Medicine Hat Media

How-To: Execute a Left Turn at a Controlled Intersection

We all dislike left turns, especially left turns without advanced green lights, better yet, left turns without advanced green lights during heavy traffic.

In addition to these left turn dislikes that make them even more intolerable is drivers who do not advance into the intersection to wait for their oppourtunity to turn left. Instead, they wait at the stop line while the light turns yellow and proceeds to red, declaring the lost opportunity to get at least one vehicle through and advance the left hand turning traffic.

It is in this rant that I want to tell readers that the way to execute a left turn at a controlled intersection is to pull ahead to about the middle of the intersection to wait for your oppourtunity to turn left. The most important aspect to doing this properly is keeping your wheels straight until you are actually turning. Disobey this commandment and you run the risk of rolling into oncoming traffic if you get rear-ended. One time shortly after getting my license I waited at a busy intersection for 3 consecutive red lights before pulling out during the solid green left turn yield to wait for my turn after finally realizing the logic in this simple act.

User Comments

6 Responses to “How-To: Execute a Left Turn at a Controlled Intersection”

  1. April 21st, 2010 at 11:58 AM

    Kaylin says:

    Well done, although you should have also stated that if buddy coming the other direction also takes a left turn, you can go at the same time. Too few people seem to understand this simple road rule. It especially becomes a problem on 1 St SE by the library.

  2. April 21st, 2010 at 1:08 PM

    Dusty says:

    Thank you Sean, this is actually something that makes me scream in the car: “WHY? WHY AREN’T YOU GOING? WHAT IS GOING ON?” even when I don’t have anywhere in specific to be …

  3. April 23rd, 2010 at 3:01 PM

    Ray says:

    Where is the ruling in the MVA that states you can wait in the intersection against the read light?

  4. May 3rd, 2010 at 10:50 AM

    Kaylin says:

    Ray, take a driving course. They INSIST that you do this.

  5. February 25th, 2011 at 1:47 PM

    RM says:

    I even see police officers failing to execute this simple and logical technique, instead waiting until the light turns yellow, THEN entering the intersection and try to hurriedly turn left. This action alone is a violation of traffic law as the presence of a yellow light means if you aren’t already in the intersection, you are not supposed to do so unless your momentum and distance from the intersection is such that you physically can’t stop behind the stop bar or crosswalk lines. There is a reason why the yellow light dwell time is a few seconds; to permit a vehicle who is either already in the intersection or is so close as the laws of physics force them to enter the intersection and still have sufficient time to clear or turn out of the intersection. Unfortunately, these days many more drivers are running yellow or even red lights so attempting to follow this basic rule of courtesy can at times cause the courteous driver to be forced to remain in the intersection until all the red light runners are past. This unfortunately may cause the police to attempt to cite you as you legally didn’t clear the intersection by the time the yellow light turned to red but if that is the case, you also have a logical and compelling defense to the charge that would simply be, “Your honor, I pulled into the intersection while the light was green, waited for oncoming traffic to clear but when the light turned yellow, instead of stopping, the oncoming traffic continued to roll through the intersection so by the time I was finally able to clear the intersection, the light had turned red. I had no way to anticipate what the oncoming traffic was going to do, so I decided the safe thing to do was wait until I was confident the oncoming traffic was through running the light before I completed my turn. That way, I didn’t place myself or others in danger from a traffic crash because other drivers failed to follow the law.” Sort of wordy, but plausible and certainly a good and solid defense. It would seem that youthful drivers aren’t being taught this most basic procedure these days as I see it happening with increasing frequency and it is not something that older drivers tend to do. Perhaps we need to make our state motor vehicle and enforcement agencies more aware of this obvious lack of understanding on the part of so many motorists. A good public safety message might address this sort of thing.

  6. February 25th, 2011 at 5:00 PM

    Emmanuelle says:

    Thanks for this post! I am new to driving in Canada, and not familiar with this type of city traffic (where I come from, you always had a dedicated light to turn left), so I found your explanation very helpful.

Leave a Reply