Left Turns at Complex Intersections
[Camera: show footage of a two people in the car. Approaching an intersection.]
Tip number 15, how to successfully make a left turn.
There are different intersections that one could make a left turn at. There are uncontrolled intersections. Here you don’t have to make a full stop but you need to be prepared to stop if you need to. You’ll find these types intersections in some quiet residential areas where there is not much traffic. Let’s talk about the waiting position. The waiting position is where you are “wait” while you are looking to see if it is clear to make your turn. As you approach with your left turn signal on, you’ll want to glance at your rear view mirror to see what the vehicle behind is up to. If the vehicle behind you appears to be stopping before you, then great, you can turn your attention to the front and to the left of the vehicle seeing if it’s clear to make your turn. However, if they seem like they are not slowing down nor attempting to go around you then you may want to abort your turn and drive straight ahead to avoid a rear-end collision. This is why it’s so important to keep your wheels straight while you are in your waiting position. If you are in a rear end collision you will get pushed straight through the intersection, where as if your wheels are turned in the direction of your turn and you get rear ended, you will end up in the path of the oncoming traffic. Going back to make our turn, if the intersection and our path of travel is clear, you can proceed with your left turn. But if there is an oncoming vehicle approaching you’ll want to wait and see what their intention is. Even if they are signaling to turn left, you need to wait until you are certain they are going to make that left turn. How can we know that they simply didn’t forget that their signal indicator is on? Remember, we always make our turn behind the oncoming traffic. If an oncoming vehicle is approaching, you’ll need to gauge how fast they are going. Let’s say at this intersection it takes 3 to 4 seconds to complete a turn, so you need to make sure that the vehicle approaching is at least 4 to 8 seconds away. This means you need to look at them to gauge how fast they are travelling. If you determine that you don’t have enough time then you maintain your waiting position. As you wait there there are four things you need to be mindful of. The oncoming traffic, the color of the traffic light, if there are pedestrians or cyclists crossing or about to cross the path you are interested in, and your review view mirror. Say, if you are waiting there and the traffic behind you stops behind you, now you can be remove the rear view mirror out of the equation because the chance of getting rear ended is minimal. Now you can focus on the other three factors, the oncoming traffic, the traffic light, and the pedestrians crossing. Imagine it’s rush hour and the oncoming traffic is not letting up. Some drivers get anxious while maintaining their waiting position. In reality, that makes your job a bit easier because you know you probably won’t get a chance to make your turn until the light changes and the oncoming traffic finally comes to a stop. So you can focus cycle between looking at the light and checking for pedestrians. Once the light turns to yellow, you’ll want to start creeping forward to indicate to the oncoming traffic that you still need to make your turn. At NO point in time do you ever turn in front of the oncoming traffic. They are still legally allowed to go through. The only time you start to make your turn is when you are certain the oncoming traffic is coming to a stop or has stopped. The actual position of where you wait will differ from intersection to intersection, depending on the actual size of the intersection. If you are turning into a one way way street, you’ll need to position your vehicle’s front wheels into the crosswalk area so that you can easily turn into the first available turn. However, if you are turning into a two way street, you’ll likely want to place your rear wheels in the crosswalk area. Doing this ensures that you are committed to the making that turn, and shortens the distance that you have to travel to complete your turn. If the intersection is larger, you may want to wait a bit further into the intersection. However, make sure you leave enough room for you to creep forward if you haven’t made your turn when the light has turned yellow. You also don’t want to proceed too far into the intersection so us to make it difficult for the oncoming vehicle to make a left hand turn. This is your way of indicating to the oncoming traffic that you still need to make your turn, without dangerously turning in front of them. Remember, even if the light turns yellow or red, you only make your turn behind the last car in the oncoming traffic. They may be experiencing the Point of No Return issue we mentioned earlier. Don’t panic if you are in the middle of the intersection when the light turns red since you entered the intersection legally on a green light. However, you do need to complete your turn. Now what happens if the light turns red and now the last run has passed and you come to complete your turn just to find that there is a “late walker” still crossing. What do you do? It’s okay, you can stop before the pedestrian line because now the street that you have turned into has the green light.
What do you do if there’s a large vehicle waiting to make left turn in the opposite direction from you and it is blocking your view of the oncoming traffic in the lane beside them? Should you creep out into their lane so you can see the next lane over? What happens if now this large vehicle finds a safe gap to turn and now the vehicle that was waiting behind them wants to go straight and you are blocking the way? So no, you have to maintain a waiting position in your own lane until you can see what’s going on. Remember, if you DON’T KNOW, YOU DON’T GO. But let’s make things more interesting. Introducing the intersection bullies! I call them the intersection bullies because they lack last the basic intelligence required to assess the situation. Who are they you ask? They are the drivers that will behind a car that’s making to left hand turn but does not have a clear line of sight of the oncoming traffic due to a large vehicle so they are holding their waiting position. Now this bully looks at the situation from their own view, here you are waiting for this large vehicle to make their turn so you can see better what’s going on behind them but as you are waiting there, no vehicle passes by in the lane beside them. So you this bully sees this and say’s this is ridiculous you should be going, hoooooonk, and unfortunately often times an inexperienced driver will get intimidate into positioning their vehicle now such that they can try and get a better view or even worse, they’ll decide to risk it and go. So what happens now? What if you go and there’s a car? Will the bully take responsibility for the collision? Of course not, don’t be silly. You are responsible for the safety of you and your passengers. Don’t get bullied into going if you can’t see.
