It’s all right in New Jersey — at least when it comes to making a left. Jughandles can be a loopy roadside woe to a driver — especially someone who learned to drive outside of the NJ area — that missed their turn. For the rest of the road, though, they ensure a safe and secure way to keep traffic moving. That’s why Jughandles are our NJ Vocabulary word of the week.
Jughandle — Noun. A loopy off-ramp turn drivers have to make in order to make a left. Also known as “The Jersey Left.”
Example: “Oops! We passed the diner.” “Take the jughandle past the light and we can get back to it.”
What Are They, Anyway?
Put simply: Jughandles are a safe way to make a left turn, and are shaped like, well, a jughandle coming off the main road. Instead of a making a left from the left lane, drivers exit right into the jughandle, which loops back around so the driver can go straight. Right turns are also made using the jughandle.
According to New Jersey Department of Transportation studies, jughandles eliminate the dangerous and spontaneous left turns that might force drivers to dart across lanes of oncoming traffic, thus reducing the number of accidents. Steven, a police officer in New Brunswick, has to educate drivers on what a jughandle is and how to use it regularly. “If the traffic stop is by the jughandle, then I have to explain it to them all the time. People who don’t live in Jersey don’t know what it is.”
Sounds simple enough, right? Well, not really.
In 2013, a senator-sponsored bill threatened to eliminate all future jughandles from New Jersey’s traffic scene. “While jughandles were originally designed to prevent the build up of traffic at intersections, they can no longer handle the high volumes that are now common on many New Jersey roads,” said Senator Jim Holzapfel.
“Cars get backed up and people often have to wait through three, sometimes four, light changes to get through an intersection with a jughandle. Modern intersection designs are faster, safer and easier for drivers to navigate.” He called the wait at jughandle intersections his “personal hell.” He filed the bill, Senate Bill No. 207, every two years starting in 2003 until 2013, the year it finally got reviewed. And it passed, with a couple of amendments.
How Jughandles Work
Basically, in order to find the jughandle, you’ve got to look for specific signs. Typically, “All Turns from Right Lane” (Type A as pictured), and “U Turn and Left” (Type B) are key indicators that that diner on your left is within reach, at least after a few right turns. Generally, a ramp on the right before an intersection will feature the “All Turns from Right Lane” sign (Type A). So if you know your desired left turn is coming up, follow that ramp around the curve and next thing you know, you’re facing the road you wanted to turn onto and you can head straight onto it.
For the jughandles marked with a “U Turn” sign (Type B), you’ll actually end up passing the diner, and the jughandle will loop you around and turn you in the opposite direction from which you were coming.
Then there’s a third option: This is Type C (which probably stands for “cursing,” which is what most people do in their car when they have to deal with it). This one has a jughandle ramp, but it comes only after you have passed the desired intersection. This type of jughandle includes the same type of ramp from the “All Turns” example, except it comes after the intersection in question. Here, the ramp shows up allowing for a little loop to follow around to the right. You will merge with the original cross street at the intersection, wait at a light, cross over and then make your left to go back to the place you passed that you wanted to go to in the first place.
In Defense of Them
Ken, a New Jersey native, doesn’t understand the fuss that out-of-state drivers make over the roundabout way to get to the roundabout. “People are stupid. Sure we could have left-hand turns. But we don’t. There is no mastering involved. Just follow the signs. And that’s it. It may take you 30 seconds more to get where you’ve got to go.”
Jason Didner, a Montclair native, understands the point of them but still finds them frustrating. So much so he turned his jughandle driving experience into a song. “You Can’t Get There From Here in Jersey,” explains it perfectly.
You can’t get there from here in Jersey
You’re always on the wrong side of the road
You can’t get there from here in Jersey
I’ve got a case of jughandle turnaround overload
Sing it again, Jason.
Improve your Garden State vernacular and learn the New Jersey lexicon with NJ Vocabulary: The Series.