SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– Answer Man: When I drive west on James River Freeway I often exit at the diverging diamond at National. I then turn left from the one-lane that merges onto southbound National. There are two southbound lanes at National here, but there is also a traffic light. I stop at the red light and wait for the green arrow.
But I’ve had people behind me get very upset that I won’t turn left on red. I repeatedly have seen people turn left on red. They’re breaking the law, right? — Carolyn Holmes, of Fordland
Carolyn, your cause is just. You are right; they are wrong.
That’s according to Marc Lewis, a traffic center manager with the Missouri Department of Transportation.
In fact, I went to the intersection Tuesday to take a photo and saw drivers repeatedly turn left on red.
What they do is stop and then proceed on red — perhaps not knowing a green turn signal is coming.
I’m sure they look to the right and see southbound traffic stopped at a nearby light and conclude that left-on-red is OK.
Or maybe they know it’s illegal and just don’t care.
Not all diverging diamonds in Springfield are the same. The city has five, including the nation’s very first one at Kansas Expressway and Interstate 44.
I drove there, also, Tuesday.
Coming off westbound I-44 there is a single lane merging onto southbound Kansas Expressway. The big difference here is that here is a “yield” sign, not a traffic signal.
So I asked Lewis: Why?
Why a yield sign at one location and a traffic light at the other?
Others are concerned, too
In general, he tells me, whenever you have a single lane to merge onto a major thoroughfare — such as National Avenue or Kansas Expressway — you have a yield sign. If there are two lanes, generally, there is a traffic signal.
Both diverging diamond entrances onto Kansas Expressway have a single lane.
But one of the diverging-diamond entrances onto northbound National Avenue has two lanes, where there is a traffic signal.
The one we’re talking about has only one merging lane.
Despite this, a traffic light was included here “for appearances of consistency,” says Lewis.
In other words, the other merge lane had a traffic light, so this one had to have one.
Now that I’ve explained all this, things are going to change in a couple of months.
Your concerns, Carolyn, apparently have been shared with MoDOT by others.
A yield sign soon will replace the traffic light at westbound James River Freeway at southbound National Avenue.
“We have heard questions and complaints about people turning left on red, and even though people running the light is a law-enforcement issue, we felt we could help out the situation by removing the signal and placing yield signs,” Lewis tells me, via email.
“It also gives us the benefit of reducing traffic congestion by reducing the amount of traffic sitting there waiting for a green light,” he says.
Meanwhile, Carolyn, I suggest you clip this story and have it ready next time someone behind you lays on the horn or flips you off.
Calmly leave your vehicle, smile and — this is important! — first ask if they have a gun in their car.
If the answer is no, continue. Show them this story and politely explain why you are right and they are wrong.
And then dash back to your car, floor it and get the heck out of there — red light or not.
Keep those questions coming. Send them to The Answer Man at 417-836-1253, firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @stevepokinNL or by mail to 651 Boonville Ave., Springfield, MO 65806.