Monday, October 8, 2012

Ostriches and Center Lane Left Turn Only

    Many years ago when two lane highways expanded to three lanes, the center lane was used as a common passing lane for traffic in either direction. It was assumed, apparently, that drivers would be certain before attempting to pass that there would NOT be another driver approaching from the other direction also passing.

    Well, that was a bad assumption. Untold numbers of head-on crashes, many of them fatal, convinced the appropriate traffic agencies that a more reasonable use for that center lane would be to use it only for left turns. Still commonly used by drivers traveling in either direction but at a much slower speed if not stopped and at many fewer places since left turns are only required or possible at intersections or at an entrance to a business.

    Not a bad solution, actually. However, when municipalities and school districts decided that driver training in high school was too expensive or not pragmatically justifiable whole generations of young drivers grew up not being completely sure of the meaning of the sign “Center Lane Left Turn Only”.

    Which brings us to the ostrich. For years, people have been talking about escaping danger like “ostriches hiding their heads in the sand” in the supposedly mistaken belief that with their head out of sight, the rest of their body was, too.

    Today I saw a driver wishing to make a left turn into a driveway from a center lane and only the front wheels of the car were in the turn lane. The whole REAR OF THE CAR was still fully in the travel lane from which it had come. That driver seemed totally oblivious to the rear half of the car remaining prominently in harm's way. Immediately I thought of the ostrich story.

    The belief that ostriches actually bury their heads in the sand is only a myth. According to Karl S. Kruszelnicki (Doctor Karl of ABC Science) Dr Karl's Great Moments In Science, Pliny the Elder wrote (of ostriches) “…they imagine, when they have thrust their head and neck into a bush, that the whole of the body is concealed”. Historians assume that this single sentence is the root of the myth.

    Since humans are not ostriches and since such ostrich-like behavior is only a myth, GET YOUR WHOLE CAR into the left turn lane. (And don’t turn your wheels until you can completely make your turn. If you get hit from behind while waiting to make the turn and your front wheels are already turned, a hit in the rear will push you into oncoming traffic.)

1 comment: