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

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Left Turns Are Complicated

Left Turn Yield On Green

I can’t possibly write everything there is to know about how to turn left here, or provide one million tips to turn left. There are a lot of exceptions to rules and unique intersections. However, I’ve tried to include a lot of the basic fundamental ideas. I hope it helps. 🙂

introduction to the tips to turn left: basic left turn information

traffic 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.

ICBC Left Turn Rules – How To Turn Left At Traffic Lights Video

tips to turn left: Approaching The Intersection

approaching intersection

When approaching the intersection, consider whether the light is fresh or stale: Traffic Signal Anticipation.

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 Tip #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

• Filming

• 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


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.

This seems like important information to check out.

No turning left signs

More juicy tips to turn left safely…

Juicy Tip #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

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 Tip #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 Tip #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.

I swear some people have driven for years and they didn’t know that there was another traffic light over here on the left. (I think I was one of them a while ago).

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 Tip #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.

For more detailed information: How many cars can wait in an intersection for left turns? *Just my thoughts and opinions. Touchy subject apparently.* 

wait behind line for intersection

Juicy Tip #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

Left Turns Cost Money In Abbotsford

Did you know Abbotsford police are charging for left turns nowadays?!

 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 Tip #8: tips to turn left: 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 Tip #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 Tip #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 Tip #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.

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.

left turn on red

The following information on red light left turns is relevant to British Columbia. If you live somewhere else, your rules may be different.

So check with your local laws. And always remember, you never have to turn on a red light.

Are you wondering if you can turn left on a red light? Well you are in luck as I have also written a much smaller novel about that subject here.

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.

can i turn left on a red light?

Left Hand Turn Demonstration Video

Left Turn At Intersection Canada

more left turning articles

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

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62 thoughts on “Tips to Turn Left at a Traffic Light – Epic Safety Tips”

  1. Qusetion Re: Left turn off hwy, no intersection, no lights:
    There is a shopping plaza in the north end of my city (Nanaimo) that I enter off of the north-bound highway. To do so, I use a designated left turn lane off the highway and cut across the south-bound hwy traffic, into the plaza. When using this lane, it makes sense to slow down and yeild to oncoming traffic, but is it wrong to stop before crossing the south-bound lane, like to come to a complete stop? should I not yeild at all if I can see no oncoming traffic, just keep driving? If you can provide any assistance on this, I’d appreciate it. Thanks.

    1. Hi, can you tell me the road names/or address just to make certain? Usually if you have no actual stop sign/red light in that case you just yield. So if there’s no oncoming traffic or pedestrians/bikes or anyone else you simply turn without stopping. It would be considered “wrong” to stop by a lot of people if there is no reason because there’s a risk of being rear-ended by the car behind you, who is not expecting you to stop if they see absolutely no reason at all to do so, and most experienced driver’s don’t stop unless there is a good reason!! 🙂

  2. i just failed my N road test because my instructor said i was not going the speed limit of 50km/h. I was maintaining speed of 45-48 on city roads because it was rush hour and there was alot of traffic. He also said i got a violation for being in an intersection on a red light. I was turning left so i entered the intersection on a green and waited for a good sized gap to turn but there were lots of cars turning right so i had to wait for them to merge as it was a single lane road i was turning on to. As i was waiting the light turned red and cars were still turning right so i was stuck until i had room to merge. I thought i am legally allowed to finish my turn when SAFE? And its legal to be within 5km/hr of the speed limit right? I dont think i was failed for legit reasons, is there any way to contest it?

    1. Sorry to hear. I’m not sure about the speed, the appropriate speed depends on so many things; some examiners are more picky than others. I would think 45-48 would be close enough. I guess it’s better to go 50 km/hr or 49 km/hr if conditions are good. I am not sure if you can talk to the management at the road testing facility and ask for an explanation or a re-test.

      As for the left turn. When the light first went yellow and then red where was your car? Was it still in the exact same spot, not moving at all? This is a difficult situation because those right turning cars are facing the same yellow/red light as you and legally they are supposed to be stopping before the intersection once the light is yellow, allowing you to leave. However they have bad habits and will happily turn anyway, especially if it looks like the driver of the left turning car doesn’t really want to turn left too badly and is fine sitting in the middle of the intersection almost forever.

      If there are still many right turning cars trying to happily turn after the light has gone yellow or Especially red, that is when you need to start leaving the intersection anyway; at least get the car moving forward, at the very least take your foot off the brake and put it towards the gas pedal, and Do either honk at the right turning car that is obviously not supposed to be turning at that moment, and/or start turning and turn after the last right-turning car whenever it is safe. In that case it’s Okay to start rolling towards your turn, as long as it’s obvious those cars are turning right and not going straight. But you do not want to stay completely stopped inside the intersection. In large intersections the other traffic facing the green light would start to go in certain cases and this would leave you in a dangerous spot. Not to mention like I said about the right turing cars, they might think you’re day dreaming so it’s Ok for them to turn before you. You gotta show them that you seriously want to turn left and you are seriously thinking about it and getting ready.

      The same goes for pedestrians who are happily BEGINNING to cross the crosswalk right when the light goes yellow/red and you’re turning left. They have no right to be there at that moment, that is your moment to leave the intersection. So similarly in that case if I was driving I would start my turn, honk the horn, and then turn after they are out of the way; and I believe that’s what they want to see on the road test as well.

