The Wrong Way to Make a Right Turn on Red

Greetings, dear ones!

I’ve been talking a lot about pausing and being in the present moment in these messages, usually based on some internal experience I’ve had, and always related in some way to speaking out our truth. The story of this pause is a little different. It’s a potentially life-saving pause for any of us who are moving between one and two tons of metal around our communities at varying speeds, that is, driving. Here’s what happened.

One night last week, I was driving home in the torrential rain, exhausted and longing for my warm bed. I was about to make a right turn on red from 2nd Street onto Independence Ave.

I was looking to the left, to see if any car was coming, and as I was looking to the left, my car was moving – slowly, but moving – to the right. Notice I said, “my car was moving.” Not “I was driving my car to the right without looking.”

Seeing that no one was coming from the left, I started to pick up speed to complete the turn. As I turned my head to the right, in a split second, I saw..what the…?! Not even a whole person…just a torso with a back pack, soaking wet, banging the hood of my car with their (his/her?) hands as I jammed on the brakes.

My heart and breath stopped short with my car. I watched my near-victim continue to cross Independence, and then, my mind tormented by possibilities, I started to breathe again as I continued to drive home.

I could have killed, or at least badly injured that person. I need to make sure that possibility never happens again.

So that’s where the pause comes in. I’ve been paying attention, and I noticed that when I’m making a right turn on red, it is automatic for me to roll forward at an angle as I scope out whether cars are coming from the left. Otherwise, I can’t always see around the parked cars. But I’m looking to the left as I roll forward, so I don’t see what’s happening to my right…where the car is going. It’s scary and dangerous, and I’ve been doing it for years!

Now I’m committed to pausing before I make a right turn on red, and paying attention to both left and right as I move forward. It sounds so “duh,” but it’s hard!

Why am I telling you this? Because I suspect I’m not the only one who is unaware of creating this danger. Here’s what the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, (“a U.S. non-profit organization funded by auto insurers…to reduce the number of motor vehicle crashes.” WikipediA.) has to say: “Studies conducted after states first adopted right-turn-on-red laws found that allowing right turns on red increased pedestrian and bicyclist collisions at intersections by 43-123 percent…and 93 percent of these crashes resulted in injuries to the pedestrians and bicyclists. Click here for links to the studies.

My invitation to you: take a moment the next time you’re making a right turn on red, (or turning on the radio, or answering a phone call!) to pause and be sure that you are paying attention to the whole scene around you. It’s the Pause that could save a life.

Much love and many blessings,