Controversial "Michigan Left" intersection reduces crashes, delays in Texas

A Texas city that implemented Michigan's unique left hand turns has seen a big drop in traffic and car wrecks.

Travelers to Michigan have been baffled for decades about the state's unique left turns used at major intersections throughout the state. Although some foreign countries have adopted the system, it wasn't until Texas called on Michigan to help it manage a crash-prone intersection in a Dallas suburb that the Michigan Left became well known outside of the mitten state.

The Michigan Left requires drivers to turn right and make a U-turn rather than darting through oncoming traffic to make a left turn. Although the system is more time consuming when traffic is light, Michigan found that it reduced wrecks during rush hour after it opened the first interchange at 8 Mile Road and Livernois Avenue in Detroit in the early 1960s.

When it was first installed at the intersection of Legacy Drive and Preston Road in Plano, Texas, the Michigan Left intersection was met with much criticism and confusion from local and regional drivers, but it appears that the traffic pattern is working.

Plano's main business corridor is home to numerous major companies and, as a result, swells with traffic during peak rush hour times despite a proliferation of six-lane divided surface roads.

Plano City Council members heard good news from the city's transportation engineering manager on Monday night: Backup at the intersection had been reduced by 60 percent, which means that vehicles cross through the intersection about 35 seconds faster than before.

"The project was designed because of the high number of accidents that were occurring at this location," transportation engineering manager Lloyd Neal said, according to Star Local News.

"At this location, there was about 7 percent of the traffic turning left, but they were given over 34 percent of the available time from the traffic signal design. We thought if we could take that time, give it back to the through-traffic movement, we would not only improve safety but improve traffic throughput at the same time."

Accidents were also reduced at the intersection. Although Neal did not specify the exact decrease, the shorter wait times also indicate fewer delays caused by wrecks.

The City of Plano says it is considering implementing the traffic pattern at other intersections.

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