Vehicular Math-slaughter

Published February 11, 2018

What if we could cut down on the amount of time you drive, saving you gas money in the process [and even the risk of being on the road longer], without asking the government or states to pass a single law?

We all took the written test before we got our license. Most states recommend, when turning right or left onto a multi-lane road (more than one lane going the same direction) at a traffic light, you are to turn into the nearest lane. Some states, like California and Texas, are a little more relaxed when it comes to this recommendation, but most states adhere.

Consider turning right while someone traveling the opposite direction is turning left, no traffic; just the two of you. The light is green in both directions.

In most cases, both of you will not turn at the same time although you could. This seems silly. Why waste a blog post on it?

I can show, using mathematics, that the delay caused by both drivers not turning simultaneously amounts to millions of dollars.

First, let’s define our problem. What if all drivers had the courtesy to always turn into the nearest lane when turning onto a street with more than one lane?

Also note we are analyzing only traffic lights for this estimation, of which there are an estimated 300,000 in the U.S. (Lang, p148) Statistics show that there are an estimated 122 seconds of delay for this lack of courtesy, at one intersection, every 15 minutes. (Lang, pp148-149)

Big deal. Stop wasting my time, says the reader of this post. 122 seconds every 15 minutes translates into 451 YEARS of delay every year. Yes, years of delay every year. And that translation is for only 10,000 intersections. (Lang, p149)

The point is that something as small as selfishly claiming both lanes for yours, when another person could be using at least one of those lanes, collectively results in significant delays. This is a small step for you to take, staying in the nearest lane when turning, but taking this step could result in an annual gasoline savings for all of us, assuming $2.00/gallon and each licensed driver driving 13,000 miles/year, of more than one half of a million dollars.

Multiply that by 30, 10,000×30=300,000, and you have millions of dollars wasted, all because we don’t drive courteously.


Lang, Brent. 2016. The World from Outside It’s Box. Indianapolis, IN: Dog Ear Publishing.