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VIDEO: Truck nearly collides with car in Phoenix center turn lane

Posted: 6:57 PM, Jun 30, 2018
Updated: 2018-07-01 22:12:45Z

If the term "suicide lane" isn't troubling enough, people not knowing how to use them is even worse.

The City of Phoenix installed the now-called "suicide lanes" more aptly known as universal turn lanes back in the 70's to address traffic concerns heading into and out of downtown Phoenix.  

If you're not familiar, they are those middle yellow lanes running between Northern and McDowell Road's along 7th Street and 7th Avenue.  

From 6-9 AM Southbound traffic is only allowed in those lanes Monday through Friday.  The directions switch in the afternoon.  From 4-6 PM northbound traffic can hop on those lanes, Monday through Friday.  All other times they can be used to make left-hand turns.  

Arizona statute 28-751 says this about two way left lanes:

"If a special lane for making left turns by drivers proceeding in opposite directions has been indicated by official traffic control devices:

(a) A driver shall not make a left turn from any other lane.

(b) A driver shall not drive a vehicle in the lane except if preparing for or making a left turn from or into the roadway or if preparing for or making a u-turn if otherwise permitted by law." 

Those "suicide lanes" are part of Eric Ashenfelter's daily morning and evening commute.  

On Friday he had his dash cam rolling when he noticed several near misses with cars along that lane near 7th Street and Bethany Home Road.

"My reaction was here we go again," he said.

He says almost daily he sees close calls along that lane. 

"It's always sketchy. I try to stay out of that lane," he said.

His camera was rolling around 4:30 p.m. when a large equipment truck was heading northbound in that lane. During that time of the day northbound traffic has the right away.  

Within 30 seconds Ashenfelter's camera captured three near misses with other cars.  

"He swerved around that first car going onto oncoming traffic, and then there was a second car that was waiting to turn left in the wrong direction in that lane that actually was able to get out of his way in time, and then the third the white truck you see in the video where that truck wasn't able to get out of the way in time, and the large crane truck had to stop," Ashenfelter said.  

The scariest part he says was that the large truck had to swerve Ito oncoming traffic to avoid hitting a car traveling the wrong direction in that lane.

"Whether he had to or not that's a very dangerous situation," he said. 

In 2011, the City of Phoenix undertook a project to improve safety and give drivers a better understanding of how that lane works, updating signs to help get the message across.  

The city also added a left turn arrow at 7th Avenue and Camelback Road and graphics.  

ABC15 reached out to the City of Phoenix to see if they had any other plans to improve safety or update their signs. We're still waiting to hear back.

Phoenix police want to use this as a reminder for all drivers to be on alert because not everyone knows how those lanes work.

Ashenfelter says he'd like to see them go away but agrees that they do help with the flow of traffic during those busy morning hours. He says he hopes the city can update their signs to make people more aware.

"Maybe some electronic signs, something more visually attracting that makes people pay attention to what's going on," he said. 

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