Yellow Means Left Turn!

May 8, 2007 at 9:02 am in Driving

On the way to work today, westbound on Burton Drive in Beverly Hills, I was getting ready to make my usual left turn south on Doheny when I saw a really nasty T-bone accident.

For those of you unfamiliar with the system on Burton, it’s weird. There’s a massive central grassy median, so the left turn lanes actually run off from the main road, allowing the left turning vehicles to drive across only the three opposite-direction lanes. The reason I say it is weird is that, even though there are sort of left turn ramps, there is ONE left turn signal that I know of – and it’s eastbound, turning north on Willaman.

Usually, what happens is that cars turn left at the yellow, and the opposite-direction traffic understands the Unspoken Left Turn Rule and allows it. This is a slow process, usually only allowing a car, rarely two, per yellow light. People get impatient. Which is probably why the car two vehicles ahead of me today went up that left turn ramp at full speed, turning left right in the middle of the yellow light…and not checking to be sure that there wasn’t a vehicle speeding up to make the yellow.

I saw the brown minivan coming through the intersection, directly at the white Civic, and knew it was going to hit. The Civic driver hadn’t made sure that no one was coming at a high speed, and the minivan driver had actually sped up to catch the light. It was a perfect T-bone, and the white car actually spun around 180, coming to rest almost perfectly parked, facing the opposite direction on the street she had been turning left onto. The driver, an older woman, got out, initially unhurt. The minivan driver pulled over, and stopped to examine the bent hood on his car before going over to approach the driver he’d hit. I was able to watch this for a few minutes before it was finally my turn to turn left on Doheny and get to work – and I wanted to yell at the minivan driver, “yellow doesn’t mean speed up!”

I intend to write a very strongly worded letter to the City of Beverly Hills about this, because it is just stupid NOT to have left turn arrows in that intersection. Drivers have to cross three lanes of traffic on a fast-moving street, and while it may be almost empty at night, Burton is crammed with commuters on weekdays. Why put in those silly left turn “ramps” and not left turn signals? At least have left turn only arrows during drive hours on weekdays…that would make my commute a little faster, and would mean that I wouldn’t have to be afraid when making that turn.

What’s your opinion on yellow lights, readers? Do they mean “left turn” to you?

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