Opinion

EDITOR'S COLUMN: Unwilling to die for your left turn

Cuff me, Sheriff, and haul me into jail like a poor man’s Ken Lay. I might be a lawbreaker but at least I’m honest about it, unlike Mr. Lay who still maintains he knew nothing was wrong at Enron. That’s like the captain of the Titanic being surprised when his feet started getting wet.

The law I occasionally break has nothing to do with accounting rules, or even running into icebergs. It’s the small matter of passing on the right, regarding which the Sheriff’s Office last week announced a forthcoming crackdown. Henceforce, people who pass on the right will be fined $101 with no mercy shown for good excuses, pleas of ignorance or even outright terror, which is why I sometimes pass on the right.

Highway 20/525 is a horror gauntlet of unexpected left turn sites, ranging from hidden driveways to rural roadways and accesses to major developments. Take the Rolling Hills exit, where scores of people turn off the highway each evening without the safety of a left turn lane. I’m always driving right behind one of them. They slam on their brakes, I slam on my brakes, and we wait there for a break in the passing traffic heading for Oak Harbor, the bulk of which is county employees on their migration home. This may take only a minute or so, but since time is relative, it’s a virtual lifetime. My vehicle is protecting the car turning left, while in my rearview mirror giant SUV’s, F-350’s, Humvees, and an occasional Sherman tank are rumbling up at 60 to 70 mph, oblivious of my little truck stopped dead on a major two-lane highway.

Here’s my thinking in this situation: The guy who stopped on the highway to turn left won’t get hit by the oncoming behemoths, because I’m running interference for him. It’s me they’re going to hit, and I’m innocent — it wasn’t my idea to stop dead on the highway. Why should I risk my life so another person can turn left? The Bible may say that greater love hath no man than he who gives up his life for another, but surely this doesn’t refer to giving up your life so someone else can make a left turn. Donkeys collided on busy Jerusalem streets, not speeding SUV’s, so it wasn’t a problem at the time.

My feeling is that if you wan’t to stop and turn left off a busy highway, then it’s you who should run the risk of death — not the person behind you. So it only makes sense for that person to carefully — very gingerly, in fact — pass you on the right. At Rolling Hills, I slow to a virtual stop, then pass on the shoulder at a safe speed slower than walking. This leaves the person turning left exposed to the tons of metal approaching at 60 to 70 mph., which is as it should be.

We don’t need more tickets for passing on the right, we need more left turn lanes to make the highway safer. So put away your ticket book, Sheriff, and get on the phone to our state legislators.

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