Should I Pull Into the Intersection For Left Turns? Big Yes

pull into the intersection

Entering the Intersection on Green Lights

Should I pull into the intersection? We get asked this question a lot.

If you’re turning left on a Green Light, then Yes, generally speaking, you should pull into the intersection when you’re yielding to oncoming traffic and/or pedestrians.

The only exception would be if there were no available space to turn into. This happens sometimes when the traffic is backed up on the other road.

Or, sometimes there are issues on the road you’re about to turn into (a broken down car, construction , etc.)

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Why pull into the intersection?

This lines up your vehicle so that you have a short turn across traffic. There are also legal implications.

When you enter the intersection on the green light, and then the light eventually changes to yellow or red, you’re allowed to exit the intersection.

Left Turn Tutorial
Left Turn Tutorial

Safety First

You should turn only when it is safe, regardless of the colour of the traffic light.

Since you entered the intersection when the light was green, you are legally allowed to leave the intersection whenever (and preferably as soon as, but not until) it is 110% safe to do so…

…the light may be yellow by then, or it may be red, and that is okay.

If you do not pull into the intersection

If you don’t pull into the intersection when the light is green (i.e. you’re waiting behind the white stopping line), then legally you aren’t allowed to leave the intersection once the light goes yellow or red.

This is because traffic lights control traffic approaching intersections. Traffic lights do not control traffic that is already inside the intersection.

So if you don’t enter it – and the traffic is very busy – you might be there all day long. And that would be weird because the point of driving is to go places… not stay in the same place. ha ha

Or you will be breaking the law, and potentially being dangerous, by turning once the light is yellow from the incorrect position.

Read more: How to Turn Left at a Traffic Light – Epic Guide

pull into the intersection

2- Way Stops & pulling into the intersection

The same applies for a two-way Stop (sign) intersection when you are on the through street and are turning left and waiting for oncoming traffic.

If you don’t pull forward in this case, drivers at the stop sign may think you’re just a really nice person and you want them to go first; and that would be totally backwards.

Isn’t this the whole point of stop signs? People facing stop signs are supposed to wait for people who are not facing stop signs

If you pull forward a bit, you’ll be in their way, and they will understand – even if they have no idea how to drive – that you will be going first.

Pull forward so you have a short turn across traffic and to avoid confusion. Collisions can happen when people are confused.

Read more: What is Defensive Driving? 13 Rock Solid Tips & Strategy

Keep the car straight (generally speaking)

When you pull into the intersection

Remember to keep your vehicle and your wheels straight when waiting in case you are ever rear-ended.Opens in a new tab.

If you get pushed straight forward, it’s probably not the end of the world.

Compare that with what would happen if you were pushed into oncoming traffic and consider the consequences.

right of way
left turn and right turn intersection

Conclusion

Generally speaking, we should always roll up into the intersection when waiting for a left turn. This is to reduce confusion among other drivers. By pulling forward, you are indicating that you are seriously getting ready to turn or make a move. Other drivers will understand what you’re planning to do.

It’s also important to roll forward a particular amount. You want to line up your vehicle with your new road. You want your turn to be as short and efficient as possible.

If you wait really far away from your turn, and then you see a gap in the traffic, and then you start rolling, if you have still a long distance to travel, then more time goes by… the scene can change quickly, especially when drivers may be speeding, and let’s face it, they do that.

So, rolling forward is both the safest and the least confusing for other drivers. We don’t want other drivers to get confused, that’s when collisions can happen. So it’s best to be predictable, and do the thing you say you’re going to do; and if you’re about to turn left, well then you want to look like a car that’s about to turn left.

Safe Left Turn Practice #22
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Carmen

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.

7 thoughts on “Should I Pull Into the Intersection For Left Turns? Big Yes

  1. If a red light camera is installed and you are caught in the intersection, you will be fined.
    The Red light camera does not know you have rolled into the intersection on green light and caught there while waiting.
    Also, rolling into the intersection makes it more difficult to watch for pedestrians crossing behind your sight of view.

    1. Do whatever you want, I’m not gonna follow you around and make sure you do things or don’t do things in intersections, lol

  2. What if an emergency vehicle such as a firetruck or ambulance needs to use the intersection?
    What if the destination lanes you are turning into suddenly become full due to right turners from the opposite direction. Maybe a school bus is in the destination and that stops traffic for a while. Then you are stuck in the intersection causing gridlock for the other direction.

    It is safer for all involved to stay out of the intersection unless you are moving. Do not stop in the intersection and do not enter the intersection unless there is a safe way to exit.

    1. In New York you’re legally required to enter the intersection. If you don’t on your drivers test you get ten points.

  3. If the oncoming traffic is heavy (numerous cars) going through, should you still pull out, pull out a little, or just wait behind the line??

    1. pulling out a little has potential problems. It could result in blocking the cross walk or blocking the other direction when the light changes.

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