Left-Hand Turns 101
By: Isabelle Boullier | SADD National Student Leadership Council President
Intersections are one of the deadliest spaces in America for roadway users, especially for teen drivers. When behind the wheel, an important driving skill to master is the art of left-hand turns. This is a skill that is often overlooked, yet it is one of the most important. Left turns require advanced signaling and extra caution. As you learn how to drive, make sure you are practicing making left-hand turns using your vehicle's turn signals so that you are prepared and confident behind the wheel.
As a teen driver myself, there are a few key steps to turning left that I feel are the most important to share with you. First, you MUST signal your intent to turn. Neglecting to utilize a turn signal is not only a pet peeve to other road users, but it also creates risk for a crash. Every time you turn, use your signal! Then, as you approach the intersection, remember to turn the wheel gently. Avoid abrupt movement that could cause you to lose control of the vehicle as you proceed into your lane. Also, keep in mind that pedestrians always have the right-of-way. Yield to pedestrians until they have safely crossed the road. Be aware of your surroundings and make eye contact with other road users. Look left, look right, then look left again before going forward with the turn. A pro-tip from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is to check for a good two seconds to be sure that the coast is clear of other vehicles and pedestrians before entering the intersection. Following these tips will help you build confidence and gain experience when it comes to turning left!
As novice drivers, teens need hands-on driving practice. Parents - take your teen out driving and demonstrate how to properly make left-hand turns yourself. Walk them through the process and identify any precautions they should note. Explain to your teen how you’re judging distances and identifying when it’s okay to turn left so they can begin to pick up on the key steps they should be looking for when they’re in the driver seat. Also, stress the importance of utilizing the turn signal to your teen. Next, reverse the roles and get your teen behind the wheel. Talk them through the process of making left-hand turns until they feel confident. Then, have them walk you through the decisions they are making while driving, explaining when they’re doing what, and why.
Left-hand turns are one of the many driving skills to become familiar and experienced with as a teen driver. Practice being patient while driving and taking the turn when you are comfortable; especially during heavy traffic or poor weather! Remember, practice makes perfect, building experience is key, and spending time reviewing tips & tricks in the National Road Safety Foundation & SADD’s #DrivingSkills101 Passport to Safe Driving will be helpful to both teens and parents alike. Turn safely, SADD Nation!