No, not those of you who Swing dance or fulfill your carnal desires by stretching the boundaries of marriage (though you still may be included). This is for our road brethren that swing wide whilst making turns — both to the left and right as a matter of directional, and political, correctness. The physical barriers and road striping aren’t swinging, why are you?
The topic of Swingers was on my extensive list of items to discuss and will be the first thanks to a near-paint-swapping incident this morning. So much inspiration out there…!
A deeper explanation of Swingers is warranted. The act of Swinging is a poorly executed turn but it differs from just a plain old wide turn in that a Swinger enters the turn lane properly but then swings back out of the turn lane just before starting the turn. Picture an outward bump in a nice smooth turn arc. A wide turner never completely enters the turn lane and obstructs the traffic lane until their turn is half the way complete. While both techniques demonstrate poor skills and/or a lack of consideration, the Swinger is potentially more dangerous because they intrude back into a traffic space previously surrendered.
Swinging tends to be more prevalent with right turns because of those big old nasty curbs and the fear induced by their relatively immobile nature. Not to mention the ability of a curb to wreak havoc on tires, wheels, body kits, rocker panels, and other low hanging automotive fruit. (Ask my sister about trying to recover the rocker trim panel from our parents’ ‘66 Ford Fairlane.) Right hand turns are more challenging spatially due to the inherent lack of vision of the moving and stationary components in play; the comfort level of the driver stems from their “feel” and experience.
My excitement this morning was due to a left turner.
Chain of Events
- I’m driving 40 MPH in the left lane of four lane street that has two lanes in each direction plus a center turn lane.
- The driver two cars ahead signals a left turn at an upcoming intersection with a two lane street with a signal.
- They enter the turn lane cleanly, begin slowing, and look poised to complete the turn as there is a break in oncoming traffic.
- So far, so good.
- As the car in front of me passes alongside the turning car, the person turning swings right, just missing the rear of the passing car and is now heading into my path.
- No biggie, I slow; I think they have changed their mind and want to continue straight.
- Then they correct/adjust slightly and move back into the turn lane.
- I begin to accelerate thinking they are going to go through with the left turn.
- As I approach, they veer right again and I’m staring at their right-rear quarter panel.
- Uh-oh! I brake very firmly to give them space thinking, again, they want to continue straight.
- Then they swing a hard left and proceed to make a U-turn!
So now I have to add U, or double-left, turns to the list of Swinging events! Swingers don’t normally provide so much excitement through their actions though they do impede the general traffic flow, increase the risk of fender-benders, and make some people (TDG) cranky.
Related Driving Habits and Skills
- Be alert! Scan ahead and be aware of areas where turns are initiated, both marked and unmarked. Observe general traffic flow and conditions in order to anticipate such events.
- Allow space and time for vehicles entering turn lanes. This is especially important on streets with narrow lanes. In many areas lanes have shrunk over time so additional traffic or turn lanes could be added. Narrow lanes leave less margin for error and create conditions where Swingers really feel the need to do their thing!
- Are you a Swinger? Pay attention to how you make your turns for the next few days or weeks. Do you find yourself getting nervous and not keeping a tight, consistent line while turning? Ask someone you know to be a good driver to watch you and give you feedback. Slow down and practice making proper, smooth turns. It is important to remain alert and focused but to also be relaxed.
Swingers fall under the general category of proper lane management about which I’ll have much more to discuss in future posts.
Did You Know?
- In many cases, U-turns — similar to the one I encountered today — require a full stop from the side street, just as if you are turning out from of the side street.
- U-turns initiated from a curb/parking lane are almost always illegal.
Okay, time for you Swingers to get out there and practice.
Thanks for reading. Your feedback, experience, and observations are always appreciated.