Basic Skills

How to turn left and right safely

6 min read • Oct 25, 2018
how-to-turn

When you’re learning to drive, how to approach and how to turn at a junction will be two things which your driving instructor will teach you early on. Knowing when it’s safe and when it’s not safe to go is something you should pick up quickly with practice, and which you’ll need to get the hang of before you take your driving test.

Types of junction

There are many different kinds of junctions and you’ll need to learn to respond to each kind, whilst learning how to turn safely. Find out what kind of junctions you’re likely to come across and how to turn safely on each kind in our learner drivers’ guide to junctions.

How to turn left at a junction

Turning left is simpler than turning right as you only have one lane of traffic to contend with, but you’ll still need to be able to judge whether or not there's time in which you turn safely at a junction.

When you approach a junction and you’re intending to turn left, take your foot off the accelerator to slow down gently. Check your left side mirror before applying your left indicator and position yourself on the left hand side of the road. You might be able to see traffic approaching from the left before you reach the junction, so start looking to the left upon your approach.

If you can see that the road is clear before you come to a complete stop, slip into second gear and check your left side mirror again as you turn left. If, however, there are cars approaching, you’ll need to come to a stop before selecting first gear. Wait until there is a safe space in the traffic to pull into. You will need to be able to judge the speed of oncoming traffic in order to decide when it’s safe to turn left. Again, remember to check your left side mirror to check for cyclists and pedestrians before making the left turn.

How to turn right

Turning right at a junction is more complicated than turning left. In order to know how to turn right safely, you’ll need to be able to judge when there’s a safe gap in traffic coming from both the left and right.

Unlike with a left turn, you won’t be able to judge whether it’s safe to go upon your approach to the junction. Instead, check your mirrors and apply your right indicator as you come to a stop at the junction. Select first gear.

Look left, then right, then left again to see if it’s safe to go. If there is a car approaching from either direction, continue to check both ways as they pass. Once it’s safe to go, make sure you check your right side mirror to look out for any cyclists or pedestrians, before you pull out.

Turning into side roads

MSPSL

When turning into a side road, you need to make sure you follow the mirror, signal, speed, position, look (MSPSL) routine. Check in your mirrors as you approach the turning and apply your left or right signal.

Make sure you’re in the correct position as you approach the turning. If you’re turning right, there may be a filter lane in the middle of the road for you to wait in. If there is, position yourself in here until it’s safe to turn into the side road.

When you’re turning left, you won’t need to wait for any traffic to pass but you may need to wait for any pedestrians or cyclists crossing the side road that you’re driving into. Adjust your speed as you approach the road, slowing down to prepare to turn.

Whenever you turn into a side road, check the side mirror of the direction you’re turning before you turn. This is really important as there may be, for example, a cyclist passing beside you.

Finally, make sure you look ahead again as you turn, ensuring it’s still safe to go.

Stop and give way signs

At a junction, there might be a road sign telling you to stop or to give way. When there is a stop sign, you must stop, even the road is clear. If, in your driving test, you do not come to a complete standstill at a stop sign, you will fail.

A give way sign, on the other hand, is not directing you to stop. You must, instead, ensure that you wait for all drivers, cyclists or motorcyclists to pass before joining the road.

Responding safely to other road users

You might find that other road users signal you to pull out at a junction by flashing their headlights or making a hand gesture. Never assume that it’s safe to pull out just because another driver has signalled you to do so. Make sure you make all of the relevant checks and that you check your mirrors properly before pulling out.

Likewise, when you’re waiting at a junction, another driver may approach on the road you’re waiting to join with their left indicator on. Don’t automatically assume that they’re turning into the road you’re coming out of and that it’s safe to go, as they might have signalled by accident or forgotten to turn their indicator off.

It’s important not to pull out until the approaching vehicle actually begins to turn. Doing so beforehand could lead to an accident.

Image via Kieran Campbell.

Know all the types of junctions and how to tackle them?

FInd out