Tips to Turn Left at a Traffic Light – Less Than 1 Million

How To Turn Left At An Intersection

Left Turn Yield On Green

Left Turn Tutorial video

Turning left at an intersection will likely be one of the most common driving maneuvers you’ll do in your life. It happens to also be one of the most dangerous. There are a lot of little details to remember when turning left at a light, and these turns can be difficult for new drivers. We will go through:

  • How to turn left at a traffic light intersection safely
  • Left turn tips & tricks, best practices
  • Step-by-step tutorial
  • Left turn FAQ’s
  • Turning restrictions, turning arrows

How To Turn Left at a Traffic Light

traffic light

Turning Left On a Green Light

When you turn left at a traffic light, you can enter the intersection only when the light is green.

You can turn left on a red light only if it is onto a one-way street. You must stop and yield first to determine safety.

If you are approaching a red light and want to turn left, make sure you are in the correct lane. Stop behind the white line.

Wait for the green light or green arrow.

When turning left at a traffic light, you should not have to worry about pedestrians in the crosswalk in front of you. Not the traffic to your left and right either. This is the whole idea of having traffic lights.

Always be cautious, but remember that your primary focus is on the oncoming traffic facing you and the pedestrians in the crosswalk to your left.

tips to turn left

Tips To Turn Left: Approaching The Intersection

approaching intersection

Left Turn Rules BC

When approaching the intersection, consider whether the light is fresh or stale.

If you know it is stale, be prepared to stop if the light goes to yellow.

Consider whether you’re past your point of no return.

Knowing this may play a factor in how you decide to control (or are ready to control) your vehicle’s speed.

More Tips to Turn Left: Turning Restrictions On Your Left Turn

Make sure there are no turning restrictions.

Are you allowed to turn left?

If it’s not legal or not legal at that date/time then there’s no point in checking anything else.

Behold the no left turn sign

no left turn sign

Juicy Tips To Turn Left #1: Where Are You Going?

The first thing to do is to check the area you are planning to turn into.

Make sure there is actually somewhere to go. This might sound obvious, but this is important.

Simply find out where you are going, where exactly is the lane you’re going to end up in after your turn?

There may not be an available space due to:

An Accident/Crash

• Construction

• Traffic Congestion


• Another reason

tips to turn left

If there’s no where to go, then you can’t go there. Amazing tips to turn left right there!

*If there is no space, go to the next light and turn left.

OR, wait behind the white line for the traffic backup to clear if applicable (if the light turns yellow, you won’t be ‘trapped’ in an awkward position in the intersection or blocking pedestrians).

Remember you might also be able to ‘turn left’ by turning right 3 times instead.

For Example: Marine Drive and Heather Street

For example, you might think you’d like to turn left here. At first it looks like a normal intersection.

But if you check, you can see that you could turn right, but not left. (Marine Drive and Heather, Vancouver).

There is no love for the left turn here. Read on for more tips to turn left!

no where to turn left

Left Turn Example At Busy Intersection video

Tips to Turn Left Regarding Complicated Intersections: Garden City Road in Richmond

Here’s another example. Granville and Garden City in Richmond.

It’s not really a typical intersection. If you’re in the left turn lane it might not be immediately obvious where you are supposed to end up.

complicated intersection

Tips to Turn Left When You Are Stopped Waiting at the Traffic Light

If you’re stopped waiting at the red light in the left turn lane, it might be a good idea to check out where you’re supposed to end up turning. Especially if you are the first car at the light.

It’s always good to set a good example for others. Just exactly where are you going to go?! Make sure you know the correct answer.

This is the same intersection here–>

Richmond Intersection

Okay here’s one more. I already covered this but if you check here you’d find 3 ‘Do Not Enter’ signs and 2 ‘Do Not Turn Left’ sign.

No turning left signs

More juicy tips to turn left safely…

Juicy Tips To Turn Left #2 : Check For People Walking & Pedestrians

Check For Pedestrians


If there are people walking (or about to walk), move forward to around one-third of the way into the intersection.

Position the car so that you will have a short and easy turn into your lane without getting in the way of an opposing left-turning vehicle. If you still need to work on your basic left and right turns, read this.

