The process of turning left at junctions is simple enough to the experienced driver but not to most beginners. Here you are asked to do not one action, such as setting off, where preparations are made while the vehicle is stationary; but to co-ordinate a series of actions in sequence while the car is on the move. At first this is a daunting prospect for some, therefore we don’t want to complicate things too much. You may only be able to cope with using first and second gears if junctions are fairly close together and should keep at quite a low speed to begin with. But if you have space and the ability, third gear should also be used.
One of the first things to point out is that there are two basic types of turn; into a side or minor road and on to a major road where one has to give way to passing or approaching traffic. Note here that a major road is not necessarily a ‘main’ road; it is simply one which has priority over the road you are on. There are three ways of indicating that the give way rule applies: double broken white lines across the opening, an inverted white triangle painted on the road, and at busier junctions, the upright give way sign may also be seen.
During the early practise of left turns, it is good policy to stop each time you encounter give way lines. This gives you ample time to look before emerging, and it will also help further the practise of moving off and stopping. Although if you have a clear view on the approach and someone is close behind you, then it may be safer to make the turn without stopping.
Turning Left at Junctions into a Side Road
On the approach to a turn, Mirror checks are of course the first priority, followed normally by an indicator Signal -‘M S’. Next consideration is Position, which for a left turn would not usually mean any deviation from the normal driving line. Speed must then be reduced and where necessary a lower Gear needs to be selected (unless you are already in second gear) -‘P S G’. Then just before turning there must be a final mirror check, a check on anything else that may be approaching the same junction, and a good Look into the side road itself -‘L’. The arrows shown on the diagram represent the points of observation.
So the full sequence, which is carried out for all junctions, is: Mirrors, Signal, Position, Speed, Gear, Look (MS-PSG-L).
The look into the side road is very important. You may meet parked cars and oncoming traffic. Parked cars on their own shouldn’t prove much of a problem, except for the fact that if one is on your side you will have to take a wider course in order to give it ‘adequate clearance’. Difficulties can arise though when there is also something travelling towards you.
If you drive through a gap between a parked car and another one on the move, there must be a minimum clearance of about three feet either side. Some drivers who see you coming they may wait for you if they are courteous, but you have no guarantee. If you are in any doubt whatsoever, stop before completing the turn so that the other vehicle can emerge safely. You can then move off again with more space available.
Pedestrians crossing the side road can also complicate an otherwise straightforward left turn. You have two options to follow when pedestrians are encountered:
- Slow down or stop before beginning the turn in order to allow the people time to cross
- If the people are some way from the road edge and showing no obvious signs of looking round before crossing, give a light warning tap on the horn. They will then hopefully stop and turn round, giving you time to turn safely. Always give a wave of thanks as you pass!
Some will ignore the horn or react improperly to it, especially immature youths and children. With these you have to be extra careful. Even after sounding the horn stopping may still be necessary; it does not give you right of way and could escape the notice of someone who is hard of hearing. There are also plenty of people stupid enough to ignore the warning even when it is in the interest of their own safety.
Turning Left at Junctions onto a Major Road
The approach sequence to a major road is basically the same as that used for a minor road. The only difference is at the final approach when, in addition to the last mirror checks, observation must be regular looks to the right and left. Also, if you intend to stop, you should steer a little to the left before doing so. That way your wheels are already beginning to turn in the right direction.
Variations in the Routine
The approach to a junction has six basic features, but this series of events cannot always be carried out in strict order. For instance, there is little point in checking mirrors and signalling left if you are then forced out to the right because of a parked car near the corner. The only option is to move out and reduce speed before signalling left.
Or alternatively, on the approach to a major road you cannot signal left before slowing down if there is a minor road to the left near the end with a vehicle waiting to emerge. It could be misinterpreted by the driver waiting to emerge as an indication that you were intending to turn into their road. In this situation, following traffic will expect you to slow down anyway because of the junction, and the signal can be delayed until you are passing the side road.
Practising Left Turns into a Side Road
Here is the sequence you now need to practise on the move:
- Check mirrors, indicate left
- Keeping to your normal position, ease off the gas and change down to second gear if necessary
- Look ahead and into the junction
- At the corner steer to the left, look well ahead and straighten the steering
- Check mirrors and gently increase the gas.
If a stop might be anticipated due to a limited view, oncoming traffic or pedestrians, when you ease off the gas, you should also cover the brake and clutch. Both pedals are then ready for instant use.
With experience you can modify your approach so that you can ‘drive’ the car all the way through the corner. This means keeping just enough pressure on the accelerator to maintain your speed.
Practising Turning Left onto a Major Road
As you approach the junction, this is the sequence you should normally go through:
- Check mirrors, indicate left
- Cover the brake and clutch
- Check mirrors again and keep looking to left and right
- Steer to the left, gently braking and clutch down as you stop at the lines. Keep your feet still.
If the road is level you need only move off again when safe. But if there is any suspicion of a slope you should apply the parking brake, set the gas, and bring the clutch to biting point. When you are ready to move on again, in addition to the normal right-left-right looks; ensure that you take a final mirror check on your left. In the time it takes you to get ready, a cyclist could easily come up alongside you.
Emerging from Junctions
When you emerge from a junction, you must not cause anyone to change speed or direction. One of the hardest things is in judging the speed of other traffic. It is not just a case of looking how far away a vehicle is, you need to ask several questions:
- How quickly is it moving?
- Can I move away quickly enough to avoid affecting it?
- Is it hiding another vehicle which may overtake it?
If you are in doubt, then wait. You must also be aware that smaller vehicles such as cycles and motorbikes can be much harder to spot. If there is anything blocking your view, then move carefully into a position where you can see past it. Only then can you make a safe decision.
You should practise turning left at junctions until you feel comfortable before you move on.