A simple left turn whilst learning to drive or during a driving test can have many potential hazards, from tight turnings, badly parked cars, or cyclists and pedestrians that could be crossing your path.
The driving test will of course involve many left turns on a variety of different roads. It’s important that the correct rules are taken, not only for safety reasons, but to successful pass the driving test.
This tutorial explains the correct procedure for making left turns along with road signs that may be encountered and the potential hazards that any driver may experience.
Locating a left turn
Locating a left turn at the earliest opportunity will provide you with much more time to prepare for the turn and to perform it safely.
Keep a an eye on left turn ahead warning signs, if a sign isn’t present however, look for gaps in trees, houses, hedges or parked cars that may suggest a left turn is ahead.
Left turn rules for the driving test
During the driving test, the examiner will be expecting you to follow the correct rules and procedure for making left turns. The learner driver must follow the MSPSL (Mirror, Signal, Position, Speed and Look) procedure. Starting from the bottom of the diagram, this procedure is as follows:
Once you have located the left turn up ahead, look into the interior mirror, followed by the left door mirror.
You will need to signal to the left just after checking the mirrors.
The position of your car depends on the width of the left turn and the width of the road you are currently on. If the width of the left turn you intend on taking is narrow, you may need to position your car further to the right before taking the turn. This will allow for a wider turning angle and avoid hitting the kerb or mounting the pavement.
If the road you are currently on before taking the left turn is reasonably wide and the left turn is reasonably wide, position the car to the left side of the road.
Left turns are usually taken in 2nd gear at around 10-15 mph. If the left turn is very narrow and closed, 1st gear at around 5 mph may be required.
Before taking the left turn, a final check in the left mirror is required and possibly the left blind spot in case of cyclists.
For a more in depth look into the this routine, see:
Left turn hazards
Prepare for any hazards upon taking the turn such as pedestrians crossing the road just as you are about to turn and cars parked closely to the junction. Just like T-junctions, a left turn can be closed and difficult to see what is around the turn.
Accidents can easily happen if you are not well prepared. As the driver, you should always give way to cyclists and pedestrians crossing the road, even if it means stopping in an inappropriate area.
Closed and open left turns
Try to establish as early as possible if the left turn is closed (blind) or open (clear). See images above for an example. Accidents can frequently happen when drivers make a left turn that is closed and they are driving too fast or under-prepared for any hazards. A closed left turn can be difficult to see around due to trees, hedges or fences.
If the left turn is closed and narrow, you will be required to slow the car down to an appropriate speed and gear. This is often 1st gear and around 5 mph before taking the turn.
Observation is important as you approach the left turn. You must use the appropriate gear and speed, but you must also prepare to give way to pedestrians, cyclists and hold back due to parked cars near the junction.
If the left turn is narrow, you will need to take a wider turning angle (keeping further to the right before making the turn). This will avoid you hitting the kerb and entering the left turn on the wrong side of the road.
Making a left turn tips
- Try to locate the turn as soon as possible by use of signs, road markings or gaps in trees and houses.
- Use the MSPSL (Mirror, Signal, Position, Speed and Look) routine on the driving test.
- Establish if the left turn is open or closed so as to decide an appropriate speed and gear for making the turn.
- Take a final check of the left mirror before making the turn in case of cyclists.
- If the turn is narrow, take it wide so as to avoid hitting the kerb, mounting the pavement and you must try to avoid entering the left turn on the wrong side of the road.
Left turn signs
Left turns are often signified by the use of road signs such as below. During a driving test, keep a keen eye on all road signs. Making a left turn into a restricted area will often a no left turn sign before.
It is possible that a driving examiner may ask you to ‘take the next available left’ during a driving test. The next junction may in fact be a no entry and have a no left turn sign before. Making this turn is illegal and will certainly fail a driving test.
Arm signal to turn left
Occasionally indicator or brake lights may fail or you may feel that other road users may benefit from a arm signal.