Should we banish left turns right away?
That’s the impression the internet gave me this morning, when a CNN story titled “Why UPS Trucks (Almost) Never Turn Left” started trending on social media.
And so, aware that my UPS guy was slated to make a delivery — those Nespresso coffee capsules don’t arrive by magic, you know — I waited until he drove off, then chased him not-so-surreptitiously down the street on my bicycle.
Son of a gun: At the end of Camfield Court, he did turn right! So, does the right-turn craze have our men and women in brown shorts driving in endless circles, like Charlie on the MTA?
Hardly. “We will make left-hand turns,” Jack Levis, the senior director of process management for UPS, told CNN’s Jacopo Prisco. “But not ones that are unnecessary. We have tools that analyze the number of left-hand turns for each route, and we work out which ones are avoidable.”
Levis is talking about Orion, a software program that UPS introduced in 2008 and has tweaked every year since then. By guiding drivers to avoid left turns whenever possible, Orion has cut the average UPS route by 6 to 8 miles, saving the delivery behemoth some $300 to $400 million each year in gas, salaries and vehicle upkeep.
Turning left, say traffic specialists, slows you down (the wait for oncoming traffic), costs you money (that gas-guzzling idle) and just might kill you: According to the National Traffic Safety Highway Administration, 61 percent of crossing-path crashes involve left turns, whereas only 3.1 percent involve right turns. That makes your right blinker 20 times safer than your left — even if you do leave it on the rest of the day.
So should you make like a delivery pro and redesign your driving routes to leave out lefts? Probably not. Our paths to work and the store are generally less fungible than a lengthy delivery route encompassing dozens of stops.
You can, however, boost both your mileage and your health by consolidating trips, parking half a mile from your destination and walking the rest of the way, or breaking that old bike out of mothballs. A car left behind is often the right thing to do.