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Things That Go Squeeze on the Right

Drivers who crowd lanes to make turns are irritating, yes, but not always breaking the law.

May 27, 2003|Sharon Bernstein and Li Fellers | Times Staff Writers

Ever had a car squeeze up close to you on the right, so close that you thought it was going to scrape the paint off your car door, to make a right turn without waiting for the line of cars to move forward?

These people dodge in and out among the cars parked in the curb lane, rattling the slower-moving, more polite drivers to their left, sometimes making their right turns even as their fellow motorists try to do the same thing.

A reader, Chris Ridenhour, is particularly annoyed when people do this on Olympic Boulevard after 9 a.m. in the morning, when the right-hand lane becomes available for parking.

Angry Words

"I feel as though everyone should cease using the right lane when the signs indicate so, and I do everything I can to block people from trying to beat me and beat parked cars. I feel it's one of the most obnoxious, rude things drivers can do in this town."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday May 29, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 49 words Type of Material: Correction
Left-hand turns -- The Behind the Wheel column in Tuesday's California section incorrectly stated that drivers making a left-hand turn from a two-way street onto a two-way street must turn into the nearest lane. In fact, they may turn into either lane if it is safe to do so.

Is this legal?

We asked California Highway Patrol Officer Brian Joy about drivers who weave through the parking lanes.

"It sounds bad but, as long as you do it safely," it's legal, said Joy, who has taken much ribbing for his name from irate motorists he has pulled over. "You can drive side by side for a mile in the same lane, as long as it's large enough."

The reason, he said, is that there is no legal distinction made between cars that drive side by side and cars that drive bumper-to-bumper: Both are considered to be sharing a lane under the law -- and any other interpretation would make scofflaws out of the millions of commuters who trail each other like so many bumper cars each morning and afternoon.

Moreover, he said, squeezing up along the right -- even if it puts two cars in the same lane -- allows one motorist to turn right while the other moves forward. But drivers can still be ticketed if they get too close.

"An officer can determine it to be 'safe' at his or her discretion," Joy said.

Several readers also wrote to complain about drivers who, when turning left or right, steer into whichever lane they choose.

"When I learned to drive, one was supposed to turn into the closest lane," wrote Ed Sowell of Placentia. "Today this seems to be done by no one but me."

Are drivers still required to turn into the nearest lane?

Joy said the law has not changed: When turning, one must always turn into the closest lane. This means drivers turning right from the far-right lane should turn into the far-right lane of the street onto which they are moving. Similarly, left turns made from the left lane in a standard two-way intersection should be made into the left lane of the destination street.

Several readers wanted some tips on rules and etiquette related to carpool lanes.

Diana Gutierrez of Whittier complained that buses using the carpool lanes drag everybody down.

"I have to admit it's a vehicle with more than two passengers," Gutierrez wrote. "But they do go slower."

Are buses allowed in the carpool lanes?

Yes, yes, yes, said Officer Joy. And he added that a maneuver some drivers use to get around the buses is definitely illegal.

"I've pulled over people who've gotten out of a carpool lane -- crossing the double yellow line -- to pass a bus and then crossing the double yellow line again back into the carpool lane," he said.

These drivers often say they did so because the buses were moving too slowly. It is illegal to drive so slowly that you impede traffic, Joy said, but buses usually don't count.

Mary Lu Booker of Huntington Beach had the opposite concern.

Driving south on the San Diego Freeway on a recent Friday morning, Booker wrote, she moved into the carpool lane.

"I looked in my rearview mirror and, in a flash, a car appeared on my bumper, obviously wanting to go faster than I was going," she wrote, adding that she was already going 75 mph. "The driver proceeded to beep his horn at me."

Booker said the driver honked again, then whipped out of the carpool lane, whizzed around and in front of her and back into the carpool lane, and slammed on his brakes.


Drivers in a carpool lane must adhere to the same speed limit as everybody else.

Because those who use the lanes may be trying to get somewhere quickly and are often impatient, there frequently are tense confrontations in these lanes, which some drivers regularly weave in and out of.

This, however, is illegal, along with the speeding.

"Some people ... expect traffic to travel faster in that lane, but the speed limit is the same," said CHP Officer Joy. He said he would ticket drivers engaging in such shenanigans on the freeway.

"People," he said, "don't want to wait."

If you have a question, gripe or story idea about driving in Southern California write to Behind the Wheel c/o Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012, or send an e-mail to

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