Although left turns have become routine parts of driving, they are actually risky maneuvers when you consider all of the variables involved. In previous posts, we covered some tips and tricks to make your left turns safer. In this post, we will be focusing on what not to do in order to better understand common mistakes that drivers make when attempting left turns. By understanding what not to do, drivers can better understand what makes a safe and controlled left turn.
- Failing to Yield Right-of-Way:
It is fundamentally important that drivers who are attempting left turns understand who has the right of way. Left turn accidents often occur when drivers fail to yield to oncoming traffic, especially at busy intersections. If you do not have a protected left turn arrow, you must yield to oncoming traffic. This rule is intended to promote smooth traffic flow for drivers who intend to drive straight through an intersection. Remember, oncoming traffic may be closer and moving more quickly than it appears.
- Misjudging Oncoming Traffic Speed:
It is common to misjudge the speed of oncoming traffic when waiting for a gap to execute a left turn. Our perspective is often inaccurate due to optical illusions and visibility issues. To avoid a collision, it is vital that drivers waiting to execute a left turn remain patient until presented with a large gap in traffic. If the gap is small, it is best to air on the side of caution and wait to complete your turn until you are confident it is safe to do so.
- Cutting the Corner Too Sharply:
Cutting the corner too sharply is a common mistake among drivers making left turns. When a driver makes a sharp left turn, they will often encroach on another lane of traffic before they are oriented properly in their desired direction. It is best to turn with a relatively wide and consistent path and to assume that there may be a car in your path if you turn too sharply. The goal is to avoid encroaching on any lane other than your desired lane.
- Ignoring Pedestrian Crosswalks:
One of the reasons that left turns can be risky is because drivers are often required to drive across two crosswalks. Even if you have a green light and there is an appropriate gap in oncoming traffic, it is still very dangerous to execute your turn without checking the crosswalk to your left. There may be vulnerable pedestrians in your path.
- Distracted Driving:
Distracted driving is a dangerous practice in all aspects of driving, but especially left turns. The elements we have mentioned so far like pedestrians and oncoming traffic require vigilance and attention. It is best to put your phone away while driving and refrain from fiddling with your GPS.
- Rushing the Turn:
It can be tempting for drivers to rush their left turns. In a busy intersection, drivers may feel pressured to drive through a tight gap in traffic. Not only can this increase the risk of colliding with oncoming traffic, but drivers in this scenario also risk forgetting to check the crosswalk for pedestrians. Patience is a virtue when driving, and it is best to wait for a safe opportunity to execute the left turn.
- Disregarding Weather Conditions:
In many areas, drivers are legally required to adjusted their driving appropriately in adverse weather conditions. This could mean driving under the speed limit in the cases of snow or ice. When the roads are icy, it is extremely risky to make a quick turn because you could block the path of oncoming traffic if you fishtail or otherwise slip. When in doubt, turn with caution and avoid a spin out.
- Failing to Check Blind Spots and Mirrors:
Busy intersections often have poor visibility. For this reason, drivers need to do everything they can to remain attentive and aware of their surroundings. Prior to beginning your drive, your mirrors should be clean and adjusted.
- Forgetting to Signal Your Intentions:
Even if you are in a designated left turn lane. It is crucial to remember to signal. The drivers behind you, oncoming traffic, and pedestrians are all safer when they are aware of your intention to turn. If you are not in a designated lane turn lane, forgetting to signal could confuse the driver behind you who might assume that you intend to proceed straight through the intersection.
- Failing to Maintain a Safe Speed:
Left turns should be gradual and controlled maneuvers. Driving too fast or erratically significantly increases the risk of collision. As a driver who intends to make a left turn, you should be moving at a safe speed so that you have enough time to break and avoid a collision if necessary.
- Failing to Practice Defensive Driving:
One of the most universal tips for road safety is defensive driving. Drivers who drive aggressively are more likely to make costly or dangerous mistakes. Driving defensively involves maintaining a strong awareness of the surrounding traffic and driving at a safe speed.
- Failing to Consider the “No Left Turn” Signs:
It is best never to assume that left turns are allowed at a particular intersection. As an informed driver, you should always look out for important signage. Some intersections will specifically prohibit left turns, so you may need to proceed straight through the intersection in that case. Failing to follow the signage could confuse unsuspecting drivers and cause a collision.
While left turns have become routine, drivers would be best served by treating left turns with extra caution. Not only is it important to know what to do in various traffic situations, it can be just as important to remember what not to do in order to avoid common mistakes. Remember, when in doubt, drive defensively and avoid distractions to be the safest driver you can be. With your help, we can make the roads safer for everyone, drivers and pedestrians alike.