So let’s talk about what happens if you are wanting to make a left hand turn but there is a vehicle in front of your waiting to make a left hand turn already. They are in their waiting position and let’s say it’s a larger intersection so they are a bit further into the middle of the intersection. Remember this rule, there is only ONE car in the middle of the intersection at any given time. What happens if you enter intersection with them but the oncoming traffic doesn’t stop passing by until the light has gone from green, to yellow, to red. Now the vehicle that’s legally allowed to be make their turn makes their turn on a red and here we are still in the middle of the intersection waiting to make our turn on a red. This is unsafe. So you stay behind the stop line until it’s clear that the vehicle in front of you is going to be completing their turn. Only then do you cross the stop line and enter the intersection. What you will sometimes see happen is the car waiting behind another car at an intersection will creep forwards past the stop line and then the light turns yellow and red and the car turns and now this driver realizes it’s too late to make a yellow and they realize they are hanging out in the middle of the intersection so they try to fix it by reverse back behind the stop line. This is considered a dangerous action and you will fail the road test. Now let’s switch places for a second, image you are the vehicle that’s wanting to making a left hand turn, you are waiting in your waiting position and you notice the vehicle behind you has entered the intersection with you. It’s really the same bully as mentioned before, they are impatient and think that they can make this turn on the same light. In fact they intend to turn one way or another. They are sitting there in their car making driving decisions for you. They honk when they think you should go. They honk when they see the light turn yellow or red because they don’t want to be stuck there as if somehow it’s your fault. Listen to me carefully. You are not responsible for their wellbeing. You are responsible for your well being. You need to focus on completing that turn when you deem it to be safe.
Let’s talk about making a left turn at an intersection with a protected left turn signal. This is an intersection that has a dedicated left turn lane and it’s own dedicated left turn signal. The only time a left turn is permitted is when the turn signal is green. The nice thing about this type of left turn is that you know that the oncoming traffic has a red light but that does not exempt you from scanning the intersection prior to turning. If there several cars in front of you waiting to make the left turn as well, you need to mindful of the fact that the light may turn yellow when it’s your turn to go. As always, yellow means stop if it’s safe to do so. Once the light turns red, no more turns are permitted and you must wait before the stop line until the next time that the light turns green. You cannot go into waiting position like you would with a regular traffic light intersection.
Let’s talk about making a left turn at an intersection with an advance left turn signal. This is an intersection that usually has an traffic light with four lights. The top three are the regular traffic lights, while the bottom one is an advance arrow one. The purpose of this type of traffic light is to expedite some of cars waiting to make a left turn by giving them an advance before the turning into a regular traffic light situation. So when you get a green left turn arrow, you scan the intersection and make your turn. After a few second, the solid green arrow will turn into a blinking arrow indicating that the timer is almost running out. The blinking will increase in frequency and will turn into a yellow arrow followed by turning off. Remember, if you are a few cars back and you see the green arrow blinking very quickly, you need to anticipate whether it will turn to yellow as you approach the intersection. If it turns yellow, you need to be prepare to stop. If the arrow light turns off on your turn you simple treat the situation as if it’s a regular traffic light intersection and go into a waiting position if need be.
Making a turn at a regular traffic light, what are we cycling through in our mind?
Proper Waiting Position, Just hold.
One car in the intersection, why? When you don’t know you don’t go!
Making a turn on green
Making a turn on yellow
Cars stopped what should I do?
Different Types of Traffic Lights
As you approach you need to determine what kind of an intersection light you have in front of you. Do I get an advance light here?
Flash, yellow, that will be it, but you can still get into waiting position
- Shoulder on second line of cross walk Traffic Gap4 seconds at least, but need to double it to 8 seconds (what does that look like? Half a block speed dependent)Walk sign (3 seconds left will late walker go?)
- Don’t have to wait till they make it the other side
- You must by law complete your turn
- But what about point of no return?
- But how you can tell them upfront traffic you need to make your turn?
- First available turn
- Leave space
- Blind spot check
- When line splits
- Can’t trust
- No incentive
- Maintain lane position
- Whenever it’s safe we’ll move it back over to the left lane
- Mirror mirror blind spot, Mirror, Mirror, Shoulder
- Take your time here
- Single over the right
- Crank it over to the right
- 360 check
- When it’s time to move
- Take stock of that left lane
- Corner of
- Gear before you steer
- How does it look? Good
- Straighten the wheels
- Observation, signal, speed control, backing over your left shoulder
- Signal 360 check
Left Turns – 8 second or half a block ( speed dependent) – Shoulder check for that pedestrians
Left Turns – Lights Left Turns: Protect Left vs Advanced vs Regular Traffic Light, Turn lanes are considered lane changes – Shoulder check for that pedestrians
What else are you looking for?
Do you remember what you do on the flashing arrow
Do they still go with 2 seconds remaining? Pedestrians
You turn behind him (when making a left turn and the car pass yellow light)
They can run (even if it’s not their turn to go)
Check your rear view mirror
When the light turns yellow so we need to clear the intersection, but on coming traffic has point of no return issue.
But we still need let them know we need to make that turn, so we creep forward
First available turn, are allowed to go wide but need to look
Traffic, mirror, light (loop)
Larger intersection, go a bit further (where we going?)
Remember if you don’t know, you don’t go
What are they?
How do we act around them?
Why it’s important to look at where you are going to go