Perspective Newsletter

Road Rules 101: Turning left: Is it OK to wait in the intersection?

Left turn arrow on street

Road Rules 101It's the dreaded 5 p.m. homebound commute, and you need to make a left turn onto a busy street. After waiting through a couple of lights, you're at last poised to make your turn.

Do you ...

  1. Creep out into the intersection and wait until oncoming traffic clears so you can turn left;
  2. Enter the intersection only when you see you can make the turn without having to stop;
  3. Skip it altogether, because you realize the traffic light doesn't have a green turn arrow?

Got your answer? Give yourself 100% if you answered "B."

Wait ... what?

There's a reason 70% of would-be drivers miss that question on the Washington drivers test. Many of us do it wrong!

To meet the letter of the law, you should not enter the intersection unless you know you can complete your turn without stopping. Why? You risk blocking the intersection if the light changes and the lane into which you are turning remains clogged (or becomes ​clogged by people taking right turns) and there's no room for your car.

We did an informal poll around the office to see how drivers handled left turns at busy intersections. Results were split, depending on their commute routes. As one suburbanite put it, "If I waited to pull forward until the intersection was completely clear, I might avoid a ticket, but I'd probably spark a road-rage incident!"

We'd love to know what you think. And as always, if you have a Road Rule you think we should feature, please share it with us.

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