Austin (highverbalfan) wrote,

Once upon a last weekend, I went to Baltimore and got in a car accident.

It was Sunday night, roundabouts seven o'clock, and Jules and I were driving through Baltimore, heading back to Harford county to meet my mom and sister for dinner. I'd missed my turn off Patterson Park Ave. and had ended up in the northern, more ghetto part of the city. No big deal; there are way scarier parts of the city than this—as anyone who's seen The Wire will tell you. But it wasn't the way I needed to go, so I turned left at Gay street, planning to head back south and pick up my cross-street. Easy peezy.

It was a dark and stormy night, of course. Not so much to be an obvious and immediate hazard, but certainly a nuisance.

Anyways, we're driving along through the rain when we pass through a tunnel and arrive at a particularly funky intersection—instead of intersecting at a perpendicular, 90 degree angle like a respectable street, this one cuts across at a bizarre 45 degree angle.

We're in the right-hand lane...should I turn onto the funky street or just go straight? The funky street looks like it's one way, but it's not obvious from a quick glance which direction it goes—and even though I think it's going to the right, I'm not sure that's the direction I want to travel. The street lights are straight green, no arrows, and I can see more green lights facing us from down the block. No reason not to go straight and avoid the funky intersection altogether.

I think I see a Turn Only sign barely visible behind our traffic light, but it's not facing our lane at all—it's facing some other weird angle, maybe towards the funky angle street? I dunno, but it's not facing our lane. Plus the light isn't an arrow, and there wasn't a turn arrow painted on the street, and the lane ahead of us is clear, and there isn't a Do Not Enter sign or anything, and again, I can see street lights facing us from the next block up. So even if the lane I'm in IS supposed to turn—which doesn't seem likely, since the only Turn Only sign is barely visible and isn't facing my lane—there's no reason why going straight should cause any problems. So that's what I do.

Which, of course, is when we're suddenly hit by another car.

Ouch. The other driver's damage was rather minimal:

Apparently, what happened was this: the road that I was trying to drive straight onto actually turns into a one way street heading *towards* us, and so both lanes are supposed to turn right at the light and avoid the one way street straight ahead. A black car had come up behind us in the left lane, essentially in my blind spot. The driver turned right, expecting us to do the same; we went straight, since there was no reason to think we couldn't. She either didn't look or didn't see us, and turned right into our car, crashing into the back panel behind the driver's door.


So cops were called, and insurance information was exchanged. They apparently determined that neither driver was at fault, since no one got a ticket and no police report was filed. Which is good—if I'd gotten a ticket for this bullshit, I would have flipped out. In lieu of a ticket or a trial, I hereby submit why this intersection is capital-B Bullshit and why this accident was 100% Not My Fault.

1. First of all, there was no way to determine that the road turned into a one-way street. The only Do Not Enter sign is significantly to the left of the left lane's traffic light, and looks like refers to the lane of oncoming traffic:

Interestingly, Google street view shows that there *used* to be another Do Not Enter sign posted for the right lane:

But that sign is no longer there, and that pole is empty:

So, with no Do Not Enter signs, there's no way to know that that block becomes a one-way street. Additionally, you can see two traffic lights at the end of the next block—traffic lights that wouldn't be necessary if the street was one way, since one way traffic wouldn't face those lights. If traffic is coming towards us, and isn't supposed to continue forward, then the presence of these traffic lights seems unnecessary and misleading. Who are these lights for?

2. So there was no reason to think that we couldn't go straight. Was there any reason to know that we should have turned?

Well, there are no turn arrows painted on the road anywhere near the intersection, nor are there any signs posted warning that you're in a Turn Only lane:

Our light was solid green, not a green arrow. The turn sign intended for the right lane was facing a different direction altogether, and was barely visible from that lane.

The only indication that the right lane was supposed to turn was a sign that wasn't pointing at that lane:

So there wasn't any reason to suspect that we were supposed to turn—the only indication we had was a sign that wasn't facing us, which is confusing at best.

3. So there's no reason to think we can't go straight. There's no reason to think we're supposed to turn. Finally, is there any reason to suspect that the a left lane driver would make a right-hand turn into us? No: Again, the left lane has a green light, not a green arrow. The left lane has doesn't have a turn arrow painted on the road. The Do Not Enter sign that's intended for the left lane is actually hanging over oncoming traffic. And there isn't a Turn Only sign anywhere near the left lane, or any indication anywhere that the left lane should—or even legally could—make a right turn.

That's why we didn't get a ticket: no reasonable person could fault us for doing what we did. All the traffic signs in that intersection are either inaccurate, misleading, or missing entirely.

But even granting that it's a shitty intersection, and granting that what we were doing was *technically* wrong (although we had no way of knowing that), I still have no idea why the other driver hit us. Sure, we were supposed to turn—but we were well ahead of the other driver (as evidenced by the fact that she hit the back half of our car) so she could clearly see us and see that we *weren't* turning. But instead of tapping the brake for the fraction of a second it would have taken for us to pass completely, she maintained her speed and turned right into us. She may have been following the legal traffic pattern, but making that turn and driving into our car—which was right in front of her—was careless and foolish. Without a police report on file, I'm not sure how the insurance companies are going to handle this.
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