How to Drive Chicago: Jumping the Line at a Stoplight

45.  Drive.  Jumping the line at a stoplight. If you live in the city you know what I’m talkin’ ’bout. I’m not going to go into why one would pull this maneuver, but it comes in handy from time to time (or at every traffic light you come to if you’re S.R.)

Here’s the best technique: 

1. Hang back a few yards out of peripheral vision from the first car in line as you pull adjacent to it on it’s right so as to not raise his “not going to let you in front of me” antenna. 

2. Monitor the electronic countdown for the cross traffic crosswalk. When it hits 0 you know cross traffic is about to get their yellow.

3. Begin advancing during the cross traffic yellow. Your light is about to go green. You have already left yourself some extra runway. 

It’s near impossible for the lead car on your left to accelerate from a dead stop faster than you with your rolling start to keep you from merging in front of him. You’ll get so far out in front so quickly that it will eliminate their attempt to race you and keep you out. 

First car at the light….. let the jumper go. It doesn’t affect you. 

How to Drive Chicago: No Texting in Turn Lane

14. Drive.   Ok. We are all going to check our phones when stopped at a red light. Better than doing it while moving. Listen for the honk behind you to let you know the when light goes greeen again. 

There is, of course, one exception. Waiting in the turn lane for the green, left arrow. There is no texting allowed in this lane EVER. 

EVER! 

The Chicago, left, green arrow is fleeting and like soldiers kicking in a door and entering homes in Kabul, we need to get as many troops through it as possible. Go. Go. Go. Any delay will result in several cars not making it through the light and I just can’t bear the thought of that. 

Do not grab your phone when stopped in the turn lane. 

How to Drive Chicago: Turning Right on Red

8. Drive.  Turning right on a red light. Never do it if there’s a camera at the intersection. I don’t care if there’s no sign prohibiting it (which would make it legal).  I’ve gotten photo tickets via mail for making the turn notwithstanding there being no “no turn on red” warning. I went back to the intersections and snapped photos to prove the lack of a prohibiting sign and sent them to the city. They did not care.

Cityofchicago.org states Red Light Cameras do not take pictures of vehicles legally turning right on red after a complete stop—as required by law—

I think that’s a load of poppycock.

Do not turn right on a red light if there’s a camera no matter what.

How to Drive Chicago: Red Light Cameras

Welcome to February (best month of the year).

5. Drive.  Want to avoid every red light camera ticket for the rest of your life? Simple. When approaching an intersection turn your attention to the oncoming pedestrian crossing sign. Almost all intersections now give you a giant orange countdown to when your traffic light will turn yellow. Ideal for knowing when to gun it and go for it or when to hit the brakes.  If your car’s front tires enter the intersection (which is usually designated with a thick white stripe) anytime before that light turns red, no ticket can be issued. Watch those timers and you’re welcome.  

No timers at your intersection? Then quickly look to see if there’s a red light camera. They are big and black and in the same location at every intersection. Don’t see them? Then breeze on through wary of cross traffic commencing.

Warning, this is where that karma thing may come into play.

How to Drive Chicago: The Cardinal Sin

Last tip for January…

4. Drive.  This one is simple. Do not block intersections. Sometimes it’s tough as we space out behind the wheel, but if you’re creeping along pay attention to more than just the car in front of you.  If you see traffic is stopped ahead try to leave 20 feet between you and the car in front of you so that cross traffic can get through if the stoplight changes. Getting stuck in the middle of an intersection when cross traffic gets the green light is the cardinal sin of city driving. Get the big picture.  Isn’t that what this blog is really about. Get the big picture! That may mean stopping at the intersection’s entrance even with a green light because you can’t get completely through it. I know, I know. You’re stopped at a green light.  It’s going to freak you out, but you can do it. Do not enter the intersection if you cannot get all the way through it!