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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Waiting in the Intersection -- Another Traffic Question

   
Author Topic: Waiting in the Intersection -- Another Traffic Question
Aros
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In Utah the following is commonplace. . . .

You are waiting to turn left at a green light. You pull as far into the intersection as you can. The cars behind you get as close as they can, trying to enter the intersection as well. As the light changes, you can still legally turn as long as you had entered the intersection before the light turned red. It is commonplace to see two or three cars pulled forward into the middle of the intersection, waiting to turn (subsequently, there's often a small stream of traffic after the light turns red).

I thought this behavior was normal everywhere. But I've been in parts of California and back East where cars wait patiently behind the line until they can turn. In some cases, they don't turn at all because of traffic going straight. My wife thought I would get pulled over the first time she saw me pull half-way into the middle of traffic.

As far as I know, this is legal everywhere (as I've driven all over the US and never been pulled over). It's interesting that the behavior seems regional, however.

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Dan_Frank
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It's extremely common in the SF Bay Area of CA, especially San Francisco proper and Berkeley, where there are very few protected lefts. Deeper into the East Bay, where I live, protected lefts are more common so this is less of an issue.
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rivka
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It certainly happens in L.A.
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Dan_Frank
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So that's all of CA that matters. [Wink]

What part of CA did you witness these polite, cautious drivers, Aros?

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rivka
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Does central CA even have intersections? [Wink]
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Dan_Frank
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Well, since central CA is basically just I-5, and the speed limit on I-5 is just below the sound barrier, I think intersections would be pretty dangerous.
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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Dan_Frank:
Well, since central CA is basically just I-5

And farms. Can't forget the farms.
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Dan_Frank
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Yeah I guess farms need a lot of intersections.

But not too many traffic lights at those.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Dan_Frank:
Yeah I guess farms need a lot of intersections.

Nah. Long, winding roads work at least as well.

Either way, definitely no traffic lights.

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Dan_Frank
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Heh, I was thinking of the "intersections" of rows, and trying to be clever. So much for that! [Wink]

But yeah, most of the roads in farmland are plenty winding, and largely devoid of lights.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Dan_Frank:
Heh, I was thinking of the "intersections" of rows

But . . . the rows all go one way. They're all parallel. And I am quite certain that parallel lines do not intersect.
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Dan_Frank
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Huh. Really? Driving by them from afar it looks like there are multiple rows, going multiple ways.

Shows how much farming I do!

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rivka
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Rows, rows, and rows!
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Kwea
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If you are in the intersection, beyond the stop line, you have right away as you cannot legally stop before the line. That is why traffic lights are programmed with a delay between your red light and an oncoming green light.
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Dan_Frank
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Rivka: Yeah once I started thinking about it I realized it made no sense.

Driving past orchards and other farms that are relatively spaced, and it looks like there are different angles of rows, but that's simply caused by the spaces between each tree.

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Swampjedi
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While driving in Brooklyn, I noticed that it was SOP for as many people to crowd into the intersection as possible - not just behind the "lead car", but on both sides as well.

Then again, it was also normal for three or four people to flat out run the light...

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AchillesHeel
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In the bigger cities of Arizona what Aros described is standard, but in the rest of the state traffic is much slower and tame. For instance the majority of Arizona's original capitol city Prescott has a speed limit of 25mph, with its tiny winding streets encroaching into the intersection might stop traffic.
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Aros
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I noticed this in San Diego, Chicago, and Tucson. Then again, in San Diego we were pretty close to the border.
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King of Men
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quote:
Originally posted by rivka:
quote:
Originally posted by Dan_Frank:
Heh, I was thinking of the "intersections" of rows

But . . . the rows all go one way. They're all parallel. And I am quite certain that parallel lines do not intersect.
Local space is not flat.
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rivka
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While true, with the areas under discussion, it is close enough to flat to be thus approximated.
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Glenn Arnold
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quote:
As far as I know, this is legal everywhere
quote:
If you are in the intersection, beyond the stop line, you have right away as you cannot legally stop before the line. That is why traffic lights are programmed with a delay between your red light and an oncoming green light.
If we can call for the traffic safety expert (Bob Scopatz!) Or if there are any police officers or lawyers paying attention, I'd like to have verification, because my understanding, from having taken a driver safety course from a police officer, is that it is illegal in NY to enter an intersection from which there is no clear exit. The law is exactly opposite of the two claims above. As it was described to me, if you are attempting to make a left turn at an intersection, you must yield right of way to oncoming traffic, which means you must remain outside of the intersection until you can see a clear path through it in the direction you are traveling.

In addition, (as described by the same police officer) the law is never written that a person "has right of way." Right of way is not something that anyone has, it is something that can only be yielded to another. Thus the law regarding two cars coming to a 4-way stop at the same time reads "the driver on the left, must yield right of way to the driver on the right." The driver on the right may expect the driver on the left to yeild to him, but he can't just plow through the intersection because he "has right of way," he has to wait until it is yeilded to him. Generally, making eye contact with the driver or the car coming to a complete stop is expected to confirm that right of way has been yeilded.

