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Insurance Helpline | It matters how drivers position to turn - A rethink

Published:Sunday | August 14, 2016 | 8:00 AM

The conclusion in last week's article 'It matters how drivers position to turn' was that the driver who had positioned her vehicle in the middle lane to make a right turn from Half Way Tree Road into Oxford Road (max2uu@gmail.com, Car #3 in the illustration), caused the collision.

It was a slam dunk, as they say in basketball.

However, based on readers' feedback, my initial discussions with the Island Traffic Authority (ITA) head, I am not so sure now that my finding is correct. This is very troubling given the very standard traffic manoeuvre that is involved at this particular road junction.

The markings that currently exist clearly suggest that motorists in the centre lane are permitted to make right turns from Half Way Tree Road onto Oxford Road. This contradicts the information in my 'traffic bible', Cliff Hylton's The Jamaican Driver's Guide.

Photographs taken on August 9, 2016 by one reader, Hugh B. Gordon, near to the scene of the accident, confirm that right turns are allowed.

He writes: "(I) don't know the date that the markings were laid down (but it is likely in the last 18 months). I do recall many times in the recent past seeing vehicles making the right turn from the middle lane with no issue from police posted in the vicinity. And I do recall in the very distant past (many years ago before there were traffic markings on the road) seeing the police stop a vehicle that had made the right turn from the middle lane."

Unfortunately, it is not clear from Mr Gordon's photographs if there are two traffic lights, each with a right turn arrow, at the intersection. The photos were not reproducible for print but are attached to the online version of this column.

A transportation engineer who specialised in operations and road safety matters (call him George) when he worked at the National Works Agency (NWA) and the Ministry of Transport sent me an intriguing email.

He said: "Firstly, the road code publication is outdated and should not be relied on solely. Secondly, of great importance is that the lane discipline is specified by the regulator, in this case, the NWA. In many cases, the middle lane of a three-lane road is given as a shared lane, permitting right turns, while the rightmost lane is a dedicated turn lane. This is usually evidenced by lane markings (arrows), and not by the signal. A typical intersection performing like this is the intersection of Molynes (Road), Eastwood Park Road and South Odeon Avenue.

"Drivers not familiar with the proper procedure for using the lanes (go straight or turn right from middle, turn right only from right lane) will find themselves in the problem described, particularly, if they assume there is only one versus two receiving lanes after the turn is made.

"The driver should have asked the NWA what is the correct operation for the intersection and provided that information to her insurers. She may well find that according to how the NWA has specified that the intersection should operate, she is not at fault."

 

OFFERS GUIDANCE

 

While I am very grateful for this information, more and better particulars are required on a number of issues. They are:

1. While the information in my 'traffic bible' is said to be out of date, there is nothing on the NWA's website or that of its supervising entity, the Ministry of Transportation and Mining, or the Island Traffic Authority's that offers any guidance or information about the current road rules and procedures. Shouldn't this information be posted on a website as a source of reference?

2. I always thought that the NWA was involved in the business of designing, building and maintaining major parts of the island's road network and was not performing regulatory tasks. The agency's website states that its mission is "to plan, build and maintain a reliable, safe and efficient main road network and flood-control system". Is George's description of the NWA's function as a regulator accurate?

3. The traffic regulatory function is undertaken by the Island Traffic Authority". Its job, according to information on the ministry's website, includes "enforcing the provisions of the Road Traffic Act and of (the) regulations made thereunder, regulating and controlling traffic on roads." ITA's function, by my reading, would, therefore, be to formulate and write the rules regarding the making of right turns. NWA's responsibility, on the other hand, would be to mark or supervise the road markings. Is the information about the two entities on both websites up to date?

A writer, Hrmover@yahoo.com, provides additional light on the subject. She wrote: "Some months ago, in 2016, it was announced that both the right-hand lane and the middle lane on Half-Way Tree Road can turn right on to Oxford Road. It was published in the newspaper, but I am not sure which government agency made the announcement. I believe that the traffic lights now show two right-turn arrows. Out of caution, I personally have continued to ensure that I am in the right hand lane on Half-Way Tree Road when I wish to turn right on to Oxford Road."

I am reserving judgment until such time that I receive official word in written from the ITA head, Mr Ludlow Powell. I made contact with him and provided him with copies of the photographs of the road markings. His response did not come in time to meet publication deadline.

- Cedric E. Stephens provides independent information and advice about the management of risks and insurance. For free information or counsel, write to: aegis@flowja.com