Wait until pedestrians are out of your way and almost on the opposite sidewalk. Keep your car and your tires straight in case you get rear-ended. Of course, we hope that never happens. But we need to realize that it could. It happens every day.

car tire

When the light turns yellow or red, exit the intersection when safe. If you enter an intersection when the light is green, you can leave the intersection legally when it is safe, regardless of the traffic-light color.

Say you waited behind the white line when the light is green, and it turns yellow or red, legally you must stay there, and you may be there all day.

When you’re unsure whether or not a person is going to walk, wait to see what they do. This is safer than turning and finding out they are walking, then having to stop at a difficult or awkward angle on the wrong side of the road.

more tips for turning left

Juicy Tips To Turn Left #3: Check Out Oncoming Traffic

Yield to any oncoming and conflicting traffic. Left turns have zero right of way in this situation.

No one should have to stop and wait for you when you are turning left. Left turns yield to right turns if there is one lane.

If there is more than one lane, stagger it to be safe. In other words, time it so that when you are turning there is space beside you rather than the right-turning car.

Follow a few seconds after the right-turning car or, if the right- turning car is very slow and far away, and if it’s safe and there are no pedestrians then go before it.

Read more about space management in driving.

tips to turn left

Juicy Tips To Turn Left #4: Keep An Eye On The Traffic Light

traffic lights

Keep an eye on the traffic light. Note especially the traffic light on the left side of the intersection since it’s in the general direction you should be looking.

Leave the intersection only when you are 138% sure it is safe. Turning left is considered generally complex and dangerous, since you are turning across the lanes of the oncoming traffic.

This light is also lower than the regular one, and can help so much on a sunny day, when you have your sun visor thingy down blocking the regular normal traffic light.

This left light is your friend.

You definitely have to do some multitasking when you’re turning left.

New drivers often pay attention to the oncoming traffic without noticing their light has changed, sometimes leaving them hanging out in the intersection longer than necessary.

eye on traffic light
lower traffic light

Juicy Tips To Turn Left #5: When The Vehicle in Front of You is Also Turning Left

If there is a car in front of you turning left, wait behind the white line in case the light turns yellow. When the vehicle turns, and the light is still green, treat it as you would any other green light.

When the intersection is very wide/large and you can fit most (at least three-quarters) of your car in front of the crosswalk, then you may pull forward behind another vehicle.

Legally, you are considered to be in the intersection. If the light changes to yellow, leave when safe (as above).

Keep in mind you don’t have to enter the intersection if you don’t want to when there is another vehicle in front of you. This is difficult to make suggestions about because it depends a lot on the size of the intersections and vehicles, and other circumstances, so use your best judgment.

wait behind line for intersection

Juicy Tips To Turn Left #6: When The Oncoming Vehicle Also is Turning Left

If there is a left-turning car facing you and your visibility is diminished, or anytime you aren’t 100% sure it is safe, then wait patiently and keep your car straight.

Drivers are allowed to pass around to the right of a left turning vehicle and continue straight through the intersection. The longest you would wait is the time it takes for the light to turn yellow or red.

When the light goes yellow, wait for any cars that may be racing through – or casually meandering as the case may be – then leave quickly when safe to do so.

Never turn unless you know it is safe and are sure that oncoming vehicles are planning to stop. There is no need to watch them stop completely but you must be sure they intend to.

If other drivers behind you honk, ignore them. The safety decision is yours, not theirs. The consequences will be yours, not theirs.

left turn visibility blocked

Even More Juicy Tips to Turn Left: Can You Turn at The Same Time?

When a left-turning car is facing you, and there is no oncoming traffic (and you can clearly see that there is no oncoming traffic) nor any pedestrians in the crosswalk, you should have lots of room to safely turn at the same time.

Make sure that the other car is showing a left-turn signal and that the driver is actually going to turn left. Drivers sometimes have their turn signals on but then go straight, and this is a very good way to have a crash.

Judge the car—is it slowing down? Can you make eye contact with the driver?

Not that eye contact would help too much, but you can often tell a lot about the intended plan for the vehicle by looking at the driver. Wait until it’s clearly obvious the car is planning to turn left—then proceed.

Also, you do not have to’ go at the same time.