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dkw
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Bob says that what you are referring to is the "don't block the box" rule and is a law in New York City, but not the rest of the state. He doesn't know if other cities have similar laws, but suspects that some other large ones might.
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vegimo
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"...it is illegal in NY to enter an intersection from which there is no clear exit."

The first car in the line of cars waiting to turn left has a clear exit from the intersection since there are no cars blocking his exit. The oncoming traffic does not block the exit, but he has to yield to that traffic. It is legal for this car to enter the intersection to wait for a gap in the oncoming traffic. If there is no gap until the light turns red, that person still has entered the intersection legally and may still clear the intersection when he can safely do so once the oncoming traffic stops. It would be illegal for any car after the first one to enter the intersection to wait for a gap or to wait for the light to change. That car would have its exit blocled. If the first car finds a gap in the oncoming traffic and makes the left turn before the light changes, the next car in line will then have a clear exit and may enter the intersection.

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Bokonon
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Very common up in the North East. We even have a term for the behavior, it is so common:

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Boston%20Left

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CaySedai
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I see that behavior in Iowa, too (Fort Dodge, specifically). Depending on traffic, I will pull out if there are few cars and I think I can turn left before the light changes. If there are a lot of cars, I don't bother pulling into the intersection, in order to avoid the last-second rush of oncoming vehicles trying to get through the yellow light. I drive a beater and don't have comprehensive insurance, and can't afford to replace it if something happens. So I tend to drive a little more cautiously than a lot of people, I guess.
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dkw
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quote:
Originally posted by vegimo:
The first car in the line of cars waiting to turn left has a clear exit from the intersection since there are no cars blocking his exit.

According to the traffic safety expert sitting on my couch that is incorrect, because the driver does not know whether a large number of the cars in the oncoming lane will turn right, filling the lane s/he intends to turn into. If that happens, and the traffic/traffic lights on the street they are turning into make it so they can't move forward enough for the left-turner to clear the intersection there will be gridlock. Hence the specific law in NYC that you may only enter the intersection if you have a clear exit.
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Glenn Arnold
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Actually Dana, the guy who taught the course I took claimed that the "no clear exit" clause was statewide, and that "don't block the box" was a separate thing. I'm not saying he was right, but he had been a city cop and a state trooper both, before starting the defensive driving business. I was hoping I could find a specific link to the law, because I can't find either of them online.
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dkw
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Sorry, I'll check back. But Bob worked in the NYC office of traffic safety around 15 years ago, and he was probably focused on city-specific issues.
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Samprimary
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waiting in intersection is standard operating procedure here in front range.
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aspectre
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It's extremely common, and it's illegal.
A motor vehicle (or a bicycle for that matter) is not allowed to stop on, park on, or block crosswalks in California (and probably most if not all other states).
And whether marked or not, the space between two corners paralleling a crossroad is a crosswalk... unless specifically marked with a No Pedestrian Crossing sign. That also includes any T-intersection at which there is a traffic signal, stop sign or any other warning sign... even if the sign/etc isn't on the through road.

[ April 06, 2012, 12:40 PM: Message edited by: aspectre ]

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MEC
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It's not illegal everywhere. In fact, it was on the driving test I took in New Jersey, if I had claimed that it was illegal I would have gotten points off.

There are exceptions, such as California.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by aspectre:
It's extremely common, and it's illegal.
A motor vehicle (or a bicycle for that matter) is not allowed to stop on, park on, or block crosswalks in California (and probably most if not all other states).
And whether marked or not, the space between two corners paralleling a crossroad is a crosswalk... unless specifically marked with a No Pedestrian Crossing sign. That also includes any T-intersection at which there is a traffic signal, stop sign or any other warning sign... even if the sign/etc isn't on the through road.

It is legal in some midwestern states. It is illegal in California, though too common in LA and San Francisco. I have noticed it as a bigger problem when I've been in LA, because there are *so many* intersections in some areas, and the lights change *so fast* that 3 cars will block the intersection for the whole period of a green light. It is also dangerous because it involves people in the right hand lane, with a green light, blocking people turning left on what is now a red. It's very common in LA for this to end up with three cars across an intersection against a red light that has long since changed. The "right on red" law is part of the reason this behavior is illegal in California in the first place. And the congested LA traffic only makes this worse (plus the fact that people in LA are by and large incapable of driving safely).

I find San Franciscans to be much more skilled drivers, or at least more attentive ones, since the city proper is so devilishly complicated to navigate by car. But then, that is easily explained by a hometown bias, and the fact that the city is so much smaller- people do have shorter commutes and are likely to know the city better.

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