Q: Basic Right or Left Turns Not Awesome? How to Stop Cutting Corners and Turning Wide

(Last Updated On: January 16, 2017)

Question on ‘Not Wide Enough’ Turns

Q: I recently failed my driving test, one of the things I did badly was turning left at a 90 degree angle. The examiner wrote “your turns are not wide enough” so does that mean I turned too early? If so, how do I know when I should start turning my wheel and how much? Should I drive a little bit before I start my turns? Would love your advice. 

 

What Does ‘Cutting Corners’ Mean?

 

Yes, if your turns are ‘not wide enough’ it means that you possibly ‘cut the corner’ or did not move far enough forward into the intersection before starting to turn the wheel

So your car was touching parts of the pavement that are generally frowned upon in relation to the direction you were travelling at that moment, if you know what I mean. 😉

 

Here is a car ‘cutting the corner’ :

 

 

Something like this:

 

CUT_CORNER

 

Turning Too Wide

 

Here is a wide turn. This is wide, very wide, way too wide! (Unless you’re driving a semi-truck or other large vehicle, and by large vehicle no I do not mean your SUV!!) 😛

 

CUT_CORNER_WIDE

 

Trucks Kind of Have To Turn Wide

 

Keep in mind large trucks do need to turn wide (especially when turning right) otherwise they will not be able to complete their turn without hitting stuff.

 

 

 

 Why do turns look like this?

 

*I’m entering my deep Philosophical mode:

 

  • There could be many reasons why people cut the corner or turn wide. Sometimes people do it on purpose, but that’s another story.
  • New drivers: Are new at driving, so they haven’t yet learned how to do a proper turn, especially if no one has taught them how. Specifically your turn might be wide or you might cut the corner if :
  • You aren’t looking where you are going while turning. For example, many new drivers when they’re turning left, instead of looking at where they’re going while they’re turning, they’re still looking at some oncoming traffic that is down the road. If you’ve decided to turn, then you’ve decided it’s safe to turn in front of that traffic; so what’s the point in staring at it anymore? It’s not like you can turn half way and then press pause and reevaluate your decision…!! So essentially you aim your car where you look. If you’re still looking at the oncoming traffic while turning left, then your car will tend to aim towards the oncoming traffic, leading to a wide turn; as oppose to simply making a safe decision to turn when you see a safe gap in that traffic, and then looking where you actually want the car to go and then going there.
  • You turn the steering wheel too soon – before your car has reached an appropriate part of the intersection/road (cutting the corner). If you do this on a right turn you run the risk of hitting the curb. Sometimes it seems like new drivers forget that their car has 4 wheels; the front 1/2 of the car makes it around the corner but the rear wheels don’t exactly, and might hop the curb. If you do this on a left turn it means your car is travelling over a section of the wrong side of the road, which could obviously be dangerous if there is traffic coming there.
  • You turn the steering wheel too late – after your car has already gone too far past the point where you should have turned the wheel (wide turn).  If you do turn the steering wheel ‘too late,’ then you often have no choice but to then turn the steering an additional amount – and thus of course having to un-steer it that amount on top of the required amount –  in order to make it around the corner without ending up (or staying) on the wrong side of the road. This is a ton of extra and unnecessary work!!  Driving should not be that much work.
  • You turn the steering wheel not enough  / not the correct amount 
  • You have issues with your vehicle speed relative to your ‘steering speed.’ If your car is going so fast that you don’t leave yourself time to turn the wheel enough, then that’s not going to work. This is one of the reasons why we recommend to slow to 20 km/hr before turning, no matter what the circumstance.
  • Likewise, if you’re so new at driving and your car is going very slowly, then you’ll also need to turn the steering wheel perhaps more slowly. If you get all the steering done when the car is stopped, that might not work because you might have turned it too early or not at the precisely correct time. This is why it’s much easier to turn corners while your vehicle is moving slowly, but not too slowly. If you do want to practice as a snail, then you may need to turn the wheel in a more slow motion manner in order to make it work.
  • So you see, I just made turning a corner sound a lot like rocket science! This is not easy!! Even though, it would seem like one of the easiest driving maneuvers, it’s actually one of the most difficult to learn, and to teach. But, once you’ve got it then you can continue learning and everything else should be relatively easy to learn because you have this very important foundation.
  • If all else fails and you’ve been trying so hard on your turns and they just aren’t working.. this will sound strange but simply stop trying for a while. Just look where you want to go and forget the rest. Sometimes this works well!

