August 31, 2010

NEWS FOR YOU…. from the Iowa Department of Transportation

By Debra Carney
Driver’s License Supervisor
Driver’s License Services office
Davenport, IA

Center Turn Lanes

Many communities are changing the flow of traffic from four lanes to three lanes, utilizing a shared center turn lane. Some call it a ‘road diet’, reducing the number of traffic lanes, which is utilized to reduce left turn crashes. The Iowa Department of Transportation Driver’s Manual gives the example pictured at right.

These center lanes are reserved for making left turns (or U-turns when they are permitted) but can be used by vehicles traveling in both directions. On the pavement, left-turn arrows for traffic in one direction alternate with left-hand arrows for traffic coming from the other direction. these lanes are marked on each side by a solid yellow and dashed yellow lines.

Below are a few suggestions to handle the situation safely:

• Be sure not to get into the lane too soon. The longer drivers are driving in the center lane, the more likely they are to meet someone coming the other way.
• Be quick. Drivers should give themselves just enough time to enter the shared lane, straighten the car, signal the turn and, if they must, stop before making the turn.
• Watch for cars on side roads. They may want to cut across the driver’s path to reach the other side of the street.
• Do NOT use the center lane for passing. It is for turning traffic only.
• Do NOT use the lane to pass through an intersection.
• Make sure your wheels remain pointed straight ahead when waiting in a center lane. Should your vehicle be struck from behind, wheels turned in preparation for a left turn will move your bumped car into oncoming traffic; straight wheels will keep you safely in the center lane.

Having traffic moving in opposite directions using these lanes at the same time can be a stress-inducer. Normally, the low speeds involved keep conflicts at a minimum. Remember that even if the other driver was in the lane first, both directions of traffic still have the right to use it. The only sane way to deal with multiple vehicles using the lane at the same time is to be unfailingly courteous and try to fit into the lane in a way that is a win/win for all participants.

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