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Learning to drive

Turning left at a junction (minor road to major)

When you’re approaching a junction, it’s important to remember that you’re merging into oncoming traffic. Taking your chances and speeding into the turn like a Ribena-happy toddler tri-cycling across a road isn’t recommended.

Turning left is a bit easier than turning right because you’re only tackling traffic from one direction. Although it doesn’t mean you don’t check left before moving.

Cars will be approaching from the right, but you still need to be aware of what’s happening everywhere. Don’t worry if you’re going the other way though, we have an article on turning right, too. Handy!

Funny story: my grandma doesn’t turn right. Ever. Don’t be like her, OK?

Approaching the junction

When you know the junction is coming up (because you're looking well ahead for signs, right?), think of turning as a bit like a manoeuvre. You’re hopefully already thinking “Oh, Mirror - Signal - Manoeuvre!”

For a junction, we add in 3 extra steps to describe the manoeuvre (turning left).

  1. Mirrors: check your main and left mirrors
  2. Signal: signal your intention
  3. Manoeuvre:
    • Position: position your car to the left of the lane
    • Speed: slow down (and select the right gear)
    • Look: check the road you’ll be turning into both ways

Positioning your car means that you move your car in the direction you’re going. So, if you’re turning left at a junction, you would move over to the left side of your road, not too far or you’ll go over the kerb when you turn. Think of it as ticking the ‘Yes, I confirm’ box on the signal you’ve given with your indicator.

Use your foot brake to slow your car as you approach the junction, and start looking at the road ahead to see if you’ll be able to pull out or if you’ll have to stop.

If you’re still feeling a little meh about the added steps, check our approaching a junction tips in detail.

Open junctions

When you get close to the junction, you need to decide whether you would class it as ‘open’ or ‘closed’.

If have great visibility of the road that you’re turning into on both sides, that makes it an open junction.

This means that you can take your sweet time looking to see if it’s clear for you to emerge left into the road before you get to the junction. Your instructor will call this ‘early observation’.

Always slow down to pull out safely. Stop debating whether you can make the turn before that cyclist gets there. Taking the corner at a safe speed could save your life, and you can always overtake him and his funny shorts later, when it’s safe.

Closed junctions

If the view of the road you’re turning left into is restricted either way by anything from houses to parked cars, that means you’re at a closed junction.

Turning left at a closed junction means that you need to take more care to check that it’s safe for you to join the new road, so you’ll probably have to stop.

Your driving instructor has probably mentioned something called ‘peep and creep’. It sounds like an imprisonable offence but actually it just means stopping, putting your car in first gear and then using the clutch to move forward in tiny movements, giving you a better vision of the road.

There is no shame in not wanting to get hit by an oncoming car: take your time to check it’s safe!

Although the danger is coming from your right, make sure that you check traffic approaching from the left. Cars on the other side of the road could be overtaking and cause a hazard on your side, or you could be joining a line of traffic and need to wait before pulling out.

Keep your head moving and checking both ways until it’s clear. You’ll look like you’re watching a tennis match (my instructor calls it the Can Can: Can I, Can’t I, Can I, Can’t I until it’s Can Can!), but you’ll know you’ve got a clear road.

Stop signs

Remember that no matter how unrestricted your view of the road is, if there is a stop sign you need to bring your car to a complete stop. Who’d have thought it?!

I reckoned I was a bit clever and impressive when I slowed my car to a crawl, had a good look and pulled out without having to move off again. Then my driving instructor told me that if your car doesn’t come to a complete stop at a stop sign (requiring you to put it in first gear and move off again), you’ll fail your test.

It's the law, man.

Pulling out

Once you’re 100% sure that you’re clear to go, move off as normal.

  1. Car in first gear
  2. Clutch up to biting point
  3. Push on accelerator
  4. Foot slowly off clutch
  5. Turn steering wheel to your left, keeping to your side of the road

You’ve got it!