All the Details on How to do Right Turn Shoulder Checks When Driving

(Last Updated On: April 22, 2017)
Thank you to Eric L. for this article! Eric L. has been a driving instructor in North Vancouver for many years. He can be found at the North Shore Driving School.

With ever increasing cyclist and pedestrian traffic on public roads, knowing when and where to shoulder check is a vital observation skill especially when turning right. A proper shoulder check involves moving your head 90 degrees and shifting your eyes out the back right or back left window. You should never have to take your shoulders off the back of the seat in order to shoulder check properly. You should also not be looking out the very back windshield (The rear-view mirror will show what is directly behind your vehicle).

Example 1:

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Example 1 shows a typical driving example of turning right without a stop sign. If you find yourself needing to move over to position yourself for a proper right turn, make sure you shoulder check to the right to ensure you don’t cut off any cyclists, especially when there is a parked car along the curb. If there is a cyclist in your blind spot then allow them to pass before making your right turn.

After you check your blind spot and, if there are no cyclists or pedestrians, simply take the turn. There is no need to shoulder check again because you would have checked the crosswalks on approach to the intersection for anyone crossing the street.

However, if you have to stop for any reason after you have moved over to the right, whether it be for pedestrians or maybe a left turning vehicle that went before their turn, shoulder check again towards the sidewalk behind you for any last minute pedestrians.

Example 2:

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Example 2 Shows a typical right turn at a 2 way stop. Follow the same procedure from Example 1 if you have to move the vehicle over for any reason.

Once at the 2 way stop you will have to shoulder at least once more before you go when it is safe. While stopped at the stop sign, scan the crosswalks for any pedestrians wishing to cross the street. Also check for visibility to the left for traffic.

If visibility is poor inch out into the intersection and stop again. By stopping again you’ve made a conscious choice to yield to any cars coming from the left and also any pedestrians in your blind spot. If you continue to roll ahead while check left and shoulder checking a mistake will occur at some point. What if there is someone coming? Make sure you STOP AGAIN!

Once you’ve stopped again scan the intersection for traffic and pedestrians. If there is a long line of traffic locate your safe gap. Keep updating the traffic scene to the right to make sure it will still be safe by the time you’re ready to go. Once you’ve found your gap, shoulder check right, then check back to the left again to make sure nobody has closed the gap on you. If it is not safe, repeat the scanning process. If it is safe, shoulder check right, check left again, then go ahead!

Make sure you anticipate the driving scene well ahead and always ask yourself if you need to move over or if you have to stop for any reason. Not all intersections are created equal and you’ll find that in a lot of situations you will not have to move over more than a meter or stop again. In that case there should be no need to shoulder check as long as you are looking towards the sidewalks and crosswalks. Make sure you also check in your mirrors before turning. Checking your mirrors along with proper shoulder checks will ensure your right turns are consistently 100% safe.

Many moons ago, Carmen became an ICBC-approved driving instructor at the age of 22 in North Vancouver, and has spent many years working with new and experienced drivers around the lower mainland. She can be found reading the Motor Vehicle Act for fun while receiving strange looks from others. May the quest for great driving continue!

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