left shoulder checks for left turns?

Do you need to do left shoulder checks every time before you turn left? It’s a question we get here a lot. Normally you need to do right shoulder checks for right turns, but not necessarily left checks before left turns.

When you turn right, there are crosswalks 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 right to ensure it is safe for pedestrians and cyclists. There could be a number of different road users in your blind spot area.

Right Shoulder Checks for Right turns

left shoulder check

When you turn left, what’s in your left blind spot? 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 spot 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 turn shoulder checks

left right shoulder check

You may decide to do a left shoulder check in certain cases when an intersection 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.

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.

Shoulder Checks On Left Turns Video

This driving instructor is an advocate for the left turn shoulder check and indeed he has a great point.

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10 thoughts on “left shoulder checks for left turns?”

  1. With 30 years experience driving, I just did my road test (in BC, Canada) yesterday and failed. The reason? Failure to shoulder check properly. The examiner emphasized the importance of shoulder checking when turning right AND Left.

  2. Hi, well according to my driving experience in some intersection you should check shoulder check coz it’s depend on the intersection some intersections are very wide and two vehicles comes in to crossing same time ….. for example king George and 96th Ave. in surrey, BC in some bigger intersection where you cant see left hand side starting point. some pedestrian or bi cyclist start walk even on red pedestrian light ….. this is my own experience if it’s helps you ….. keep notice rules are not just for get driving license but good driving save our skills own life and others life ……. best wisher of this blog and web site lady as i got good help by her blogs and videos …

  3. I’ve actually had this practice save me once: I was just about to turn left on a green light, and the only other things around was the car that was behind me. Suddenly, that car decided to pull around me on my left to take the left turn ahead of me! Luckily, I saw the car start doing this as I was doing a shoulder check.

    The other thing I know this can catch is fast moving pedestrians or bicyclists on the left sidewalk trying to make the green – if I do a shoulder check on my left, I’m more likely to see something and be able to react.

    1. mm hm yes it can ‘save you’ as long as it is done very quickly. new drivers sometimes will shoulder check for a very very long time and then get into trouble with speeding oncoming traffic; something to keep in mind

      1. The other thing to think about is this.. if the car behind you had enough time to turn left before you did, was it because you didn’t turn as soon as you could have/should have?

  4. Hello from across the pond! I agree that being aware is one of the best tips. Obviously the driver who turned left in your video must not have been very aware. This post has been updated. I think drivers should carefully consider which turns to shoulder check and which not to. For example when turning at a large, busy intersection in the middle of a city, is there really a need to shoulder check then? Or is it more important on a rural road or highway? I ran intro trouble with new drivers who would always shoulder check before every turn, left and right, and became dangerous when they spent so much time doing a left check that the oncoming traffic situation changed in front of them by the time the check was complete! You are right, it is better to be safe; as long as your shoulder check is done Before your movement (not at the same time as some drivers seem to do) and can be done quickly/efficiently. Thanks for the comment!

  5. I take the liberty to disagree with this lady driving instructor and I will explain why: Recently I saw one of those road crash videos on YouTube that add up to Russia’s bad reputation. This crash happened because one lorry driver suddenly turned left, without looking into his left rear mirror or over his shoulder, and without signalling, just when a complete convoy of cars was overtaking him. I had to watch the video twice to see that the road was also poorly designed, because overtaking was allowed, where it would be safer to ban overtaking on crossroads. So yes, this crash story may sound freeky and yes, conflicts do occur more often on right turns (in right hand traffic), but isn’t it better to be safe than sorry? My driving school teacher told me to be aware even for the most stupid mistakes of other road users and to stay calm under all circumstances.

    kind regards from, Eric,
    coach driver in the Netherlands, Europe

      1. Personally I never do a left shoulder check before a left turn because I’m always keeping track of what’s around me in the mirrors all the time so nothing is a surprise… and I think that when you do a left shoulder check it takes your eyes off the road in front for no real reason. Also you are not required to do them on the ICBC road test before a normal 90 degree left turn (maybe in other situations like pulling into traffic or merging or before going into a left turn lane). That says something doesn’t it? Of course be careful in strange situations or different angle intersections.

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