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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, April 17, 2005

Accident-free expert calls for patience if turning left

 •  Driver Beware
A special report on O'ahu's traffic problems, including video and interactive graphics

By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Transportation Writer

Take it from someone who has been driving safely for a long time: Be patient.

That's the best way to avoid accidents at busy intersections that allow left turns, said Ernie Kop, head of the Honolulu Driving School.

"Patience. That's the No. 1 thing," said Kop, a driving instructor who has helped more than 5,000 people get their licenses in Honolulu during a career that has spanned almost 40 years without any major accidents.

"If you're making a left turn, you're supposed to yield. So wait until there are no more cars coming. Even when you see the light turn yellow, wait again. Make sure all the cars have stopped before you turn. You know there's always going to be someone who doesn't stop for the yellow light. I see it every day."

Even if the light has turned red, drivers should still be sure the coast is clear, Kop said.

"Don't worry about the yellow light. Don't worry about the red light. Don't worry about the people behind you. Just be patient. Even if you have the right to go, you may end up in a crash. So make sure all the cars have stopped, then make your turn," he said.

The AAA road club, in its safe-driving course, suggests that drivers look for intersections that offer left-turn signals or stop signs when they have to turn left.

When waiting at a left-turn signal, keep your front tires facing straight ahead, as opposed to angling them to the left, the group says. That way, if bumped from behind, the car will head straight instead of heading into oncoming traffic.

Best of all, some safety groups say, is to avoid left turns altogether and, instead, make a series of right turns to get headed in the proper direction.

Good advice, Kop said, but "nobody has enough patience to do that these days."