The Right Way to Turn Left

By Rick Boettger

The following is a public service announcement, not a kvetch nor a shaming. But an error made by at least half of Key West drivers is at any stoplight when people are waiting to turn left.

The first error is one that needs teaching. The rule is that you NOT wait behind the crosswalk before moving forward to turn. The law allows you legally to move forward into the center of the intersection, especially necessary if the oncoming traffic is so steady that there is NO opening before the light turns red.

The worst place this occurs is on Truman Avenue coming into the City at White street. I have seen too many times the person first in line wait the entire light without moving, letting traffic build up behind them back to Eisenhower. And then remaining there for the next light.

The advantage of moving forward is twofold. For you, it means that no matter how long the stream of traffic, when the red light finally halts the oncoming rush, you complete your left turn just ahead of the light’s turning green for the White Street traffic you are now joining. Sometimes two cars get to do this, if the second is close enough behind.

The second advantage, of great benefit for that traffic backing up to Eisenhower, is that one of the special times it is legal to pass a car on the right is in exactly this situation, when that car is turning left.* If you are stopped behind the crosswalk, there is no room to pass you. If you’re pulled up to the center of White, there is plenty of room for the following cars to get around you and cruise downtown.

The second error is even more exasperating, and should need no teaching. It is when you have an easy-peasy left turn arrow, such as coming into town on North Roosevelt to turn into Wynn-Dixie: GO WHEN THE LIGHT TURNS GREEN. Do NOT wait for a police escort. It is NOT “polite” to let the opposing left tuner go all the way to Walgreen’s before you lift your foot off the brake. I have seen ten cars in line only let 6 across because the first in line has a slow accelerator foot and the fourth car waits until the car ahead of him has driven 100 feet and has completed the turn ahead of them before they finally start forward.

Okay, I lied, I am kvetching and shaming, especially about this last. I should also blame the drivers behind the slow-foots for not giving the helpful light beep that even I at my worst need sometime when my mind has wandered at the long light on Eisenhower waiting to turn uptown. But at least the non-beepers have the excuse of being polite, or being afraid of road rage. But you slow foots. Please take heed and improve my already ridiculously fine quality of life in Old Key West.

*  2023 FS 316.084 When overtaking on the right is permitted.

(1) The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass on the right of another vehicle only under the following conditions:

(a) When the vehicle overtaken is making or about to make a left turn;

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