Sunday, September 21, 2008

Left Turn Permitted

Not too long ago, I read a story about an elderly couple who planned their neighborhood driving in such a way that they totally avoided making left turns, the theory being that they did not feel safe making lefts and preferred instead to take a more relaxed approach to local navigation. This is curious yet understandable, given that people often do not heed traffic signals, to put it mildly.

Here in Atlanta, a city known for its challenging driving, we are seeing a new trend -- people aren't afraid to turn left, that is, until they get into the middle of an intersection, by which time it is entirely too late to back up without incurring significant automobile damage, elevated tempers, and the nightmare of an insurance claim. But why is this?

Just the other day, as I approached a busy local intersection, a motorist two cars in front of me literally stopped 2/3 of the way through making a left turn, leaving the guy in front of me and yours truly hanging out there, hoping for the best. On any given day, the line of traffic making a left turn will slow to a crawl as some driver up ahead, having approached the intersection at light speed, will now slow to a crawl while making that dreaded left turn. The more people in line, the more likely this is to occur. Come on, people.

But I have some theories as to why this is happening:

  • Perspective. Things just don't look the same when turning left as they do when turning right, and to some people, this in and of itself is fascinating and bears closer examination.

  • Gas Prices. Hey, when it costs over four bucks a gallon, who is rushing?

  • The Roller Coaster Effect. Certain people think, while turning left, that they are on a roller coaster and that the car will move by itself to the left with no driver intervention.

  • Text Messaging. Let's say that your good friend Tracy just sent you a text message. Well, you can't simply ignore it, even if it comes in the middle of an intersection.

  • I'm sure there's a good reason for everything I'm seeing, so why am I kvetching? Anyway, I need to run to the grocery, but each of the four closest stores requires a left turn. Oh, no...I can't...wait...I don't have to go...that milk only went out of date yesterday.