Pondering Left Shoulder Checks – Debate & Wonder (2022)

Do you need to do left shoulder checks every time before you turn left? It’s a question we get here a lot. The short answer is maybe. Normally you need to do right shoulder checksOpens in a new tab. for right turns, but not necessarily left shoulder checks before left turns. And let me just say that driving instructors everywhere don’t agree on the answer to this question, so take everything here with a grain of salt.

When you turn right, there are crosswalksOpens in a new tab. and other areas where there may be bikes and pedestrians to the right of you, that may be hiding in your blind spot.

Right shoulder checks are essential before turning rightOpens in a new tab. to ensure it is safe for pedestrians and cyclists. There could be a number of different road users in your blind spot area. Can we say the same thing about left turns, and left shoulder checks?

Right Shoulder Checks for Right turns

left shoulder check

When you turn leftOpens in a new tab., what’s in your left blind spotOpens in a new tab.? Isn’t it normally just the wrong side of the road, i.e. cars traveling in the opposite direction…?

Normally you can simply look out your driver’s side window and check the pedestrian area to your left before turning.

ICBC driver examiners do not require you to do left shoulder checks before turning left.

Most experienced drivers do not do them either. But for sure you could do them if you feel it’s important. It depends on your particular blind spotOpens in a new tab. (different vehicles curse us with different blind spots) and particular intersection visibility.

If you’re driving in a crazy place, such as downtown Vancouver, then I would say you would for sure need to do them.

So it just all depends. You really need to think about where you are as a driver and determine whether you think you need one.

Left turnOpens in a new tab. Shoulder Checks

left right shoulder check

You may decide to do a left shoulder check in certain cases when an intersectionOpens in a new tab. may be on a different angle or where you think there may be pedestrians in your blind spot.

*It never hurts to do a left shoulder check before turning. There have been collisions where one vehicle attempts a left turn at the same time as the vehicle behind it attempts to pass it.

Can these types of collisions be prevented by more attentive mirror-checking, or is a left-shoulder check always essential?

Personally I hardly ever do a left shoulder check before doing a left turn, and I hardly ever see other drivers do one either. But, maybe I’m driving in suburbia where it’s a bit more chill compared to downtown Vancouver. Opens in a new tab.

I think that  maintaining a 360 degree awareness of what’s going on around us at all times is one of the best ways to prevent those types (and other types) of collisions.Opens in a new tab.


Carmen became a driving instructor at the age of 22 in North Vancouver, Canada and is an experienced writer, blogger, photographer, artist, philosopher, certified day dreamer and generally complicated human.

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