Driving Question - Turning left...

I have a driving question for you guys. I live in the state of NY. Now read the full question before you call me names and say I shouldn’t be driving :smiley:

Okay, so let me describe the specific situation. You stop at a red light with your left turn signal on as you plan on turning left when you are able to. You are at a normal intersection with no turning lanes. However, there is a decent amount of traffic. There’s a person directly across from you coming from the other way who also wishes to turn left. Like in the picture I’m linking below.


Only unlike in the picture, there are cars behind each of the two cars in the picture. So when the light turns green you are supposed to wait for the oncoming traffic to go before you turn left but then how would anyone go from either direction, or am I missing something here?

Yes, I’m a new driver and where I drive is mostly low raffic areas with stop signs.


If you are both waiting to turn left (single lane in each direction), then you can both turn left at once, releasing those behind you to proceed. What’s the problem?

That’s what I did when I was in that situation before but…

Say there wasn’t a car behind you. Would you then still do what you just said or would you let the guy facing you turn left along with the cars behind him going straight for example, and then proceed?

I thought you were supposed to let all oncoming traffic go (until there’s a safe gap to go without interfering) before you when turning left?

You still both turn left at the same time. The cars behind the car in front of you can’t go anywhere unless they change lanes: in which case you would need to obviously wait.

If there’s only one lane each direction, and both lead cars are turning left, they proceed to turn left simultaneously.

When a left-turner must wait for oncoming to traffic to clear, he should pull straight ahead some, but not as far as halfway into the intersection – this is starting the turn, even though the wheels haven’t actually turned yet. If he doesn’t get an opportunity to turn before the light changes, he completes his turn as soon as possible after it changes (ideally when it’s still yellow, but it’s okay to complete the turn on red if that’s the earliest opportunity). At least one car should be able to make a left turn with each light cycle.
What really can mess it up is a left-turner who doesn’t pull up partway into the intersection and thus isn’t poised to complete the turn when the light changes away from green. They’ll be there all day if there’s oncoming traffic. When driving in traffic, excessive timidity can be as big a problem as excessive daring.

Upon preview: If there’s only one lane, and both lead cars are turning left, they don’t have any oncoming traffic at that moment – they’re blocking each other’s potential oncoming traffic. They should get their rears in gear and make their turns.

Totally irrelevant, makes no difference at all.

Okay, one last question, sorry. If the light was already green, you and the oncoming left-turner arrived at the same time but there’s a car approaching the noncoming left turner you would still turn simultaneously?

I ask because say the other driver completes the turn faster than you, then you’re in the middle of the road when the light is green and there’s a ncar coming at you.

Again, sorry for the questions. I just am not sure what is generally accpeted and the law

The only question is can the cars behind go around the car turning left? Is the road narrow with no shoulder?

I was just making sure it was something you do all the time and not only when the situation requires as in my first post.


That was also in my thoughts. In the situation I was in, a car probabally could not have gone around me on the road I was on as it is narrow but the road directly across is wider. Still would people normally pass, I don’t know. (at the intersection the road changes as you go across, it’s actually a 5-way corner but that’s irrelevant for the most part)

Of course, if you can do it safely.

Then you need to use your best judgement about speeds. Just because you are in the legal right doesn’t work as an excuse if you crash and you could have avoided it.

“He was right, dead right, as he sped along, but now he’s as dead as if he’d been wrong.”

It often becomes a judgment call. If you and the oncoming left-turner truly arrive at the same relative place at the same time, you should be able to proceed with the turn safely. Now, if you’re a real slowpoke, you might end up in the uncomfortable situation you described. If worrying about that possibility is what makes you go slow (not uncommon with new drivers), you’ve got a self-fulfilling prophecy, where a little less timidity and little more confidence would be beneficial.

On the other hand, if the oncoming car is ahead of you (i.e., reaches a given part of the intersection before you do) or the oncoming road is wide enough that cars behind him might go around him, then it’s wise to wait until it’s clearly safe to make the turn.

thanks guys, what you all said really helps me to understand better. I try to be confident but I also feel that I can’t be confident unless I know that what I’m doing is right. ie. Being confident running a red light isn’t the confidence that I wish to have if that makes sense.

Thanks again!

It’s one of those life things like trying to get a job where they want employees with experience, but how can you get experience if you can’t get a job first? :smack:

On the third day of having my full driver’s license, I hit the fender of a parked car while trying to park next to it. I did not enjoy explaining that to my Dad. To make it worse, sitting in the car I hit were some kids who went to my school. On the plus side, I learned just where the corners of my car were. :wink:

Try your best and I’m sure you’ll do fine. The fact that you’re giving this some careful thought is a very good sign.

Yeah, the first time I went to park my Dakota that I just bought at the time, I didn’t really know how to go about doing it and endup up puling into a spot. I llearned how to drive in a small car and parking didn’t really require any thinking. Anyways, later when I went to back out of the spot, I didn’t turn sharp enough because I didn’t want to hit the car next to me and I was trying to see what was behind me. I didn’t hit anything but now I’m in a habit of just pulling through parking spots haha.

As far as the job thing, the other day I was looking on a job website since I really don’t know what I want to do yet. I was looking at welding jobs and most of them required experience and many of them were pipe welding jobs. I’d like to learn how to weld, but I don’t think most of the jobs available would suit me. Many of nthe hings I do for fun would be completely different as a job and that’s why I’m having trouble.


Have you read this?

You have to yield to all oncoming traffic. However, the guy opposite you turning left is not “oncoming traffic”, so you don’t have to yield to him (or vice versa).

If you’re slow about it and the asshole behind him stomps on it and smashes into you, he has the right of way and you’d get a ticket for failing to yield. So, don’t be silly and hesitate, just turn already.

BTW, while waiting to turn left, it’s safest to keep your wheels straight. If someone slams into you from behind, you’re better off being pushed straight forward than turning into the stream of oncoming traffic.

I’ll give the same recommendation I give to any new drivers - take lessons from an accredited driving school (AAA probably offers them in your location), even if you already have your license. You can work out things like this situation with your driving instructor. I’m seriously considering taking a refresher course - I know that I’m cutting corners that I probably shouldn’t be these days.

And we see a lot of drivers around here doing just that and I also was doing that after taking a Defensive Driving course that was teaching not to enter the intersection unless one could clear it without stopping. I found shortly after the class that the instructor was wrong and that the law was only for straight through traffic, (the anti-gridlock law) but on the other hand the intersections are stuffed full of those also. :smack:

If you have people who will rush into the intersection as soon as the person ahead of them clears the intersection, you have the risk of someone completeing the turn before the other, and the slower car gets rammed by the idiot in oncoming.

One trick would be for the 2 cars wanting to turn pull all the way into the intersection and sit side-by-side; this opens the lane enough that the cars behind them can get around. Once the light goes red, complete the left turn BEHIND the oncoming car.

I demonstrated this once and the other driver actually understood what I was doing and pulled alongside. I was so proud of her. Haven’t tried it much, but it really should be taught in Driver’s Ed.