 

Proper Turns

 

  • Turning corners seems like a simple thing to do but it’s one of the most difficult for new drivers to learn
  • It’s difficult for people to teach as well because experienced drivers ‘just do it,’ they don’t even know what they’re doing to a point they could explain it to someone else
  • Not sure I have the best way of explaining it, but will try
  • Anyway, keep practicing the turning
  • They get better if you keep working on them
  • When you are planning a turn, you should always check out where your car is going to end up after you turn
  • This is one of the first things you should do every time
  • This alone will help with the problem
  • (Of course you want to do this anyway for other reasons, like ensuring there is actually a space for your vehicle to fit once you turn i.e. it’s not backed up with traffic or there is an accident there.)

 

Where exactly is your car going to go, anyway?

 

CUT_CORNER_HERE

 

There are so many different sizes of intersections with different amounts of lanes, different widths and different features; and it is always important to check and see where you are going.

 

LEFT_CURCORNER

 

What is the ‘Proper Amount’ to pull forward?

 

Well this is a bit hard to explain, but the thing to remember is you don’t want to pull forward ‘not enough’ and cut the corner, but you also don’t want to pull forward too far and do one of those funky wide turns either.

 

You want to pull forward enough that :

 

  • you have a short and efficient turn into your new lane, with the minimum amount of steering as possible (why do extra work??) 

 

  • and you also have to think about not pulling in so far that you’re getting in the way of an opposing left-turning vehicle when turning left, 

 

Picture 3’s

 

Good things come in 3’s

 

For left turns, generally I would recommend to chop the road into 3 chunks inside your imagination and pull forward about 1/3rd, so your front bumper is roughly up to the 1/3 area.

It doesn’t have to be exactly perfect, you don’t have to get out your measuring tape and measure it or anything like that, but roughly around this area will set you up nicely for a good turn.

 

Left Turn:

 

CUT_CORNER_HERE_99

 

 

LEFT_CURCORNER_999

 

If you pull forward roughly this amount and the car facing you does as well, then you will both have enough room to complete your left turns simultaneously (if that is safe/possible which it sometimes is) or without otherwise getting all up in each other’s business.

 

LEFT_CURCORNER_99100

 

 

  • The other insanely important thing about doing turns is to Look where you want to go!! Have I already mentioned this?! 😉 
  • This may sound obvious. Like look where you wanna go? Yeah?! Duhh! But believe it or not a lot of new drivers are still looking at other things while they are turning. They are not actually looking in the direction their car is going, or where they would like their car to go.
  • The trick is to do any kind of checks, observations, or looking for pedestrians and oncoming traffic before you turn. Once you have made that decision that you’re going to turn, then you must look where you want the car to go and then magically go there.
  • Do keep your eyes moving while driving. But for sure look far ahead at where you want to go while turning. Remember that you can still see the other cars in the corner of your eye.. there is no need to stare at them! A lot of new drivers are nervous about running into parked vehicles when they’re turning left. However, if in the middle of your turn you decide to stare at the parked vehicle, then you will probably drive right into it. Just an FYI !! Remember that parked cars are parked, right? They will probably not jump out at you while you go past. You can still see them in the corner of your eye, so look ahead, far, far, far, far ahead at where you would like your car to go. How many intersections can you see up ahead?? How many traffic lights/stop signs can you see up ahead?? This is the kind of the kind of thing to ask yourself as a reminder to keep your eyes ‘up,’ where they belong!

 

Steering

 

In terms of steering, this can be the other problem if a new driver hasn’t learned proper steering techniques and the proper amount required for a regular left or right turn.

Check out the following video of the very snazzy driving instructor Eric, and notice how much he turns the wheel for each turn. This is hugely important.

 

3 Steps to a good turn

 

  • He turns it a certain amount in the beginning of the turn (not a full circle of the wheel, usually about 3/4 of a full rotation)
  • then he holds the wheel there and simply does nothing while the car turns, (It is hard for student drivers to ‘do nothing’ as it’s easy to think that you should always be doing something!! This is not the case!!
  • and then he slowly un-winds the wheel while looking far ahead of course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope that helps!

 

If you’re still looking for more information about stop sign intersections, basic driving techniques and rules, check out my eBook for drivers here:

Stop Signs eBook

Thanks for the Q Malia 🙂

Reference:

How to turn left at traffic lights

Cutting the corner on DriveSmartBC

 

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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