The dos and don'ts of turning left at an intersection

You should know this by heart
by Jason Tulio | May 4, 2017

No, you didn’t read the title wrong. Believe it or not, turning left at an intersection actually needs to be taught to some people who hold valid driver’s licenses, have been behind the wheel for years, and aren't male models named Derek Zoolander. It's pretty basic stuff, yet we see motorists getting it wrong every single day. What a world we live in, right?

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Anyway, here's an outline on how to turn left at a basic intersection. Other types of intersections may have specific rules in place that you need to follow, so always make sure to pay attention to road signs.

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1) Before you get to the intersection, make your way into the proper turning lane. Usually this is the leftmost lane, or the lane closest to the center.

2) Signal left to alert other drivers that you’re about to turn. Do this no later than 30m out from the intersection.

3) Check that the road is clear before entering the intersection. Check your mirrors, too.

4) Ensure that you know who has right of way before proceeding. If you’re turning left and there’s oncoming traffic from the other side, give way first before making your turn. 

5) Start your turn once your front tire hits the center of the intersection. If one of those yellow 'X' outlines is painted on the road, use it as a guide. 

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6) Stay in the appropriate lane once you’ve turned. Then, straighten your wheels before speeding up again.

Now, for the don'ts:

- Don’t start your turn too early. This is a common mistake. Doing so might end up with you cutting a corner and stealing space from other cars. You've probably seen it before:

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- But don’t make the other mistake of turning too wide or swerving, either. This also puts you at risk of colliding with oncoming traffic or cutting off someone else's space. For example:

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- If you can see that the road you’re turning into is full, don’t go charging ahead into the intersection, lest you get stuck in the middle once the traffic light turns red. Wait behind the intersection until it’s clear to turn. 

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- And for the love of all that is still sacred about driving, don't counterflow to make your turn. This goes without saying. Don't be that guy. 

So there you have it. Now go forth, drive safe, and spread the word to other drivers who should know better.

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PHOTO: Jason Tulio
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