If you’d really like to play it super duper extra extra extra safe, wait for the other car to go and then go after it. That is perfectly fine.

left turning at the same time

Tips to turn left: Make sure the vehicle is actually going to turn right before you move. Even then, you can not trust that they’ll go into the lane they are supposed to.

It’s not wise to turn at the same time

 Juicy Tips To Turn Left #7: Sometimes It’s Too Easy

Have you almost had enough of the tips to turn left?

If there’s a space to move into… no pedestrians… no oncoming cars… and a green light…

…slow to 20 km/h, quickly scan the intersection from left to right, then turn and look where you’re going. You don’t have to stop first — Please don’t!

turn left easy

Juicy Tips To Turn Left #8: Magical Turning Arrows

Flashing or not flashing green arrows (left-turn arrow)

Everyone else, including pedestrian, has a red light. If pedestrians walk while you have the flashing arrow, honk your horn and ask them to move out of the way quickly.

When the light turns yellow, treat it like the point of no return, just as you would if you were going straight.

Say the arrow disappears and you still have a green light, move forward into the intersection, just as you would at any other green light that never had the arrow.

left turn arrow

You can still turn left just like your normally would, even after the arrow has gone. Just treat it like you would any other left turn.

You would only stop and stay stopped behind the line if you had a good reason to do this, such as a red light, or traffic congestion. We have a few more tips to turn left.

Juicy Tips To Turn Left #9: Left-Turn Signal Lights

left turn signal lights

Stop behind the line and when the light turns red wait for the next green arrow. Turn left when the light changes to green.

All other conflicting traffic and pedestrians will be facing a red light.

Juicy Tips To Turn Left #10: The Point of No Return & Yellow Lights

yellow traffic light

The idea of the point of no return is the same as going straight. If the light turns yellow and you can still safely stop behind the white line, then do so.

Otherwise, if you are past the point you can safely stop, simply complete your left turn quickly as soon as it is safe (as above).

Juicy Tips To Turn Left #11: Leaving The Intersection When the Light Goes Yellow (And Then Red As They Do)

Of course, it is fine to wait until you are 120% sure it’s safe to leave the intersection, before turning left – even if that means waiting until the light has gone red before you leave (if you’ve already entered the intersection).

HOWEVER! As soon as you are sure it’s SAFE to turn (and this is a judgement thing, which you can get good at by practicing A LOT!)

Then you must leave the intersection quickly. Do not hang out in the middle of the intersection!

Some new drivers don’t get the greatest tips to turn left and are told not to leave until safe,  they end up on the extreme opposite where they are stopped in the middle of the intersection long after it’s been safe to leave, and this isn’t good either.

 See my rant on exiting intersections on yellow/red for new drivers.

Tips To Turn Left: Hand Signal For Left Turn

Do you know what to do if your signal light burns out? You can check this article out for a reminder how to do your proper hand signals when driving.

Tips To Turn Left: Left Turn On Red Light

Can You Turn Left on a Red Light at an Intersection?

You can not turn left on a red light if you’re turning onto a two-way street (it’s illegal).

You may turn left on a red light from a one-way street onto another one-way street or from a two-way street onto a one-way street. Treat as you would a right turn on a red light. You must completely stop and yield to others before proceeding. Of course, check for turning restriction signs.

So check with your local laws, as this info is relevant to beautiful British Columbia. And always remember, you never have to turn on a red light.

Can I Turn Left On a Red Light?

Can You Turn Left On a Green Light Without an Arrow?

Some intersections have left-turning arrows that don’t last as long as the green light. Yes you can turn left on a green light without an arrow, as long as you’re still facing a green light, and not some kind of a red one.


Turning left isn’t always fun, but if you must know how to do this, may as well do it safely. With enough practice you will get more confident with them and it will be just another driving skill.

However if you do this wrong, it can be very dangerous. Don’t take chances with your left turns. Err on the side of caution. And remember, the longest you will wait is for the light to change. You won’t be there all day, so just be patient.

Additional Resources

Need more tips to turn left? Read more about left turns and left turn intersections, read some questions and answers that have come into the blog.

Exiting the intersection when turning left

why are we allowed to turn right on a red Light?

If a left turn signal is red but the thru traffic is green can you legally turn left?