  3. turn left is uncontroll trafic., car A turning left into mall., mall entrance have 3 line, one is for exit
    car B turning right into mall but the van over the height limit of the mall.,
    car A turn left behind car B while 2nd line of mall entrance is free.,
    car B backing into the right side and almost there but car B front bumper driver hit the front bumper passenger side of car A.,

    car B did not expect car A.,
    cause there a entrance for car A and that is 2nd line.,?

    whos is fault.,?

    cambie left turn uncontroll traffic in oakridge mall

  4. I recently failed my driving test, one of the things I did badly 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

    1. excellent question. I have been meaning to write an article on this and I will do soon, it will make more sense with some diagrams. It basically means you “cut the corner” or started to turn the steering wheel too soon/too early so your car was possibly going across the wrong side of the road a bit when you turned, and that would be a problem if there was a car coming on the new road, your car might get too close to the other car. So you just have to keep the steering wheel straight a bit longer before you turn and/or pull forward more into the intersection before you start to turn. I will post soon about this topic!

  5. What if you want to make a left turn (from a single left turning lane) and the oncoming traffic lanes across the intersection has two left turning lanes, do you have to wait for the cars in the rightmost (from their side) lane to finish turning before you go (because they go so far into the intersection) or can you turn at the same time?

  6. If the left turning light is red, the straight through light is green, and there’s no oncoming traffic, is it legal to turn left?

  7. what happens if you came to the light on a green and wait it out (cars still going) and then it turns yellow but there are pedestrians still walking?

    1. Honk your horn (this asks them to hurry up as they don’t really have any rights to be there, though you can not just run them over of course) and start turning/moving so you are ready to get out of the intersection as quickly as possible after they are gone.

  8. Ravana Hamzayeva

    today at 3 pm I had a road exam. No failed, all was excellent. 6 times left – 5 left turn not noted on paper only, last one noted. turn, instructor stopped on the road and asked questions about hazards. End when I did left turn traffic light was yellow and was my way, suddenly one driver cross the intersection on yellow where he was to far from intersection outcoming car and traffic light was red. For my safety I wait for a gap and another cars started to move. Instructor with Jayson at Point Grey ICBC office claimed that I failed to block the pedestrians where that time wasn’t any pedestrian. Another driver where ICBC handled him driver licence didn’t gave me way to proceed and for my safety I wait for gap. After all I asked instructor to call manager he refused that there is no manager in office about road exam. This is DISCRIMINATION. I lived in Europe several years never meet such things where I got it in Canada where claim itself zero level DISCRIMINATION.

    1. I am sorry you had that experience, I am not sure what exactly you mean happened… If you’re in the intersection and the light goes yellow and red you must leave as quickly as you can once it is safe.. is that what you mean?!

  9. I sometimes find it hard to judge the speed of oncoming cars when waiting to turn left. Does this just come with practise?

    I’ve been honked at for not turning when I should have (by the time I realise that I should have turned, the cars are closer and Ive missed my chance). I know being cautious is preferable to turning and causing an accident, but It knocks my confidence everytime I get honked. I also get nervous now when I’m the lead car waiting to make a left turn, as I’m so conscious of not annoying the drivers behind 🙁

    1. I think this does get better with practice yes! I recommend not to just left turn on your way to where you’re going, but go specifically and practice the left turns for 1 hour or 45 minutes, that way you get some actual experience. And then do that again and again until you feel more confident.
      The other thing that may complicate this is when you’re new at driving, the time it takes you to actually turn may take longer than a more experienced drivers’ would (if your turn is slower, you’ll need a bigger gap); if you find this is part of the problem, go into a residential area and practice turning without the traffic lights until you feel like you can do them with your eyes closed, and then add the traffic light. It’s unnecessary stress – and probably a bad idea – to do the traffic light turns otherwise.
      Keep in mind huge trucks and other vehicles carrying fragile or dangerous cargo must wait for bigger gaps in traffic – and there is nothing the car behind can do about that. The choice is always up to the driver and not the vehicles behind.
      What I would do is put my rear-view mirror onto the night position so that the driver behind can’t make eye contact with me and I won’t be distracted by his arms flailing around in the air if that should happen. The truth is people can be generally impatient, downright rude, unsympathetic and wrapped up in their own world. It is for sure a hostile learning environment at times. But there is one way to get better at your left turns and that is to turn left. JUST IGNORE THEM. I know this is hard but consider turing left the wrong way is such a brilliant way to cause a very painful collision. And if you get into a collision that guy who honked is just going to go home and you’ll be the one with all of those awful consequences.
      Just try not to worry about the other people too much. It is impossible to please everybody. There will always be someone who is unhappy even if you are doing everything right. For example the other day the driver behind me was angry and swerving around behind me because I was driving 30 km/hr in a 30 km/hr school zone. Does this mean I am going to speed in a school zone just to make him happy? NO!! There have been many times people honk at me (and at other driving instructors) when I’m driving in my own car on my own spare time for waiting on a left turn. I just don’t care what they think of my decision because it’s MINE and not theirs. And in my 15+ years of driving I have never had a left turning collision and this is one of the many important reasons why. I can’t count the number of times the car behind has honked, either. I would need a really big calculator to add it all up. Just keep practicing and keep it SAFE.
      Just think about it this way: Do you want to have a crash, or do you want to do a safe turn with the sound of a car horn in the background? Pick one.

      1. I needed to hear this. Thank you so much for supporting newbie drivers who are still learning confidence and their footing on the road. It helps a lot!!

        1. No problem I’m glad it helps that’s why I made the website I just want to help the new drivers! It aint easy being a new driver these days! 🙂

    2. This exact same thing just happened to me today! Two things I learned from it—when to turn and how HORRIBLE it feels to be honked at for missing the open gap. Can’t change the past, so I’ve just learned to pay it forward. I keep practicing my turns and I make sure I myself don’t honk at other drivers who miss their “gap.” Spread kindness and keep growing 🙂

      1. That’s great to hear (That are you going to practice a lot)!! Yeah just remember that no one is perfect and we are all human and everyone who is driving was once a new driver a long time ago and what goes around comes around 🙂 Safety first!!

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