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What not to do when making a left turn

Published September 4, 2012
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Here are 10 common errors that can lead to left turn crashes:

1. Pointing wheels left while waiting to make a turn. Keep them straight, otherwise you’ll be pushed into oncoming traffic if struck from behind. Many fatalities result from this common error each year.

2. Improper lane position. For offset turn lanes at intersections, steer sharply toward the left edge of your lane (once clear of the traffic island), then straighten out to position your vehicle alongside and parallel with the left edge of your lane.

3. Proceeding blindly when view blocked by opposing left turn traffic (like a tractor-trailer) at intersection. If you follow the lane position procedure above, you’ll have the best possible view of oncoming traffic, your wheels are safely pointed straight ahead, and there’s no need to blindly encroach oncoming lanes.

4. Proceeding blindly when traffic is backed up. For example, if traffic is backed up and you must weave through stopped northbound traffic before turning left (southbound). Here, you can’t see approaching southbound traffic and neither can those drivers see you – until it’s too late. In this case, consider turning right and taking an alternate route, rather than blindly turning left and risking a nasty crash.

5. Feeling pressured to turn because light is turning red. Upon entering an intersection on a green light, you can lawfully complete your turn only when safe to do so. If it’s not safe to turn until the light turns amber or red, then so be it. The law never commands you to get into a crash by turning in front of a “red light runner.”

6. Running an amber or red light. By law, you are required to stop for an amber light whenever possible to do so safely, and running a red light is courting disaster.

7. Not coming to a full stop at a stop sign intersection before turning. The problem with running a stop sign to save time is that the driver on the cross street may have the same idea. It’s a paradox of time and consequence that if there are only two cars out on the road, they’ll often collide.

8. Failing to watch for approaching cyclists and pedestrians before turning.

9. Turning from the wrong lane. If a dual left-turn lane isn’t designated by signs/lane markings, it’s illegal to create your own from a thru-lane.

10. Making convoluted maneuvers to skirt the law. For example, making a right turn, then a u-turn, then another right turn to avoid a red light. You can rationalize all you want that such actions are technically legal, but don’t be surprised if your vehicle is struck while driving in this erratic manner.

Note: Information above is of a general nature and should not be taken as legal advice or opinion.

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