A Left-Turn Lesson for Louisiana Drivers

Let’s get this out in the open: I know how to drive.

It’s a benefit of hailing from the greater Chicagoland area.
Moving to Baton Rouge for college has been a trip in more ways than one. After my yearly 14-hour drive, I must become reacquainted with the people, places and climate of my education’s subtropical backdrop.

I like all four seasons – autumn’s changing leaves, white winters full of snow days, heart-warming springtime and not-quite-as-humid summers. I prefer my public transportation to be abundant and reliable. My homeland’s geographic locations begin as corn and soy farmland and grow into small towns with Dairy Queens, shopping mall-studded suburbs, respectable cities and finally the urban utopia that is Chicago. My closet thrives on H&M.

I support da Bears, Bulls, Cubs and Barack Obama. But most of all, I support good driving.

Katie, my Californian roommate of almost three years, has driven me around since she was forced to live with me in Broussard Hall. And for the past three-ish years, we’ve wondered why so many southern drivers don’t pull out in the left-hand turn lane. Such inactivity at a stoplight in our respective home states would warrant angry honking, swearing, death threats and other impolite behavior.

To avoid an embarrassing plea of ignorance to a Louisiana police officer if pulled over for pulling out at a light, Katie has succumbed to the irritating trend of – sigh – waiting at the line. Better safe than sorry? Not in this girl’s “Prevent Violence” dove-plated automobile.

I’ve got things to do, people to see and people who want to see me.

Not only am I incredibly busy and important, but I am used to being on time – whether I’m driving or not. I grew up surrounded by proper public transportation: Metra, Amtrak and Chicago Transit Authority – oh, my!

In the rare occasions, Louisiana’s left-hand turn-lane occupants do enter the intersection, why don’t they always turn? Maybe it’s a good resting place. Perhaps they need some iPod time. Or, if they’re old-school, this is quite the opportunity to skim the CD case.

But why, sweet Sears Tower, why do some people reverse back into the turn lanes after they have already pulled into an intersection instead of – oh, I don’t know – turning? I’ve asked several residents of Dixieland if such a turn is illegal. The results point to a unanimous “I don’t know.”

Thanks a lot, guys. Well, I’ve got brains as well as beauty, so I Googled Louisiana traffic laws to help Louisiana’s drivers. Believe it or not, I ended up at proper Web sites with the pertinent documents and everything. LRS 32:232 states that “only the colors green, red and yellow shall be used” for traffic signals. Good to know.

On a more relevant note, LRS 32:232 states in sub-paragraph (b) of paragraph (1) that “vehicular traffic facing a green arrow signal, shown alone or in combination with another indication, may cautiously enter the intersection only to make the movement indicated by such arrow, or such other movement as is permitted by other indications shown at the same time. Such vehicular traffic shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians lawfully within an adjacent crosswalk and to other traffic lawfully using the intersection.”

But what about when the light changes? I hear there are two other colors allowed.

That’s where paragraph (2), sub-paragraph (a) comes in.

“Vehicular traffic facing a steady yellow signal alone is thereby warned that the related green signal is being terminated or that a red signal will be exhibited immediately thereafter and such vehicular traffic shall not enter or be crossing the intersection when the red signal is exhibited.”

And when the light turns red, you stop. Preferably at the line, but sometimes there isn’t a line. Then you stop before entering the crosswalk.

What if there isn’t a crosswalk, you ask? Be a reasonable human being and figure it out. But check out the bottom line – pulling into the intersection for left-hand turns is A-OK with the state of Louisiana.

Try this at home, Texas Tigers. Texas Transportation Code Chapter 544.007 totally agrees with its neighbor to the East.

Just make sure to be safe when entering an intersection. As in, don’t hit people, animals, other cars, inactive objects or anything else. And don’t endanger them either.

Let’s not be tacky, guys.

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