The left turner
Take a ride with me on Highway 138, the two lane road that links Cornwall with that super slab Highway 417. We are travelling south from 417 and are approaching the turnoff to Moose Creek (CR-15). Vehicles turning into Moose Creek do so by using the right turn lane. Through traffic continues straight on 138. This is a four way intersection with the turn to Moose Creek on the right and a less travelled McLean Road to the east. Both of these roads have stop signs.
In front of us are two cars and a large four wheel truck. We are all travelling around the speed limit of 80 km/h and our motorcycle is following the truck. As we approach the intersection, the truck signals a right turn into Moose Creek and moves to the right lane. The two cars pass through the intersection without slowing down. As we approach the intersection, a car coming from Moose Creek on our right makes a sudden left turn and cuts us off, necessitating an instant emergency braking action.
What I have just described is one of the most common hazards encountered by a motorcyclist. We call them the dreaded left turners. Quite often, these situations result in a collision with tragic consequences for the motorcyclist. The left turner can be an oncoming vehicle or one entering from a side road, alley or roadside business such as a shopping centre or a gas station.
According to the Hurt Report, 28% of fatal collisions between cars and motorcycles are the result of left turners. The Hurt Report was a motorcycle safety study conducted in the USA and published in 1981 by Professor Harry Hurt.
The incident I described above happened to me in the fall of 2009. To make matters worse, the driver of the left turning car was talking on a cell phone. So why didn’t he see me? What could I have done to avoid that emergency braking manoeuvre? In my next column we will examine these two questions and discuss how to recognize a left turner and how to avoid colliding with them.