Drive Smart columnist Tim Schewe.

Drivesmart column: Caution better than blind faith when entering an intersection

The first thing to do is pause for an instant

By Tim Schewe

I watched the driver on either side of me this morning on my way to work. We were stopped waiting for a red light and I could see that both of them were totally focused on that light. Neither one of them moved their heads and immediately started off when the light turned green. What a wonderful example of blind faith!

The two most likely sources of conflict for a driver facing a fresh green light are drivers who speed up on the yellow to beat the red light on the cross street and drivers who are turning left from the oncoming lanes.

Drivers who speed up approaching a yellow light are choosing to increase the risk that they will run the light if they misjudge and it turns red. Drivers who proceed on the green without doing a 180 degree scan of the intersection first are inviting a broadside or T-bone collision. This type of collision is likely to result in severe injury for the passengers on the side of the vehicle that is struck.

The first thing to do is pause for an instant. Remember that you must yield to cross traffic that is still in the intersection.

Look left, look right and insure that cross traffic is coming to a stop. This is the 180 degree scan. Having done that, look left again and then move your foot from the brake to the accelerator if the way is clear. It never hurts to supplement faith with a bit of caution.

This same practice of looking left and right should also take place before you enter an intersection where you have a stale green light. Similarly, if there are no traffic lights and cross traffic has a stop sign, look left, right, left again.

Yes, cross traffic is supposed to come to a stop when our light changes to green. You can probably get by believing that they will until someone makes a mistake or willfully disobeys the light. Blindly hitting the throttle as soon as the green is exhibited doesn’t seem like such a good idea now, does it?

Finally, you don’t have to be a driver to exercise the left, right, left scan. A pedestrian stepping into a crosswalk would be wise to do this before leaving the curb. Many drivers don’t like to stop before turning right on a red light and are probably looking left for cross traffic rather than looking right for you.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit