Turning Left at a Junction

The process of turning left at a junction is simple enough to the experienced driver but not to most beginners. Here you’re asked to do not one action, such as setting off, where preparations are made while the car is stationary; but to co-ordinate a series of actions in sequence while on the move. At first this is a daunting prospect for some, therefore we don’t want to complicate things too much. You may only be able to cope with using first and second gears if junctions are fairly close together and you should keep at quite a low speed to begin with. But if you have space and the ability, third gear should also be used.

One of the first things to point out is that there are two basic types of turn; into a side or minor road and on to a major road where you must give way to other traffic. Note here that a major road isn’t necessarily a ‘main’ road; it’s simply one which has priority over the road you’re on.

There are three ways of indicating that the give way rule applies: double broken white lines across the opening, an inverted white triangle painted on the road, and at busier junctions, the upright give way signpost may also be used.

During the early practise of junctions, it’s good policy to stop each time you encounter give way lines. This gives you ample time to look before emerging, and it will also help further the practise of moving off and stopping. However, if you have a clear view on the approach and someone is close behind you, then it may be safer to make the turn without stopping if it’s clear to carry on.

Turning left into a side road

Turning Left into a Side Road

On the approach to a turn, Mirror checks are as always your first priority, followed normally by a Signal – ‘M S’.

Next consideration is Position, which for a left turn would not usually mean any deviation from the normal driving line. Speed must then be reduced and where necessary a lower Gear needs to be selected (unless you’re already in second gear) – ‘P S G’.

Then just before turning there must be a final mirror check, a check on anything else that may be approaching the junction, and a good Look into the side road itself – ‘L’. The arrows shown on the diagram represent the points of observation.

It’s important to point out however, that the looks on the final approach are not the only ones you should take; the earlier you start taking all round observations on the approach to a junction the better (see Zones of Vision).

The look into the side road is very important. You may meet parked cars and oncoming traffic. Parked cars on their own shouldn’t prove much of a problem; difficulties can arise though when there’s also something coming towards you (meeting traffic).

If you drive through a gap between a parked car and another one on the move, there must be a minimum clearance of about three feet either side. Some drivers who see you coming may wait for you if they’re courteous, but you have no guarantee.

If you’re in any doubt whatsoever, slow down or stop before completing the turn so that the other driver can emerge safely. You can then move off again with more space available.

Pedestrians & Cyclists

Pedestrians crossing the side road can also complicate an otherwise straightforward left turn. You have two options to follow when pedestrians are encountered:

  • If they’re already crossing or about to step out then you should stop and give way to them
  • Carry on if it’s safe, but if they’re getting close to the kerb and showing no signs of looking round, give a light warning tap on the horn. They will then hopefully stop and turn round, giving you time to turn safely. Always give a wave of thanks as you pass but still be ready to stop.

Some will ignore the horn or react improperly to it, especially immature youths and children. With these you have to be extra careful. Even after sounding the horn stopping may still be necessary; it doesn’t give you right of way and could escape the notice of someone who is hard of hearing.

Cyclists may sometimes come through on your inside even as you’re about to turn left; particularly if you’re slow or have stopped for pedestrians. Always look out for them before completing your turn and allow them to come through if necessary.
Turning left onto a major road

Turning Left onto a Major Road

The sequence for turning onto a major road is basically the same as that used for a minor road. The main difference is observation on the approach; you need to assess the situation as early as you can to decide whether or not it’s safe to emerge. As mentioned earlier, I would recommend stopping anyway to begin with, but even so you need to get used to taking effective observation.

Just before you stop at the lines, turn your wheels slightly to the left so that your car begins to follow the curve of the kerb line.

Variations in the Routine

The approach to a junction has six basic features, but this series of events can’t always be carried out in strict order. For instance, there’s little point in checking mirrors and signalling left if you then have to move out to the right to pass a parked car near the corner. The only option is to move out and reduce speed before signalling left.

Also, on the approach to a major road you can’t signal left before slowing down if there’s a side road with a vehicle waiting to emerge. The other driver may think you’re about to turn into their road instead. Following traffic will expect you to slow down anyway because of the junction, and the signal can be delayed until you are passing the side road.

Practising Left Turns into a Side Road

Here is the sequence you now need to practise on the move:

  • check mirrors, indicate left
  • keeping to your normal position, ease off the gas and change down to second gear if necessary
  • look ahead and into the junction
  • at the corner steer to the left, look well ahead and straighten the steering
  • check mirrors and gently increase the gas.

If a stop might be anticipated due to a limited view, oncoming traffic or pedestrians, when you ease off the gas, you should also cover the brake and clutch. Both pedals are then ready for instant use.

With experience you can modify your approach so that you can ‘drive’ the car all the way through the corner. This means keeping just enough pressure on the accelerator to maintain a steady speed.

Practising Turning Left onto a Major Road

As you approach the junction, this is the sequence you should normally go through:

  • check mirrors, indicate left
  • keeping to your normal position, ease off the gas and change down to second gear if necessary
  • cover the brake and clutch
  • check mirrors again and keep looking to left and right
  • steer to the left, gently braking and clutch down as you stop at the lines
  • keep your feet still.

If the road is level you need only change into first gear and move off again when safe. But if there’s any suspicion of a slope you should apply the parking brake, set the gas, and bring the clutch to biting point. When you’re ready to move on again, in addition to the normal right-left-right looks; ensure that you take a final mirror check on your left. In the time it takes you to get ready, a cyclist could easily come up alongside you.

Turning Right at a Junction >>>

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