photo: uschools/iStock

Road Rules Refresher: Left Turns

By Craig Moy

Four-way intersections are among the more hazardous places on the road—particularly if you’re crossing into oncoming traffic by making a left turn, where incorrectly judging the space and time available to you can lead to a collision. Stay safe by heeding these turning tips.

• When possible, plan your driving route so that any left turns are made at protected intersections (i.e. intersections that are controlled by traffic signals). “You may have to wait a minute for the light to change in your favour,” says Rick Lang of AMA Driver Education, “but at least you have some assurance that your fellow drivers should be paying attention to the signals.”

• Remember that you are responsible for the safety of everyone in the intersection—yourself and your passengers, oncoming traffic, vehicles making right turns from the opposite direction, and pedestrians using the crosswalk. That means visibility is key: Signal your intention to turn well in advance.

• If you’ve entered the intersection and are waiting for a break in approaching traffic in order to make your turn, make sure to position your wheels straight into the intersection (not at your intended turning angle). “That way, if you happen to get hit from behind, you’re less likely to be pushed into oncoming traffic,” Lang says.

• Avoid the temptation to keep inching out farther into the intersection. If you can’t safely see whether or not it’s safe to turn, don’t turn. Getting honked at by an impatient motorist behind you is far less of a nuisance than being involved in a collision.

Learn the correct way to navigate traffic circles and roundabouts, and why merging is like an ethics test on the road

• In addition to monitoring oncoming traffic, you must also be aware of any pedestrians and cyclists crossing the road you wish to turn on to.

• When turning onto a multi-lane road, always turn into the lane that you left. That is, if you turned from the far left turning lane then you should enter the far left travel lane. Turning wide could cause a collision with an oncoming vehicle making a right turn onto the same road.

• Safely making a left turn can be challenging on busy urban streets, particularly during rush hour. Consider planning your route to avoid left turns where possible. “Sometimes making three right turns is easier and safer than making a left,” Lang says.

If you’re still leery of left turns, hesitant about merging onto a highway or in need of a refresher for any other driving skills, consider signing up for a Brush-Up Lesson with AMA. It provides at least two hours of in-car instruction and can be customized to suit your needs.