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road sage

In a previous column, I examined left turns. Specifically, the fact that though they are an essential driving skill, few motorists can actually execute them correctly. Judging by the driving we see each day, the left turn is indeed a sinister one.

It got me thinking about the right turn – the most straightforward driving move. Surely, proper right turns are an achievable goal. The ability to turn right correctly should be within the wheelhouse of any driver. It is the most basic of all driving moves – with the possible exception of putting your car into cruise control or park.

Here's how the Saskatchewan Driver's Handbook sums up the perfect right turn:

1. Decide to make your right turn well in advance of the turn. Signal, check your rear gate and check your blind spot. When safe, move as close to the right as possible.

2. Check for traffic, pedestrians and other real or potential hazards in or near the intersection. A basic left, straight ahead, right, left sweeping pattern will be sufficient.

3. Slow down (and shift to a lower gear if you are in a manual transmission vehicle).

4. Check again for real or potential hazards.

5. If there are no potential hazards, complete your right turn into the first available driving lane.

So that's what we're shooting for. Easy. Right?


Yet, that's the problem. A right turn is so easy most drivers don't give it any thought. When they turn left they know that a modicum of focus is involved, but when they turn right their attention goes elsewhere. They're lazy or distracted (most of the time both). As a result, pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers are put at unnecessary risk. As with most driving sins, while the bad habit is universal, there are different manifestations of the behaviour.

Here are the varieties of right-turn transgressors:

The Talker: Phone pressed to the ear with his mind who knows where. Oh, did he almost run over your foot? A small price to pay so he could tell his wife he'll be home in five minutes.

The Glider: A mainstay at stop signs. He accelerates into his turn and rolls through the stop until he is effectively halfway through his right. Then, as if the guilt suddenly catches up with him, he halts. Don't worry, it's mostly for show because a second later he'll blast through.

The Preener: Often found during morning rush hour. Is that a mirror? She takes right turns as an opportunity to check herself out. Dab off a little excess eyeliner or put on lipstick. What's the worst that could happen?

The Punitive Parent: The kids have been misbehaving all day. But enough's enough. Now that mom is turning right, the pressure to pay attention is off and she has the chance to take her eyes off the road to settle the backseat conflict.

The Gawker: Though you can find this species in the winter, it's most prevalent during warm weather months. The Gawker cannot resist the opportunity to enjoy the scenery – be it male or female. If he sees something alluring on the sidewalk, in an adjacent car or on a bicycle, he makes his right turn with both his ever-concupiscent eyes fixed on the object of his desire. Woe to the rest of us.

The Curb Rider: Geometry was not this driver's best subject in high school. The curb rider prefers straight angles, ideally across the sidewalk. The first wheel clears but the second rolls right over.

The Bike Lane Houdini: You find this persuasion at urban traffic lights where there is congestion. You see a bike lane, he sees a right-hand passing lane. Though it's narrow and unsuited for automobiles, the Bike Lane Houdini squeezes down it, creeping along traffic so he can make his right turn sooner than everyone else.

The Reader: I once saw a woman make a right turn while reading a magazine. It only happened once so it's not technically a species – more a legend, like Big Foot or parliamentary democracy.

So, there's a start. No doubt I may have missed one or 20. When it comes to malfunctioning motorists, there is no limit to the many-splendoured array of half-witted, ill-advised, dangerous moves on display.

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