Turning left at an intersection

9 minute read Published on May 18, 2024 by BrokerLink Communications

Red traffic light and "left turn yield on green" sign

When you’re new to driving, making a left-hand turn can seem nerve-wracking. There’s a lot more to it than making a right-hand turn. In this blog, we’ll break down how to turn left the right way. Whether you’re new to driving or have been doing it for years, these tips will help you stay safe, develop good habits, and follow the rules.

Navigating turns through intersections

Turning safely means paying attention and following a few basic rules, whether you’re turning right or making a left turn. Here’s a basic rundown:

Turning right

When turning right at an upcoming intersection, you need to move or stay in the right lane and let others know you’re turning ahead of time by using your signal. Watch out for pedestrians or cyclists, especially those who might be right next to you or hard to see. Wait until there’s no traffic coming toward you or people crossing before you make your turn. Turn into the lane closest to the sidewalk, following the road markings.

Turn left

For left turns, signal early to let everyone know what you’re planning to do. Get into the furthest left lane. If the left lane isn’t a designated left-turn lane, stay to one side so other vehicles pass. Wait until the road is clear of oncoming vehicles and no one is walking across before you turn. When it’s safe, make your turn into the lane closest to the median or centre of the road.

How to turn left at an intersection with traffic lights

Turning left at traffic lights might feel a bit daunting, especially if you’re new to driving or not used to the roads in a particular area. But don’t worry! With some practice and by following these steps, you’ll find that making a left turn isn’t so tricky after all. Here’s our step-by-step guide to help you turn left at a traffic light safely and with confidence:

Get into the left lane early

Before you get to the traffic light, you need to move into the left lane or the lane marked for making left turns. It’s important to do this early so you’re not trying to change lanes at the last minute, which can be dangerous and might upset other drivers.

Signal your turn

Use your left turn signal (that’s the blinker or indicator) to show you plan to turn left. You should turn this on well before you reach the light so drivers behind you and oncoming traffic know what you’re about to do.

Slow down and stop

If you’re at a traffic light and the light is red or the light turns yellow or red as you’re approaching, slow down smoothly and come to a complete stop at the white line on the road. This is your cue to wait patiently until the light changes to green. Some intersections have designated a left turn signal. If that light is red, you must wait until the next time it turns green to make your turn.

Look both ways

When the light turns green, take a moment to look right, then left, and straight ahead to make sure there are no cars coming, no cyclists trying to get through, and no pedestrians crossing the street. Don’t forget to check your blind spots. Even if you have a green light and they have a red light, you must always check to make sure the way is clear.

Yield to oncoming traffic

If there are cars coming towards you, you need to wait. Once the car in front of you has turned, you can move up carefully to the middle of the intersection as you wait for a break in the traffic. Remember, the oncoming traffic has the right of way, and you must let them pass before you make your turn.

Watch for a gap

Wait for a safe opening in the oncoming traffic. This means there’s enough room for you to turn left without forcing the oncoming drivers to brake suddenly or swerve to avoid you.

Check for pedestrians

Keep an eye out for people walking across the street you’re turning into. The last thing you want is to start turning and then notice someone in the crosswalk. Make sure the way is completely clear.

Turn when safe

When you see a clear path with no cars or pedestrians blocking you, start turning left. Turn into the lane closest to the middle of the road. You’re entering the closest left lane if there is more than one. Be careful not to cut the corner too sharply or swing out too wide into other lanes.

Complete your turn

As you complete your turn, adjust your speed if you need to and straighten up in your lane immediately. Don’t forget to turn off your signal once you’ve finished turning if it doesn’t do it automatically. It’s a small thing, but it helps avoid confusion for other drivers.

Stay calm

If at any point you feel unsure or it seems unsafe to turn because of heavy traffic or poor visibility, it’s perfectly okay to wait a bit longer. Rushing through and hoping for the best is never worth the risk. Safety always comes first, and it’s OK to take your time.

Can I make a left turn on a red light?

The general rule is no; you cannot turn left at a red light. However, there are specific situations where making a left turn on a red light is allowed, such as when you’re driving on a one-way street.

If you’re on a one-way street and want to turn left onto another one-way street, you might be allowed to do so at a red light, just like how you often can turn right on red. However, this isn’t allowed everywhere, so you need to know the rules for the area you’re driving in.

