Two-way left-turn lanes still misused

Those center turn lanes, more properly known as “two-way left turn (TWLT) lanes,” have been in the Malone traffic environment for over 25 years, and more recently in the Villages of Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake. However, many motorists continue to use these lanes incorrectly.

TWLT lanes are typically used in areas of moderate roadside development where the demand for mid-block left turns is high. The main advantage of a TWLT lane is that it provides a storage area for left-turning vehicles as they wait for gaps in the opposing traffic stream. This not only improves the operations of through traffic by removing the left-turning vehicle from the traffic stream, but also reduces the potential for rear-end collisions. When TWLT lanes are installed on two-lane roads, they have been found to reduce collisions by approximately 35 percent in suburban areas to 85 percent in rural areas, says the “National Cooperative Highway Research Program”.

Improper use often stems from motorists getting into the TWLT lane too soon and, as a result driving some distance in this lane prior to their left turn. TWLT lanes are NOT to be used for passing, overtaking or through travel.

Article 1126 (c) of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law limits the use of the two-way left-turn 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.”

Although no exact distance is spelled out in the use of the TWLT lane, it is clear that the intent is for a motorist to slow down in the through lane and enter the TWLT lane just prior to the location of the intended left turn. In Franklin County, maximum speeds in areas with TWLT lanes are 30-35 mph. Therefore, an appropriate distance to enter the TWLT lane would be only several car lengths prior to the turn. (See car “A” in the accompanying diagram.)

A TWLT lane may also be used to enter a busy street or highway. An example of this would be a motorist that is entering a street or highway with a TWLT lane from a side street or from a commercial business. If, for example, the motorist wanted to turn left from the side street or business into the main road or highway (as depicted by car “B” in the diagram) and a TWLT lane was available, instead of waiting for traffic to clear in both directions at the same time, the motorist would only have to wait for traffic to be clear from the left before pulling into the TWLT lane. The driver should then stop, signal a right lane change and wait for a break in traffic in the intended direction before pulling into the drive lane. The TWLT lane should NOT be used as an acceleration lane.

When used as intended, TWLT lanes offer a significant improvement for both safety and convenience. They are a major enhancement to smooth-flowing traffic while at the same time providing a much safer environment for the motorist.

For more articles, go to the Traffic Safety Board website at: and find Traffic Safety Board under “Departments.”