When you think about it, left turns across two lanes of traffic going in opposite directions are kind of crazy. Only an admixture of luck, skill, and a collective social agreement to, as a general rule, avoid crashing into each other keeps you alive. In fact, left turns increase the potential for an accident and also waste fuel. So traffic engineers have come up with a new street design, called “superstreets” that get rid of left turns from side streets onto major roads. And a new study says they are both faster, and safer.
The design uses dividers to force most turns to be right hand turns. Want to go in the opposite direction? Use the U-turns located just down the road from the intersection. You can also make lefts from a limited turn lane, but it only goes over one lane of traffic.
Superstreets have been around since the 60’s, first pionereered in Michigan, where they are called “The Michigan Left.” Why they are getting attention now is the North Carolina State University study, the first of its kind, finds that superstreets reduce travel time by 20%. See, the U-turns are actually faster because drivers aren’t stuck at the light trying to wait for traffic to clear enough to turn. Not only that, but the superstreets studied had 46% fewer reported car collisions and 63% fewer collisions that ended in personal injury.
City planners should take note and think about adding superstreets to their designs.