Athens Review, Athens, Texas

August 7, 2012

Laws must be obeyed when driving center ‘suicide lane’

Kathi Nailling
Associated Press

Athens — I hesitate to write this column. So far I have had a minimum of three people ask me about writing this. I agree there is a problem, but I may be part of the problem, not the solution.

It has been brought to my attention that people are using the center turn lane  as an additional lane on the road. I don't think that was the purpose of a left turn lane. It is called the turn lane for a reason.

I don't drive in that lane, but I do use it as a merging lane.  Let me make it very clear, I don't  drive in the turn lane, but if I am trying to cross the street, and the traffic is bad on both sides, I will get in the turn lane, and stop until I can move over.

I think the people who have asked me to write about this are concerned about people traveling for a mile or so in this lane.  Which we all know can be dangerous, if someone is driving in a turn lane, and a car is pulling into that turn lane.

There is a reason it is referred to as “suicide lane.” It’s because traffic can enter from either direction into one lane.

Two cars entering at the same point from different directions may be a major problem, or better known as a major accident.

I researched this topic to find information that pertained to turning lanes. This is what I found on the Texas Highway Man Pages.

Center-turn lanes are for use only when preparing to turn left from the main road onto a side street or driveway only.  Only enter the lane just before you are ready to slow down for the turn.  Also, the Federal Highway Administration's "Read Your Road" guide indicates that, when turning from a side street or driveway onto the main road, you may also use this lane as a temporary refuge to wait for traffic to clear, as long as you pull into the lane, and wait, and don't use the center-turn lane as an acceleration lane. 

However, it is important to note that Texas law does not seem to specifically permit this action, and there have been reports that some folks have been cited for doing this.

The court has upheld their citation, so it is recommend to avoid this maneuver, unless you absolutely have to. 

Okay,  I think this is the opinion of the person who writes on Texas Highway Man Page. I like his opinion, because I am not breaking the law, if I just sit in the middle of the road.

The truth is that the center lane is a turn lane only. And yes I may be breaking the law.

In the driver’s handbook, it shows the center lane to be for turning only. No, it should not be used for a merging. This is just ruining my driving experience.  But again, it may keep me alive longer, if I obey these small traffic laws. 

This is a big problem in Gun Barrel City on State Highway 334, because it is so difficult to cross the street. If the traffic lights would match up where they all change at the same time, you might be able to get to where you are going.

But if you  continue  to use it as a merge lane, you should come to a complete stop. This lane was never meant to travel on. If you stop your vehicle, the cars coming towards you will know how to proceed.

I will have to agree that most major accidents happen in the “suicide lane.” When your driving on any road, you need to be aware, and make sure other travelers are aware of what you are doing.

In recent weeks, there have been major accidents in our community. We have lost some very good and loved people. Let us all be more considerate of the other drivers on the road.

If that means I have to obey the law by not merging in the so-called “suicide lane,” that is what I will have to do.

I haven't received a ticket in a very long time. My last ticket was a number of years ago. I got that ticket for speeding, and  decided to take a defensive-driving course on the Internet.

I don't remember the entire course, but I can't remember anything being said about the turn lane. If as many people are driving in that lane as I think there are, it should be one of the main discussion points in any defensive-driving course. 

The people who mentioned  I should write a column about this center-lane problem were all men.  I hope they were not trying to tell me this is a women's problem.  I may take exception to that.

Kathi Nailling is a Staff Writer for the Athens Daily Review.