Center, or "two-way left-turn" (TWLT) lanes, have been part of pavement markings for decades. They are prevalent in Franklin County's three largest villages and are common in every city I know of. So why do we still misuse these lanes?
The most frequent misuse seems to be drivers getting into the TWLT lane much too soon prior to their left turn, resulting in vehicles actually driving some distance in these lanes.
To try to facilitate understanding of the proper use of a TWLT lane, let's first discuss turn lanes per se. There are really only two kinds of turn lanes: dedicated and two-way left-turn. Dedicated turn lanes are just that - dedicated to a particular turn (left or right) into another street, usually a major one (see picture), or possibly a commercial facility. Only vehicles intending to turn in the marked direction are able to use a dedicated turn lane. A dedicated turn lane, normally only 100 to 200 feet in length, will have pavement marking arrows showing the direction of the turn. There will also most likely be a sign at the intersection over this lane also showing the direction of traffic using it.
Center turn lane
(Photo — Dave Werner)
Dedicated left-turn lane
(Photo — Dave Werner)
A TWLT lane will be marked by a yellow solid line plus a yellow dashed line on both sides of the turn lane (see picture). When you enter a TWLT lane, it will be the only time a yellow lane marking will legally be on your right side. In the turn lane, pavement markings will show opposing turn arrows, indicating a left turn for vehicles traveling in either direction.
Unlike a dedicated left or right turn lane, where it is expected drivers intending to make the indicated turn will enter at the start of the turn lane, a TWLT lane is NOT to be used in the same manner. No one should drive along a TWLT lane for more than two to three car lengths. Drivers that enter a TWLT lane too early create a hazard for drivers coming from the opposite direction that may also need to use the turn lane from the opposite direction and can't because of a car driving along in that lane. They also create a hazard for vehicles traveling in the same direction that may be overtaken by a driver improperly driving along the TWLT lane.
A TWLT lane may also be used to enter a busy street or highway from a side street or road or from a commercial business. To properly utilize the TWLT lane to enter a highway, the driver waits for a break in traffic from the left, then pulls into the TWLT lane and, when traffic is clear from behind, pulls into the driving lane. He/she should NOT drive along the TWLT lane in order to "merge" into traffic.
Hopefully this explanation of proper use of a TWLT lane helps drivers to better understand its intended use. If you have questions, call Dave Werner at 518-483-1882 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.