View Desktop

These two driving tips could save your life

Wheels contributor Eric Lai has two tips about making left-hand turns that could save your life.

Published October 26, 2011
0

Comment

Do you know how to make a proper left turn? Most drivers don’t, as they’ve never been taught correctly, and this gap in their knowledge could one day cost lives.

Now, if you’re an experienced driver who’s never had a collision and think this is a ludicrous assertion, then answering these two questions on proper driving technique should be easy.

In what direction should your front wheels be pointing when stopped in traffic waiting to make a left turn?

If you said “left, of course,” you’d be wrong. The correct answer, as found in the Official Driver’s Handbook (the guidebook for all new drivers), is straight ahead.

You shouldn’t aim your wheels to the left until it is safe to complete your turn. This is so your vehicle won’t be pushed into high-speed oncoming traffic if struck from behind while waiting to turn.

Turning your wheels to the left prior to commencing the actual turn is a common mistake that results in many serious collisions each year. The initial rear-ender is usually not fatal, whereas the subsequent head-on crash often is.

What should you do when you’re in the left turn lane, with an adjacent concrete island, at a traffic light controlled intersection, and your view of approaching traffic is blocked by a large vehicle in the opposing left turn lane?

Most drivers improperly position their vehicle at a 10 or 11 o’clock angle (with 12 o’clock being straight ahead) when waiting to make a left turn in an intersection. When their view is obstructed by a large vehicle in the opposing left turn lane (facing you), they’ll creep forward blindly into traffic — putting the front one-third of their vehicle at risk in an oncoming live traffic lane before they can actually see approaching traffic and determine if it’s safe to complete their turn.

If you’ve ever done this, you know how dangerous it is. There is a better way.

When entering the intersection, as soon as you’re clear of the concrete island adjacent the left turn lane, turn your wheels sharply to the left, then straighten out, so your vehicle ends up parallel with and hugging the left edge of your lane.

When done correctly, your vehicle never enters the oncoming live lane, your wheels are properly positioned straight ahead as you wait to turn, and you have the best possible view of oncoming traffic without having endangered yourself or others.

Try it. This simple driving technique could save your life.

Email your non-mechanical questions to Eric Lai at wheels@thestar.ca. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.