Turning Corners Not Awesome? How to Stop Cutting Corners and Turning Wide

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Question on turning corners: ‘Not Wide Enough’

Q: I recently failed my driving test, one of the things I did badly was turning corners. I 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 traveling at that moment, if you know what I mean. Wow that was such a diplomatic way of explaining it 😆

Here is a car ‘cutting the corner’

Diagram of cutting the corner

cutting the corner

 

What is a wide turn?

Sometimes when people are talking about turning corners you hear them talk about a wide turn. 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! 😆

turning wide

Trucks Have To Turn Wide

They don’t have a choice

Keep in mind large trucks do need to turn wide. This is true especially when turning right. Otherwise they will not be able to complete their turn without hitting stuff.

 

 Turning Corners: Why do some look like this?

warning: Entering deep into a driving instructor’s brain. 😆

There could be many reasons why people cut the corner or turn wide. Sometimes people do it on purpose, but that’s a story for a different day.

New drivers are new at driving. (Duh) So, they haven’t yet learned how to do a proper turn, especially if no one has taught them how.

And a lot of teachers and parents don’t actually know how to teach you because they ‘just do it.’

They have been doing it so long, they don’t even know what they’re doing. This doesn’t tend to help you when you’re new at driving.

Turning Corners: Reasons why your turn might be wide or you might be cutting the corner

the problem: Not looking where you’re going while turning Corners

You aren’t looking where you are going while turning corners. This sounds so basic, but it is a huge problem for new drivers.

For example, many new drivers when they’re turning left, instead of looking at where they’re going while they’re turning, are 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…! Wouldn’t that be nice.

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. This results in a wide turn.

What to do about it : Look where you want to go & then go there.

It is normal for new drivers to have issues with their decision-making skills. A lot of new drivers want to consider an option for a long time.

Once they have considered their options for a long time, the scene is completely different, because cars are moving things. How annoying is that?

Simply making a safe decision to turn when you see a safe gap in the traffic, and then looking where you want your car to go is the solution here.

If you have problems with decision making, maybe practice watching your teacher while they are driving. If you can see what they can see, try to guess when they will turn and see if they turn when you think they will.

The problem: Turning the wheel ‘too soon’

If you turn your steering wheel too soon – before your car has reached an appropriate part of the intersection/road – this is when we have the cutting the corner problem.

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. The rear wheels make contact with the curb.

If you do this on a left turn, it means your car is traveling over a section of the wrong side of the road. Obviously this is potentially dangerous if there is traffic coming there.

What to do about it

You need to ‘go forward’ a bit more before you start turning.

the problem: Turning the wheel ‘too late’

Your turn will be wide if you turn the steering wheel too late. What is too late? Basically, your car has already gone too far past the point where you should have turned the wheel. (Keep reading)

If you do turn the steering wheel ‘too late,’ then you often have no choice but to then turn the steering an additional amount just to get around the corner.

Consequently, you’ll need to un-steer it that amount on top of the required amount, in order to make it around the corner without ending up on the wrong side of the road.

This is a ton of extra and unnecessary work!  Driving should not be that much work.

What to do about it

You need to start your steering earlier and/or do not go that far into the intersection before turning (see below).

The problem: the Amount of steering is incorrect

You turn the steering wheel not enough  / not the correct amount 

The problem: The speed of your turn

You may 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.

What to do about it

This is one of the reasons why we recommend that all drivers slow to 20 km/hr before turning, no matter what the circumstance.

Likewise, if you’re so new at driving that your car is proceeding like a snail, 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 either. This is because you might have turned it too early or not at the precisely correct time.

Normally we don’t turn corners while stopped. 😆 But some new drivers turn the steering wheel when the car is stopped, and then attempt to magically make it around the corner.

This is why it’s much easier to turn corners while your vehicle is moving slowly, but not too slowly.

If your vehicle is proceeding as a snail, then your steering wheel needs to proceed as a snail as well. If that makes any sense.

Many factors go into turning corners

So you see, I just made turning a corner sound a lot like rocket science. Which it kind of is, until you do it so many times that you don’t know what you’re doing anymore, just like everyone else 😆

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!

Correct a.k.a. ‘Proper’ Turning corners

Let’s get proper!

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.

what to do about this whole problem of turning corners

When you are planning a turn, you should always check out where your car is going to end up after you turn. Where exactly are you going?

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. For example, 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?

turning corners

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.

turning left

What is the ‘Proper Amount’ to pull forward when turning corners?

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.
  • New drivers seem to feel that they should always be doing something. When it comes to steering, less is more.
  • Why do extra work?
  • 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 for every intersection

Good things come in 3’s

For left turns, generally I would recommend to chop the road into 3 chunks inside your imagination. 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.

when you’re turning corners to the left

Sorry for my questionable Photoshop skills. If you can see below that the car has pulled forward roughly just to 1/3rd of the intersection. Does this make sense?

turning left corner
intersection turn

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.

Sometimes it is safe/possible to turn at the same time.

You each have a lot to focus on when turning left; you don’t want to be getting in each other’s business.

two cars turning left

The other insanely important thing about doing turns is to Look where you want to go.

This may sound obvious. But a lot of brand new drivers (dare I say ALL) 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, while they are turning.

What to do about it

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. Most of the time 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.

Ask yourself these questions while you are turning corners

  • How many intersections can I see up ahead?
  • How many traffic lights or stop signs can I see up ahead?
  • What is the farthest point that I can see far up the road?

This is the kind of thing to ask yourself as a reminder to keep your eyes ‘up,’ where they belong.

The other problem with turning corners: Steering Issues

Steering could be the other problem if a new driver hasn’t learned proper steering techniques. Or, if you haven’t mastered 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.

New drivers need to realize that it is possible to turn the steering wheel way more than is needed for a turn. If you turn it extra, you are doing extra work, which will make it extra difficult.

3 Steps to a good turn

Here’s the basic prescription for turning a corner for new drivers.

  1. You need to turn the steering wheel a specific amount in the beginning of the turn. The specific amount is not a full circle of the wheel, but usually about 3/4 of a full rotation.
  2. You then need to HOLD the wheel there and simply DO 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.
  3. Slowly un-wind, or undo, the wheel while looking far ahead of course.

notice how much steering is done here

here is a brand new driver practicing

I think that’s all I have to say about that. 😆

Thanks for the Q Malia 🙂

recommended resources to dig deeper

Tips to Turn Left at a Traffic Light – Epic Safety Tips

Epic Guide To Turning Right On a Red Light While Driving

Cutting the corner on DriveSmartBC

If Your Car Won’t Go In a Straight Line for New Drivers


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