Suicide lanes

Center left turn lane

From the Texas driver's handbook: left turn only!

The center turn lane is used to make left turns only. It has earned the nickname the “suicide lane” because traffic can enter from either direction into one lane and become a game of chicken if the move was ill-timed. To make matters worse people love to use it as a merge lane. I used to use it as a merge lane as well and even saw police officers make the same move. Then one day I was told it was not a legal move and I stopped doing it. It wasn’t a big deal as it wasn’t a very common occurrence.

Then I moved to Texas and everyone uses the center turn lane as merge lane. I was told it was a legal move here so I didn’t question it. Now it’s time to change over my driver’s license and I skimmed the driver’s handbook and lo-and-behold the graphic above: the center turn lane should only be used as a left turn lane only.

Now I’m not against getting into the lane and stopping before merging, but it seems like people get into the center turn lane from a side street and keep moving. If you are stopped, I can plan my move to make a left turn. If you’re moving, I have a shorter distance to stop before making a left turn, especially if you’re speeding up to the same speed as traffic! Now if I’m approaching from the opposite lane, you may get into my path if I’m making a left turn in front of you. Let’s play a game of chicken, shall we?

I have actually seen the aftermath of a head-on collision in a suicide lane. An F-150 vs. a Contour. It wasn’t pretty, but I think the people survived. It blocked off both left lanes of traffic so everyone had to bottleneck into the right lanes. You’d think someone would stop before barreling head-on into each other! This is why it’s important to pay attention while driving!

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