spot just as the large truck passed her.

Driver B drifted into the turn lane without slowing down much, intending to make a quick turn; his speed saved him. Driver A checked her blind spot, accelerating to merge with the leftmost lane just as I passed them in the rightmost lane. I didn't actually see the impact, because I had seen Driver B's turn signal and noticed Driver A merging, so I was as far right as I could get, accelerating around them.

From what I saw in my mirror, Car B almost managed to squeak through the gap. Car A sheared the bumper and possibly a fender right off Car B, spun Car B into my lane behind me, and smashed up the front of Car A considerably. I think at least one other nearby car collided with their wreckage.
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