Driving right around left turners and those waiting behind them

Say you drive up to a red light with a line of cars waiting. You want to drive straight through the intersection and you take your spot at the end of the line. The light turns green but the person at the front of the line wants to turn left and has to wait for an opening in the oncoming traffic (no left turn lane or light). The head car has pulled out into the intersection, but for whatever reason no one is going around them, so your lane is not moving. To your right is a right turn only lane with nobody in it. You check your mirrors and see no right tuners approaching. If you pull over into the RTO lane, you’d have a clear shot to get around the line of cars, head straight through and be on you way. Do you (a) continue to wait behind the line, or (b) avail yourself of the unused RTO lane to get around the line?

You do NOT use the right turn only lane to get around backed up traffic going straight. You use the right turn only lane to turn right. That’s why it’s labeled that way.

I take traffic controls literally. If I’m not turning right, I don’t enter a “Right turn only” lane.

And even if the right lane isn’t explicitly marked as right-turn-only, do you check to see if there’s anyone in that lane before pulling around to the right, or do you just charge into it and hope that anyone already in that lane has good enough brakes?

I learned yesterday that the answer is apparently “charge in”. I also learned yesterday that I apparently do have good enough brakes.

Seriously, folks, that car ahead of you is going to be there for maybe another ten seconds. If you can’t afford another ten seconds on your commute, that was a serious failure of planning on your part. And an accident would cost you a heck of a lot more than ten seconds.

“Whatever reason” likely being that the other drivers are all sane, reasonable, and law-abiding. You seem to be implying here that if everyone else is being safe, that gives you license to be unsafe.

WADR, you didn’t seem to fully read the OP and you are projecting some things into it.

  1. OP explicitly says you check to see if anyone is coming down the RTO lane.
  2. It may add quite a bit more than 10 secs; that’s not specified in the scenario. (It also implies there is or mar be in your mind an added time amount that would make it OK to use the RTO; if so, what is it)
  3. I didn’t indicate what I would do or what I think is OK or not. I just put the scenario out there.


The fact that you should not use a right-turn-only lane to go straight through the intersection needs to be considered from two perspectives.
(1) You’re not supposed to do it.
(2) Everyone else in the line ahead of you waiting to go straight knows that, and will not expect anyone else to do it.

So, as you charge through the intersection, the lead straight-ahead car may NOW decide that there is room to safely pull around the left-turning car, and move slightly to the right and into your path. Should he check his mirror for idiots (i.e. you) before doing that? Maybe, but he’s in the middle of an intersection with many other things to monitor for safety. And when you hit him, the accident is 100% your fault.

Not to mention that the turning car may decide it’s not possible and accelerate straight ahead instead of making the turn.

Use the right turn lane to turn right, find a place to do a legal U-turn, go back up to the intersection and take another right to get back on your route.

You have less traffic than i have ever seen. That car is going to be there until the light cycles, and he sneaks through because he’s already in the intersection. There is zero chance your will get to the intersection this light cycle, and if things are as described, there’s a good chance you will be there for several light cycles.

Wait. If there’s room for them to get around the front car, doesn’t that mean they are also using the right turn lane? And yes, of course they should check their mirror for people in the right turn lane. Hell, there may be people who want to turn right.

Anyway, i don’t know what I’d do. It probably depends on a lot of other details.

I have done this occasionally, when the line of nattering ninnies ahead of me shows no sign of shortening significantly in my lifetime. But I don’t use the right-turn lane as a means of short-circuiting straight-ahead traffic, largely because it’s semi-sociopathic, blaring horn-inducing and someone else ahead of me in line might get the same idea just as I’m roaring ahead, leading to possible breakage and contusions.

Around here that is accomplished in the first 15 feet after that right turn.

Been passed lots of times by drivers in the right (parking) lane when I was first in line waiting for the green. Sometimes the passer doesnt wait for green.

Couple weeks ago I was 3-4 in line at a red light and a fellow passes me on the right. I figure he’s going to slide in ahead of everyone, but no. He u-turns through the intersection and heads back the way he came.

Its fun driving here where anything goes!

In a small tight intersection, sure. But there’s often enough space to pull slightly right to get past a left-turner once you’re IN the intersection and just past the point where right-turners have turned. That’s what people often do - and it’s the thing that’s not happening here that’s making the driver in OP’s scenario impatient.

Sure, all the time, and most people around here do as well.

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen an intersection with a dedicated right hand turn lane, and no dedicated left turn lane. Some pretty shoddy traffic engineers would have to come up with that.

Also, the right hand turn lane would end at the intersection. If you took it, then you are not going to have anywhere to go once you get to the intersection. At best, you are going to have to squeeze between the left turning car, and the cars in the adjoining road to your right, but it’s not going to be much room at all.

Now, that said, in an intersection where there is only one lane, and the person in front of me is trying to turn left, I’ll squeeze by them if I am turning right.

Same where I live. But the big problem would be that there is probably only one lane across the intersection. If the person in front turns, and the next person proceeds straight, and the person after them, the person trying to go straight in the right turn lane will have nowhere to go. That’s just asking for trouble.
Most of our right turn lanes were to the right of islands so this wouldn’t be possible anyhow.

Yeah, I’m having trouble seeing the layout of this intersection that makes this maneuver make any sense.

Does the OP have an example of this intersection? It may make it easier to determine what is appropriate.

It’s not all that uncommon in my experience where traffic is fairly sparse. It keeps the right lane clear to allow drivers to do the right on red, and left turners are not blocking traffic for long because there’s rarely a long continuous stream of oncoming traffic. But if there’s little traffic, almost any road layout is fine…

I agree that a dedicated right turn lane makes little sense for traffic flow on a busy two-lane road where left turns are allowed. Which I do think makes OP’s scenario an unusual occurance.

Where I live, a number of drivers use the sidewalk as that dedicated right turn lane on a busy two-lane road

I’ve seen a dedicated right turn lane. It happens where a lot of people want to turn right, and it’s feasible to turn right on red. And yes, if there’s no one in the right lane, someone in the other lane could creep by in it. But odds are there are also people turning right, and everyone stuck behind the under-aggressive left-turner is just screwed. And traffic will be building up. And we’ll all be at this intersection for a while.

I honestly can’t imagine a scenario where it would be a teen second wait.