Jeffrey Scott Phelts died in a car accident in Lakeland, Florida on March 4, 2017. He was driving north on South Florida Avenue when he crossed over into oncoming traffic near Orange Street. The accident happened at approximately 5:30 p.m. The other driver involved was Gavin Baulac, who sustained minor injuries.
Was Improper Left Hand Turn Involved?
While there is a left hand turn lane at this particular intersection in Lakeland, there is not an arrow on the traffic signal to give people turning left the right of way. Therefore, at this intersection, every vehicle turning left must wait for a clear opportunity to execute the turn and must do so yielding to all oncoming traffic.
Making A Left Turn Without A Turn Arrow Can Be A Challenge
Despite how common these type of intersections are in Florida, making a left hand turn on a busy city road can be a challenge, particularly at certain times of the day. At times where traffic is heavy, it is possible that there may not be a clear opportunity to make the left hand turn because of the constant flow of traffic. When there is never a break in traffic, people attempting to make left hand turns will frequently push the boundaries of what is permitted by making the turn on a yellow light at the end of a traffic cycle.
Trying To Turn Left On Yellow Risks That Through-Traffic Stops First
While I have done so many times myself, I never like having to turn on yellow to get across an intersection. In my mind, it is far better to have a dedicated turn arrow or much more time than is actually needed to make it across the intersection. Whenever making a left hand turn through a yellow light, I always make sure that through-traffic is slowing down before starting my turn. The reason that I do this is because I do not trust other people to stop at the light, even if it is red.
If In Doubt, You Should Not Make The Move
If there is any doubt as to whether you can safely make a maneuver on the roadway, it is better to either wait it out or to find an alternative route.
While Mr. Phelts has some degree of fault for this accident, he may not be 100% responsible in that the other driver might have been able to stop rather than going through the intersection. For people who only see black and white (right or wrong), this is accident is clearly Mr. Phelts’ fault to them. However, if this accident occurred at the end of a traffic light cycle, then it is entirely possible that the other driver should have seen a vehicle trying to turn left and should have tried to stop at the light. This is defensive driving. The best accident is the one that you never have-regardless of who was right and who was wrong.