Turning left across a median break

Hi guys,

Dad and I were driving thru our beautiful hometown of Tuscaloosa Alabama, Home of the Crimson Tide, and got into an aurguement or “discussion” about the correct way to turn left across a median break. Here are our resulting emails from the afternoon.



From Jones Fowler to Randy Fowler

Dec 11, 2007 2:29 PM

OK, I haven’t found info on the web specifc enough to answer our question. But here’s how I have always rationalized my side. If two oncoming cars turn into the median at the same time on the right side of each other (as you like) you won’t be able to see thru the car to your right in order to see if the oncoming lanes are clear to cross.


From Randy Fowler to Jones Fowler

Dec 11, 2007 2:40 PM

I agree that visibility is better with your method but think about the second and third cars behind each lead car, they are completely blocked from turning left, even when there is no on-coming traffic, under your method. Basically, I think you should treat the left turn with a median exactly like a left turn without a median. Maybe this would be a good question to present to Car Talk. Call 1800-cartalk or email it to www.cartalk.com. Let me know what they say.


From Randy Fowler to Jones Fowler

Dec 11, 2007 2:49 PM

We shall let the experts settle this matter. Note that I deleted your email address from what I forwarded to the state troopers.


-----Original Message-----

From: Randy Fowler

Sent: Tuesday, December 11, 2007 2:48 PM

To: ‘info@dps.state.al.us’

Subject: FW: Median turns!!!

Alabama State Troopers Can you advise on the proper method for two cars, meeting each other on a 4 lane street with a dividing median and traffic lights, to both safely turn left? I say they should turn in front of each other as we do at intersections without medians, my son thinks otherwise, that they should go past each other and turn behind each other. He drew a diagram to illustrate his argument. Thanks for your help.

…Randolph M. Fowler

OK so that is the problem. What do ya’ll think? I doubt we will ever hear back from the Alabama State Government, the only info we get from then is how and when to pay taxes and how our former governor is doing in the slammer. So please let us know.

Take Care,

…jones fowler

Turn left in front of the other car. Of course, keep an eye out for any oncoming vehicles.

This is a case of “use common sense”. Make eye contact with the other driver, figure out what the other person is wanting to do, and drive defensively. Chances are, there isn’t a law that pertains to that particular maneuver.

^^ Amen to that. Seems “proper procedure” doesn’t mean much on todays roads anyway. It’s hard to observe proper traffic practices when you’re in the middle of important phone calls/text msg.

In the case of the instance above- usually people turn in front of each other, but I’ve seen it done the other way too. Mr. Josh is right, in that the other driver and I just kinda looked at each other and it just kinda happened. Gotta say…it felt strangely like a dance move.

Dad is right (at least, as far as I was taught back in driver’s ed…almost 20 years ago). You each make your turn with the break in the median closer to your left, as opposed to each of you pulling forward until you each have the break closer to your right. This way, you each make your turn without crossing each other’s paths, and any cars behind each of you that may be turning as well can do the same.

I agree, however I would probably just hang back and let the other guy do whatever he’s going to do before making my turn. It’s always risky to assume that other drivers know the rules and will actually follow them.

When in doubt, let the other guy go first.
That’s the first law of preventing accidents.

My answer is that if one driver can see the oncoming traffic, he goes first. If you are in a car facing an SUV, the SUV can see oncoming traffic. If you have tinted windows and you can see the oncoming traffic through the untinted windows of the car between you and the traffic, you go first. If there was a car already sitting in the suicide lane waiting to turn, the courteous thing to do would be to pull in behind him.

They have 4 lane roads with medians in Tuscaloosa? It must lead to Saban’s bank. War Eagle!

Down here we don’t have medians. We do have “neutral grounds”.

Do ya’ll have paved roads in Auburn?

I have actually seen the turn lanes painted on the roads when there are multiple turn lanes and a median. You turn if front of the opposing vehicle, median or no median.

The proper way to make a left turn is to stay to the left of the center of the intersection. So you’d turn stay close to the median on your left, as would the car traveling in the opposite direction. You would turn “in front of” that car…just as you would if no median were present, if you had a suicide lane, if you had a traffic signal. The median is NOT a road. You don’t treat is as such.

The following was copied from the Alabama DOT website. (Section 32-5A-130 Required Position and Method of Turning at Intersections)

“…Whenever practicable the turn shall be made to the left of the center of the intersection…”

There is a lot of other verbiage, but the gist is that both cars will pass each other on the LEFT unless markings in the median indicate that you are to treat it as a road. These include a line separating the median into lanes, a signage that indicates you should treat it as multiple lanes, markings on the road that instruct you to treat it as separate lanes).

This has been taught in Driver’s Education for decades. It used to be in the Alabama Driver’s Handbook. I even remember the actual statement, “This is the ONLY time two vehicles are allowed to pass on the LEFT”.