Traffic Rules for Making a Left-Hand Turn

Updated April 17, 2017

Driving is a task that requires constant vigilance. Manoeuvring roads and highways can be confusing, especially since some traffic laws vary by state. Still, there are basic rules that govern how to make a left-hand turn at an intersection. Knowing and understanding these traffic laws is essential for all drivers.

Left-Turn Signal

A left-turn signal indicates that you have the right-of-way. You are free to make a protected left-hand turn at the intersection. Oncoming traffic at the intersection should be stopped by red lights. Unless otherwise posted, pedestrians crossing the street should also be presented with "Don't walk" signs, though you should still proceed with caution and check the walkway for traffic. Check to see if there are two left turning lanes. If so, be sure to stay in your lane as your approach the intersection and make your left turn. Use the lines painted on the road to guide you through the intersection.

Left Turn Yield On Green Light

A solid green light is an indication that you can make a left-hand turn, though you must yield to oncoming traffic. You do not have the right-of-way, so you must proceed with caution. Approach the intersection and come to a complete stop. Wait until there is no traffic coming towards you in the opposite direction. Then you can make your left turn. Yield to pedestrians crossing the street you are turning onto.

Left Turn On Red Light

In most cases, making a left-hand turn on a solid red light is illegal. However, there is one exception that allows you to make a left turn on a red light. It is legal to make a left-hand turn on a red light when you are turning from a one-way road onto another one-way road. Approach the intersection and stop behind the white line that borders the intersections. Yield to oncoming traffic. Proceed with your turn once there is no traffic coming from the road you are turning onto. Also, look for "No turns on red" signs. In New York, it is illegal to turn left on a red light, regardless of whether you are turning onto a one-way street.

Special Circumstances

There are several special circumstances that govern the legality of making a left-hand turn at an intersection. For instance, if you are directed by a traffic officer to turn left, it is legal to do so, regardless of the traffic light. A yellow flashing light is another circumstance in which turning left is legal, though you must yield to oncoming traffic. Stop before entering the intersection, check for oncoming traffic and proceed when you are clear.

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About the Author

Baptist Johnson was first published in 2000 when a poem he wrote won first prize in a local writing contest. He also writes and edits for Etched Press Society, a micro-publishing company based in Wilmington, N.C. Johnson has a Bachelor of Science in business administration from East Carolina University.