In L.A. left turns are not legally recognized, or so it would seem to an outsider from say, a state that has discovered the magic of the green arrow.

In Los Angeles a left turn being made by an out-of-towner goes something like this:

out-of-towner pulls up to the red light in the left-hand-turn lane:"Damn, when is this light going to turn green?" he thinks.

light turns green

out-of-towner finds, to his dismay, that instead of a friendly green-arrow granting him the right-of-way for a left turn, he has a big green circle granting him the right of way to turn left into oncoming traffic and certain death. "What the hell?????"

Out-of-towner observes the local resident driver on the opposite side of the intersection attempting to make a left turn. "Hmm, he's pulling out into the middle of the intersection....and when the light turns RED he goes! AHA!

So the trick to making a left turn in LA is this:

When the light turns green, creep out into the middle of the intersection. When the light turns red, oncoming traffic will be forced to stop (because their light is also red). This is your chance to get out of the middle of the intersection by turning left. Never mind the fact that only two cars can make a left turn during any given cycle of the lights. Never mind the fact that both cars are forced to run the red light in order to execute a left hand turn.

Los Angelinos are concerned with total traffic throughput in any given intersection and don't give a damn about starvation, evidently.

Of course other cities besides LA may have similar traffic rules...

It's not considered running the red light when the light changes while one has already pulled out past the stop line or crosswalk into the intersection waiting to make a left turn. This means the first two people in line can make a Los Angeles left with a clear conscience.

Two things to watch out for, though: often, the third, fourth, and even fifth driver in line to turn left will also go, using the principle that if their bumpers are close enough to each other, it's like everyone's part of the same long freight train. Then there's the person coming from the other direction, who is apparently late to make a pitch to Steven Spielberg or something and runs the red light going straight.

There are green arrows at various intersections in L.A., but since they're not marked in the Thomas Guide, it's a pleasant surprise to run across them on an unfamiliar route. But since some of them only operate during certain hours of the day, it can also be a nasty surprise to be sitting in a left turn lane, looking at a traffic signal with five possible indications, your foot easing off the brake, preparing to make the turn as soon as you make sure everyone who's going to run the red light has done so...and then getting the green ball instead of the arrow.

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