'Pittsburgh Left' seen by many as a local right
They put it so simply.
"Drivers turning left must yield to oncoming vehicles going straight ahead," the Pennsylvania Driver's Manual states.
Yet the infamous "Pittsburgh Left" remains. The Pittsburgh Left, a bit of local color as unique to the region as a prothonotary or a Primanti's sandwich - and just as baffling to outsiders - is the name given to that vehicular tic that compels Pittsburgh drivers to rocket through left turns heedless of oncoming traffic.
According to the purest definition of this nationally known colloquialism, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's wreck Monday likely doesn't qualify. At least one drivers' safety advocate, however, hopes it will prompt people to pay a little more respect to the rules of the road.
"The No. 1 cause of accidents at intersections is people who don't know how to yield," said Gerry Mancini, owner of the Kennedy School of Driving in Coraopolis and a driving instructor for more than 30 years. "Then there are people who demand the right of way."
The Pittsburgh Left is a bit of both. Here's how it goes:
Two lines of cars in opposite lanes on the same road wait at a red light. The lead car in one lane has its left turn signal blinking. The lead car in the opposite lane is going straight. The light turns green and the driver who wants to turn left cuts across the opposing lane of traffic. The driver of the opposing lead car either waits patiently, slams on his brakes or plows into the first car.
In Roethlisberger's crash, witnesses said the car he hit was turning after the lighted arrow giving it the right of way had disappeared. It could take several weeks for police to reconstruct the wreck.
"People think the road belongs to them," said Lacy McCoy, 59, of Manchester. "They think they've just got to make that light."
Both McCoy and Mancini said the dangerous maneuver is so ingrained in local driving habits, it's not likely to change.
Nationally, more people get injured in wrecks involving left turns than in almost any other kind of wreck. Such accidents injured about 350,000 people and killed nearly 3,000 in 2004, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Neither the agency nor PennDOT could provide statistics specific to Pennsylvania.
Mark Moran, of Millvale, acknowledged the Pittsburgh Left sometimes leaves him fuming and said a truck making such a turn clipped the front end of his pickup last year. Still, he defended the maneuver, saying it's necessary because of the city's ill-timed traffic lights and narrow roads that prevent other cars from going around someone waiting to turn.
"Yeah, it makes me angry," said Moran, 33. "At the same time, I've got to admit, if I'm stuck at a light and I'm pressed for time ... well, you gotta do what you gotta do."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.