Where are you supposed to sit to wait to make a left hand turn?

So somebody tell me either I’m the crazy one or everyone else in my town is crazy.

To take a left off a divided highway onto a side street where are you supposed to stop your car?
I’ve made this sketch to demonstrate.

I’ve always stopped exactly where the red and blue cars are. For three reasons.

  1. If there’s two of you making opposite turns, like the red and blue car, you can see past eachother into the oncoming traffic to see when you can cross.
  2. You have less distance to drive to make your crossing which in turn means you can cross through shorter gaps in traffic and not have to wait as long.
  3. If there’s no indent into the median, you’re going to be blocking traffic behind you.

But everyone in my town must have went to the same driving school because they all stop where the green cars are to make their turn. I have no idea how they can even see past eachother? When I’m the blue car I still can’t see past them.
If I’m behind the green car I have to wait forever since they need a huge gap in traffic to make their crossing.
I’ve also been stuck behind cars waiting to turn left where there is no indent in the median and they’re just happy to leave their ass end hanging out into traffic blocking everyone in the left lane.

So am I crazy or does everyone in my town suck?

I’m with you. Drives me crazy too.

I don’t know the law, but I wouldn’t wait where you indicated you wait because if someone rear-ends you, your car is pointing (and will potentially get pushed) directly into the oncoming traffic. If you wait where the green cars are and you get rear-ended, you get pushed straight ahead (if you have your wheel straight) and not into oncoming traffic.

I typically do what the green cars do although I might pull a little bit ahead (and closer to the actual turn, since I’d be turning into the right-hand lane of the side street) while pointing basically straight ahead.

The red and blue car positions should be reversed. Drive into the gap between medians on the far right lane of the gap. From that position you can make a left or go straight through.

sitting in the driver’s seat is best.

Your point #2 is totally wrong. What you should do is wait at the green position and start moving forward just before the last oncoming car passes. That will get you across the oncoming lanes a lot faster than trying to accelerate from a dead stop at the red or blue position.

If there’s a big van or something trying to turn the opposite direction, sometimes you do just have to slowly creep across until you can see, but it’s sub-optimal.

If you stopped and waited where the green cars are, you’d pass through the blue/red positions in the process of making your turn, right? So, I’d wait where the green cars are as long as there’s obviously traffic coming the other way, then when it looked like there might be enough of a gap to complete the turn, I’d slowly pull forward into the blue/red position, then keep on completing the turn if it looked safe to do so from my new, better point of view.

But that’s what I’d do. Since this GQ and your Location is in Minnesota, I looked at the Minnesota Driver’s Manual (PDF here) but didn’t really find an official answer (though, see p. 28 if you’re turning from the side road onto the divided highway).

I pull out a third of the way into the intersection, wheels pointed forward (see rear ending comment above). The law allows this, and also allows you to complete your turn even after the light turns red. Most people here are idiots in that regard, but the most aggravating thing are the people who wait until the light turns green before turning on the turn signal. It’s why I leave an escape space between the car in front and my car.

In the OP there is no traffic signal. It’s a divided highway with side road intersections and allowing breaks to make left turns.

Stop? Why stop? Let the other schmuck stop!


Also as I think about it, your technique would be downright dangerous with a manual transmission. If you’re trying to sneak through a smaller gap in traffic and you stalled it you’d get clobbered, whereas if you start moving from the green position you should be fully in gear before you enter the oncoming lanes.

This. Which is IMO correct whether or not there’s a signal light there.

In the case of an intersection with signal pulling forward as far as practical without blocking the path of oncoming left turners allows you and one or more cars behind to turn left as the light is going to yellow and red. Sitting where the OP’s green cars are precludes anyone else from turning at the end of the light cycle. That’s not unsafe, but it *is *selfish. And some day when I am Emperor, selfish oblivious driving will be a shoot-em-by-the-roadside offense

IMO, being the red or blue car in the OP is suicidally stupid. It was certainly not the way Driver’s Ed taught it lo those years ago.

I strongly doubt any state’s vehicle code goes to that level of detail. Their official driver’s policy manual might provide relevant advice, but that’s all it’ll be: advice.

I generally agree with pulling into the intersection a bit to maximize the chances of multiple cars getting through a gap, but with what you’re saying there is the trifling little detail that it’s illegal for the second car to go. Only one car can go wait in the intersection and then turn left when the light turns. Granted the thing where the car behind gets to go too is certainly convention in a lot of places, but AFAIK it’s illegal everywhere. This is one of those “illegal but everyone does it” maneuvers that is the bread and butter of the red light camera companies.

I pretty much stop behind the line, which usually includes a crosswalk where I drive (so I’m not going have the crosswalk under the middle of my car). Then, I pull up when it looks there is going to be a break in traffic, making sure to pull beyond the crosswalk but not up into the opposite traffic.

Yes. An intersection near me has a red light camera, and you will not get a ticket if you are in the intersection when it turns red. (Turns are not an issue because the light is set up so that you have a turn arrow with no cross traffic.)
However traffic is so bad and drivers are so impatient around here that you can almost bet that the green car will turn after the light turns red.

I’m with the op on this and you should pull out to the edge of the opposite turn lane. You can’t see oncoming traffic if you sit back where the green cars because the vehicle in the opposite turning lane will block your view. Arguments about the danger of someone pushing you from behind, or a manual transmission stalling in the middle of the turn are spurious as there are uncountable ways a turn can go wrong and the op isn’t about minimizing danger but about the “proper” waiting position to make a turn across oncoming traffic. Where I live, we have dotted lines to guide the lead car out to the proper place to wait to make your turn and they are painted at the nose-end of where the red and blue cars are in the image.

The only point I would disagree with is #3. If there’s no indent in the median, it means the opposite lane is not a turning lane and you should not be blocking it by pulling out. In that case, you should wait where the green cars are but pull out straight ahead a little to get ready to make your turn.

If it’s not about minimizing danger what exactly is the definition of “proper”? At least in every place I’ve ever driven, pulling straight into the intersection and waiting is customary. Do you have some pictures (or a google streetview) an intersection with those lines you’re talking about? I don’t doubt they exist, just curious.

And the manual transmission stalling was mostly a corollary to my earlier post, which is that getting moving before you start turning gets you across the opposing lanes faster which means you can get through a smaller gap safely. Unless there’s a long line of tall windowless vehicles in the opposing turn lane you can usually see just fine. Furthermore, if there’s a long vehicle like a cube van in the turn lane, it would be even harder to see around it if it pulls in and turns.

Here’s google view showing the dotted lines to show “proper” place to wait for your turn in Japan.

You should not be playing chicken and try to make your turns in “smaller gaps”, only when it’s safe to do so. That decision on how much gap is safe is going to be different for each driver so if you’re a slow decision-maker (general you), or driving a manual and scared of stalling in the intersection, only make the turn when there’s a long enough gap in traffic. But the place to wait to make your turn doesn’t change.

It’s not playing chicken. You’re still leaving a sizable buffer, but your “time+buffer” can be smaller if you’re spending less time in the oncoming lane. It’s also just plain smoother to slowly get rolling before you start the turn instead of having to stomp on it to get across in a timely manner.

I suppose one of the advantages to moving into the median is that you can cram one more car into the turn lane, which may be important in a congested area with short turn lanes which looks to be the situation in that intersection you posted. Do they have those markings in rural areas too? Could they be marked like that specifically because you normally wouldn’t pull out into the median?