Staggered Left Turn Lanes

From the transportation files of “good idea in theory, bad in practice” comes the staggered left turn lanes. Not only are they a bad idea, they are potentially dangerous.

Most intersections are symmetrical; the left turn lanes are exactly in front of each other. But there are some intersections — especially the ones with medians in the middle of the road — where the lanes are staggered.

It kind of makes sense to stagger them; when the cars roll out in the middle of the intersection to wait to turn (which Angelenos are so frightful of doing for some reason, by the way) they are not nose to nose. But this creates a dangerous line-of-sight problem.

Here is a photo of a regular intersection. Note how easily you can see the left lane to determine if a car is coming.

left turn

Here is the staggered intersection.

left turn

With a car waiting to turn, it is very difficult to see into the left lane, so what you have to do is turn slightly into the lane to see. If a car is coming, it can easily hit you.

Intersections are dangerous enough (most accidents happen at intersections). Why make them even more dangerous?