How to turn left at a stop sign or unmarked intersection

Turning left where there’s a stop sign or no traffic lights may seem less challenging than at an intersection with traffic lights, but don’t let it fool you. Without helpful things like a designated left lane or left turn signal, it’s up to you and you alone to decide when it’s safe to make the turn. But don’t worry! With some practice and patience, you will learn to judge gaps in traffic, and it will only get easier from here.

Here’s our handy guide for turning left at a stop sign or unmarked intersection:

Ease off the gas as you approach

When you see you’re coming up to an intersection where you’ll need to turn left, start slowing down early. This isn’t just about safety; it gives you more time to look around, see what other cars and pedestrians are doing, and decide when it’s your turn to go.

Keep an eye out for signs

Even though there’s no traffic light, there might be a stop sign, a yield sign, or other signs that tell you what you need to do. If there’s a stop sign, it means you need to come to a complete stop, no rolling through it. This is your chance to take a good look around and make sure it’s safe.

Let others know what you’re planning

Well before you get to the intersection, turn on your left signal. This is just polite, really – it lets everyone else know what you’re planning to do, and it can help prevent surprises. A good rule is to turn on your turn signal 30 metres or half a block before your turn when travelling at lower speeds and 150 metres (more than a football field) when driving at higher speeds.

Stop and look around

If you’re at a stop sign, make sure to come to a complete stop. You should be before the line on the road, or if there isn’t one, where you can easily see traffic coming from all directions. Now’s the time to really look – left, right, and left again – to make sure there are no cars, motorcycles, cyclists, or people walking that you need to wait for.

Give way to others

This is crucial. If oncoming traffic or pedestrians are crossing, you need to wait. According to the rules, it might be your turn, but safety always comes first. Cars going straight through the intersection or turning right have priority over you turning left.

Sometimes, a car might be coming from the opposite direction, which is also turning right, and you’re turning left. While they should be turning into the right lane, closest to the curb, make sure they’re not turning into the left lane you plan to use.

Watch for a gap

This part can feel a bit tricky at first, but you’re looking for a break in traffic that’s big enough for you to turn safely. You don’t want to make anyone have to slam on their brakes or swerve because of you. Sometimes, this means waiting a bit longer, but that’s okay. Safety first.

Turn when safe

When you’ve made sure there’s enough space and it’s safe, go ahead and make your turn. Aim to turn into the lane nearest to the center of the road you’re entering. Try to keep your turn smooth and avoid cutting the corner too close or swinging too wide.

Complete you turn

After you’ve turned, you might need to adjust your speed to fit in with the traffic on the new road. And remember to turn off your signal.

Left turns and car insurance

Having car insurance is essential when making left turns, not just because it’s the law but also because turning left can be risky and sometimes leads to accidents. When you turn left, you have to cross in front of cars coming towards you, which means there’s a bigger chance of crashing if something goes wrong.

If you do get into an accident while turning left, collision coverage helps pay for the damage to your car, and liability insurance helps pay for the other person’s car, as well as any medical bills if people get hurt.

If you get into an accident while turning left, it could increase your insurance, but having accident forgiveness coverage on your insurance policy can help prevent that for your first accident.

Plus, without insurance, you’d have to pay for all of that out of your own pocket, which could cost a lot. So, having a car insurance policy isn’t just something the law says you need to have—it’s also a way to make sure you’re not stuck with a huge bill if you ever have an accident while making a left turn.


Making a left turn at intersections means really getting to know the traffic rules and always putting safety first. From dealing with traffic lights to figuring out when to turn at a stop sign or even those rare times you can turn left on a red light, it’s all about understanding what’s expected of you.

If this all feels like a lot to keep in mind, remember that every driver was new once. The more you practice, especially in less busy areas if you can, the more natural it will feel. And before you know it, turning left at an intersection will just be another part of driving.

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What are the rules for left turns in Canada?

In Canada, you need to signal before turning, check for cars, bikes, and people, and give way to oncoming traffic and pedestrians. Always turn when it’s safe, and follow any signs or lights at the intersection.

What is the proper way to make a left turn?

To properly make a left turn, signal early, slow down, and move into the left lane or turn lane if there’s one. Stop and look for traffic and pedestrians. Then, turn into the nearest lane on the road you’re entering when it’s safe.

What is the correct position when turning left?

The correct position for a left turn is to be in the left lane or designated turn lane closest to the centerline of the road you’re turning from. Make sure to turn into the lane nearest to the center of the road you’re entering without cutting corners or swinging wide.

If you have any questions, contact one of our local branches.