Drivers urged to not let ‘suicide lanes’ live up to their name

Coastal Point • R. Chris Clark : Rep. Ron Gray is concerned that people using center turn lanes as merge lanes is dangerous.Coastal Point • R. Chris Clark : Rep. Ron Gray is concerned that people using center turn lanes as merge lanes is dangerous.Traffic can get pretty backed up on a two-lane road. Imagine getting stuck behind the person who can’t turn left because oncoming traffic blocked his way. That’s why center turn lanes are such a timesaver. Drivers can wait there to turn off the roadway, or use it as a merge lane to slip into traffic.

It’s legal to use a center turn lane in either way, but state Rep. Ron Gray is among those concerned that multiple cars may travel in opposite directions in a single lane at the same time.

“I’m afraid for safety reasons,” Gray said. “People need to be aware that the center turn lane is very useful and it needs to be used with caution.”

He first heard eyewitness accounts of near-collisions from his tenants at Hit the Deck outdoor furnishings on Route 54.

“We witness it,” said owner Kebbie Crout. “We see a lot of people pulling out from their neighborhoods,” planning to merge into traffic. “Of course,” Crout added, “when you’re looking to merge, you’re looking behind you” at openings in your desired lane, not at the cars potentially sitting ahead.

“Or seeing people use it as a passing lane… pass my trucks, pass each other. It is becoming a major safety hazard.”

Crout has seen many close calls and risky behavior, but no collisions yet.

“No, we have not had any collisions, but there are times you get nose-to-nose with someone else. Especially on weekends, they pile up and they get frustrated … and they drive a quarter-mile in the center lane to make their turn.”

“It’s considered a suicide lane — terminology that’s been used in the past,” said Delaware State Police Master Cpl. Gary Fournier. “It’s a lane that’s used to make turns or, once you’re in the middle of the lane, pull out into traffic.

“Otherwise, you would never get into traffic,” Fournier acknowledged, in an accurate statement for a clogged artery such as Route 54. “As with any roadway, you have to use all due caution and care when going out into traffic,” he advised.

“I’m just worried somebody’s gonna nail me someday, or my employees or trucks. I’m watching somebody do it right now,” Crout said, describing a car zipping along in the center turn lane. “If there had been another car waiting to turn into that development…”