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Misuse of two-way left turn lanes continues

September 22, 2012
By DAVE WERNER ( , Franklin County Traffic Safety Board

A few weeks ago I was traveling westbound on West Main Street Road, Malone, along "commercial row" where the fast food restaurants and car dealers are located, when I spotted a vehicle traveling eastbound in the center turn lane at about 35 mph in the vicinity of McDonalds. Watching this vehicle in my rear view mirror, it continued in the turn lane toward the village of Malone until I lost sight of it.

Of all the complaints about "other" drivers that I hear, misuse of these center turn lanes, or more officially, two-way left turn (TWLT) lanes, is among the most frequent. What I can't understand is why! It's not a new traffic feature. This traffic application has been in Malone for over 25 years, and is also present in Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake. So, why do so many motorists continue to misuse this traffic safety feature, which gets left-turning traffic out of the through lane and allows through traffic to continue?

Drivers - listen up! These center turn lanes are NOT to be driven in for more than a few car lengths, and then only to position your vehicle for a left turn. They are NOT to be used to pass other vehicles! They are NOT to be used as a deceleration lane or an acceleration lane, like you find on expressways.

To reiterate one more time, here is what the book says about TWLT lanes:

"A two-way left turn lane is a lane in the center of the highway reserved for exclusive use by left turning vehicles. It may not be used for overtaking and passing, or for travel except to make a left turn. The lane may be used by drivers making a left turn in either direction."

Artcle 1126 (c) of New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law limits the use of the TWLT lane to "such distance as is required for safety in preparing to turn left leaving such highway or in completing a left turn entering such highway." No specific distance is spelled out because TWLT lanes are used on highways with differing speed limits, and therefore, the higher the speed limit, the greater the distance you would occupy the TWLT lane. In Franklin County, TWLT lanes are used where the speed limit is 35 mph or less - thus only several car lengths is necessary.

Now that you know how to properly use a TWLT lane, go tell your friends that don't read these articles. Spread the knowledge! And, learn to use this traffic feature properly.


For more articles on traffic law and safety, go to the traffic safety board's web site at: and click on "Traffic Safety Board" under departments then look for Did You Know articles under "services."



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