Can I still Turn Left after the Left Turn Arrow has Disappeared?

left turn arrow delayed road sign

Turning Left Over Yellow Highway Lines – (1300 block Alberni Highway)

Failed Road Test Driving Question: Left Turns & Yellow Arrows

Safe Driving: Turning into the correct lane [is important] Boundary and Marine

Q: Do I have to signal when passing a left-turning vehicle?

Intersection Q: Red lights with green arrows (for new drivers)

Q: How many cars can wait in an intersection for left turns?

bus-only left turns

keeping your tires straight when waiting to turn left

fun with traffic sensors and left turning lanes


Carmen became a driving instructor at the age of 22 in North Vancouver, Canada. She enjoys writing as much as driving, and hopes you have found this website helpful.

62 thoughts on “Tips to Turn Left at a Traffic Light – Less Than 1 Million

  1. In turning left onto a 2 lane road with an oncoming car in a right hand turn lane for the same 2 lane road, is the oncoming right hand turning car required to turn into the first lane leaving the second lane open for my left turn access?

  2. If you come to a left turn arrow at an intersection and after the intersection there is another left turn arrow. Can you stay in the left turn arrow lane, then cross the intersection then make your left turn?.

    1. Hi, I’m not sure what you mean. Can you give me the intersection name? You are not allowed to go straight while you are in a left-turn only lane, if that’s what you mean. If you are in a left-turn-only lane then you must turn left. But if you’re in a lane that could go left or straight, then you can go to the 2nd intersection and then turn left. If that’s what you mean! Let me know. :)

      1. Hi Carmen,

        First of all thanks for sharing all this information, I wish I found this before I failed my road test today.
        But I believe as a long time driver in another country with new traffic rules for intersections, I did know the rule but the traffic condition made me to make a decision and I chose to play safe and the examiner told me that I didn’t know how to make left turns and therefore unqualified. In two cases where I turned left there was obstacles caused by other drivers and their vehicles and the instructor come to a conclusion without considering this.

        In my first left turn in the back streets of downtown Courtenay, one car has been stopping way past the stop sign almost in the middle of the oncoming traffic lane on my left. So I stopped thinking that it can be hazardous for that vehicle who was on the left street I was turning onto but the hood of his car was out on the road and there was another car coming from the oncoming traffic who last minute turned the right signal to turn onto where I was going. It was an awkward position but as a driver I belive that I made the safest move cuz I had to make sure that car was not going to move who was supposed to be way behind the stop sign and there was another car coming who had the right of the way.

        In the second turn we were on Cliffe Ave. just to pull in the Service BC’s parking lot where I was going to stall park and finish the road test with a pass. So there are traffic lights in this intersection and a turning lane, it is a pretty busy road. I was the first car in the left turn lane and the light was green for a while while I was approaching so I slowed down and came to a full stop as the oncoming traffic was constant and there was no safe gap, I stopped just before the white line in the turning lane to have more visibility as there was a big truck waiting to turn left right across me on the left turn lane of the oncoming traffic. Meanwhile the light turn to red so I had to wait the next green so I could turn. If that truck was not there I would have gone a bit further pass the white line and could have turned when the light change but the instructor insisted that I should have waited pass the white line. In this two cases road conditions has affected the situation but the decision was given regardless of them.
        I was really disappointed with this outcome and decision of the examiner.

  3. Is there a diagram posted anywhere explaining where you are allowed to/supposed to shift a manual car when turning left in an intersection?
    Thank you!

  4. Hi, I want to ask, where should I stop when making the left turn while the light is green? My instructor said to always stop between the crosswalk (have my shoulders be between/within them) and make the turn when it’s safe or when the light turns yellow. But how about a wide intersection, where stopping between the crosswalk will not be enough to make the turn? Can I go pass the crosswalk or will the examiner take off points or fail me for doing so?

    1. Hey~ It totally depends on the situation and size of the intersection.. But there is no rule that says you can’t go past the crosswalk. If you read this post I wrote about turning I think you might find it helpful. Let me know, :)

  5. Hi, If I’m waiting behind someone at a red light and I want to turn right, can I go around the person in front of me if it is clear to turn right?

    Does this depend on whether you would cross over the white line in doing so?

    Thank you!

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