Dear Ace: This isn’t a Charlottesville question, per se, but could you help settle a disagreement about driving etiquette? When trying to make a left-hand turn at a traffic light, my wife believes that creeping out into the intersection while waiting to turn is perfectly all right. What is the correct way to handle this situation?—Emile E. Post
Emile: You’re right. This isn’t a Charlottesville question, “per se.” But since traffic is such a touchy subject ‘round these parts, Ace feels obligated, as a fellow motorist (and all-around nice guy), to find an answer. On the other hand, Ace does not like to be the catalyst in a marital dispute, so he’ll try to be as gentle as possible, since no answer to this question could be presented smoothly to both parties.
First, the bad news: Your wife is wrong. Oh! Sorry. …Your wife is, shall we say, factually misinformed. According to Richard Wharam, driver education teacher for Albemarle County schools, it is illegal to edge out into the middle of a controlled intersection (a.k.a. an intersection with a traffic light or sign) while waiting to turn, and any person who does this “should be shot on sight.” In light of Ace’s effort to sugarcoat, he thought that comment was a bit harsh. Of course, Richard’s brash statement was only that of a concerned citizen, which Ace realized when Richard asked him if he was on a cell phone in a car (and thus unable to write things down). After Ace assured Richard that he never doodles and drives, Richard told Ace that “creeping out,” as you say, is an epidemic among adult drivers, but it’s important to stay behind the stop bar.
Now, the good news: Richard also gave Ace the answer to an age-old question that may plague our readers: Who has the right of way at an uncontrolled intersection? Most people go by the old rule of whomever got there first gets to go first. But, Richard told Ace that the real way to settle it is for the driver on the left to yield to the driver on the right.
All this talk of driving has got Ace a little thirsty. Whaddya say you take Ace and the little lady out for a drink? You can be the DD—Decent Driver.
You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 18 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org.