By Daniel Prager, 18, Crossroads School
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Really, mom, Danny will never be late again.

I’m almost late for my midnight curfew again. It’s 11:52 p.m., and I’m at least five minutes away from my house. Luckily at this hour, the roads are deserted and I take full advantage of a Los Angeles without traffic, speeding east down San Vicente Boulevard. I swing my blue 1999 SUV into the left-turn lane as I approach 26th Street, the adrenaline pumping through my veins, and I slow to a stop. I think of my mom tapping her foot and yelling as I walk through the door two minutes late, a verbal thwack escaping from her mouth. Ouch. I look back at the road, and the traffic light turns green. I breathe a sigh of relief and get ready to go. But I can’t go. The left-turn signal is still red.

For some unknown reason, although there are no cars on the road, I have to pay attention to the turn signals, which force me to wait. Yes, left-turn signals improve traffic flow and allow drivers to make left turns more safely at dangerous and busy intersections. But when these intersections aren’t busy, why are they still used? Every driver on the road has the ability to make a left turn without the help of an arrow when the roads are traffic-free. So I sit trapped by a useless arrow and look at the clock on the dashboard and then back at the road, and then at the clock, and then at the road. With each alternating glance the anger begins to boil, I wouldn’t be surprised if smoke is pouring out my ears.

Two minutes later, it is now 11:54 p.m. I give up waiting for the arrow to change and merge out of the turning lane and continue east on San Vicente. I turn up Rage Against the Machine’s "Renegades of Funk." I don’t even listen to Rage Against the Machine, but the anger and passion of the moment calls for nothing less than Tom Morello and Zach De La Rocha. I turn my green trucker hat sideways. The race is on and I’m about to get CRAZY. I grimace as I zoom over asphalt and scream. It’s game time. I can smell a victory, until I get to the intersection of Barrington and San Vicente.

Guess what waits with its dirty little fluorescent particles of light mocking me, smirking at my pain? Another red left-turn arrow. I almost scream, but luckily Rage Against the Machine does it for me. I check my watch. Four minutes have flown by and it’s now 11:58. Two minutes from curfew, and I’m about five minutes away from my house. All momentum and hope is lost. The wrath of my mom looms in the dark, cold future.

Illustration by Danielle Brown, 18

I begin to panic. I need to get home, but to zoom through the red arrow would be illegal. I look for cops and I wonder what my parents would do if I got a ticket. All these thoughts fly through my head and then I do it. I fly through the devilish red arrow, and at that second, in perfect timing, "Can’t stop us now" blasts from my car stereo.

Five minutes later, I am home. I swing into my driveway preparing myself for the barrage of evil words that will soon attack me. I walk in the door and… nothing happens.

My parents are asleep. A wave of calm passes over me, then the anger comes. I think about my drive home and it hits me like an Oscar De La Hoya uppercut: the only reason why I’m stressed, and late, is because of unnecessary red turn arrows. I become depressed: a fluorescent light ruined my night. Am I that weak a man?

Yes. The unnecessary waiting, the power of a computer-controlled light to dictate when I can and cannot go makes my brain hurt more than chili powder in one’s eye. I have enough people telling me that I’m not allowed to do this and that. Do I have to listen to the silently barked orders of a machine?

Look, traffic lights are necessary and have saved millions of lives, so don’t interpret this article as an anarchist driving manifesto. All I’m saying is that when the roads are deserted, an extra light is completely unnecessary. It’s like wearing bug repellent underwater. Can’t the government trust our judgment to make a left turn, especially when there’s no one on the roads? Waiting for two minutes at the second turn arrow, before I mustered up the wee bit of courage needed to go through, constituted nearly a quarter of my drive home.

The left-turn arrow is only necessary during rush hour. At other times of day, when there are few cars on the road, all the turn arrow does is force kids like me to experience unnecessary stress. I offer a simple solution: use the left-turn arrows only during rush hour, 7 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. Otherwise, allow drivers to turn for themselves.