Making Turns
Making Right Turns

Turning Right: Signalling, Right Turn on Red, Choosing The Lane

Updated Oct. 30, 2020

While all course changes require knowledge and skill, making a right turn is easier, safer and more straight-forward than making a left turn. When turning right you do not need to worry about traffic traveling in the opposite direction from the road you are entering, which makes things a whole lot simpler. In some areas you can even turn right against a red traffic signal (check your state’s driving manual for information).

Easy though it may be, making right turns is a skill you must master before taking on the driving test. Here, we break down the process of making a right turn and discuss how it applies in different traffic situations.

How to make a right turn

  1. 1

    Plan and prepare.
    Anticipate your right turn and make sure you are in the correct lane soon enough to maneuver. Avoid making last-minute lane changes as your vehicle will become a hazard for other drivers. Assume lane position three in preparation for your right turn, aligning your vehicle a few inches away from the right-hand lane divide markings.

  2. 2

    Signal your intention to turn right.
    This should be done well in advance of the turn so that other drivers are not forced to react at the last moment. Most state handbooks specify that turns should be indicated at least 100 feet in advance and that signal lights should remain active until the maneuver is complete. Use the right turn hand signal (left arm extended out the left window, arm bent at the elbow and forearm pointing upward) if your turn signals are broken or obscured.

  3. 3

    Reduce speed and check for cyclists and motorcyclists.
    Turn to check your vehicle’s blind spots in addition to using your mirrors, as bicycles and motorcycles can easily be hidden in these areas. Like any other vehicle, cyclists and motorcyclists have the right-of-way in this situation.

  4. 4

    Check for “STOP” or “YIELD” signs at the intersection and abide by their instructions.
    If a “YIELD” sign is present, you must slow down and allow cross-traffic and pedestrians the right-of-way. A “STOP” sign means that you must come to a complete stop to yield the right-of-way.

  5. 5

    Look for traffic lights controlling the intersection.
    You may turn right if the signal light is green or if the turn is protected, with a green arrow signal. You may usually make a right turn against a red signal light but only after coming to a complete stop. If a “NO TURN ON RED” traffic sign or a red arrow pointing in the direction of the turn are present, you cannot make the right turn.

  6. 6

    Check for pedestrians crossing the street.
    You MUST yield to pedestrians, at all times.

  7. 7

    Check for traffic in both directions before turning right.
    Only turn when you are certain it is safe and do not swing your vehicle wide during or prior to the turn.

  8. 8

    Finish your turn in the same lane.
    Changing lanes at an intersection is usually dangerous and sometimes illegal. Check your state's driving manual to find out if intersection lane-changes are prohibited in your state.

The number of directions in which traffic is moving may affect how you should execute a right turn. Different procedures should be followed on one-way and two-way streets, as detailed below:

From a one-way street into a one-way street:

If turning right from a one-way street into another one-way street, you should move into the furthest right lane as early as possible and remain there during the turn. In some cases, you may notice a lane marked “LANE USE CONTROL” accompanied by directional pavement markings. This indicates that more than one lane may be used to turn right into that street.

From a one-way street into a two-way street:

Follow the same steps outlined above when turning right from a one-way street into a two-way street. Assume a position in the right-hand lane unless signs and pavement markings indicate that other lanes may be used. Choose a lane marked “RIGHT TURN ONLY” over one marked “STRAIGHT OR RIGHT TURN” whenever possible, to avoid holding up traffic moving straight over the intersection.

From a two-way street into a two-way street:

You must always turn from the right-hand lane and remain there, when turning right from a two-way street to a two-way street. Motorists traveling from the opposite direction may intend to turn into the same street at the same time, in which case changing lanes during the turn could cause an accident.

Right Turn on a Red Traffic Signal

Drivers are permitted to make right turns through a red traffic signal in most states; this information can be found in your state’s driving manual. However, when turning right on a red traffic signal, you must treat the red light like a “STOP” sign. In this situation, drivers must come to a complete stop before the signal or stop line, yielding to cross-traffic and pedestrians using the crosswalk. Make sure there are no motorcyclists or cyclists close to your vehicle – particularly on the right side – before executing the turn.

It will be quite clear when making a right turn is not permitted. This may be indicated with a red arrow signal light pointing to the right.

In other situations, a “NO TURN ON RED” sign will be displayed. When one of these signs or a red right-facing arrow is present, you must not turn right until the signal light has turned green.

No right turn on redThe “no turn on red” sign is used at some intersections to notify drivers that a right turn on a red light or a left turn on a red light at intersecting one-way streets is prohibited. The sign may also show a red circle instead of the word red.

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Making a Left Turn

Turning left is riskier and demands more caution than turning right, because the turn will take you across the path of traffic which is traveling toward you, from the opposite direction. Be sure to signal your intention to turn left as early as possible, while observing any right-of-way laws that are relevant to your situation. Drivers must also take particular care when turning left onto a street from an alley or driveway and learn how to use a center left turn lane.

Center Turn Lane
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Center Turn Lane

Center left turn lanes are also referred to as two-way left turn lanes. These lanes are designed to improve the flow of traffic at busy intersections, by allowing drivers to safely turn left without interfering with motorists traveling straight on. You may use the two-way left turn lane when turning left onto the roadway from an alley or driveway.

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Two Point Turns

When the roadway is not wide enough to make a U-turn, drivers can use a two-point turn to change direction. This will usually only be possible on quiet suburban streets, when there is an available driveway on the left or right side of the road to facilitate the turn. Two-point turns using driveways on the left are more dangerous, as the driver must reverse the vehicle into a traffic lane.

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Choosing a Lane

Learning how to use lanes appropriately is essential for any driver who will be using large roads and freeways where there are multiple lanes of traffic moving in the same direction. Incorrect lane usage can endanger all road users, hold up traffic and incur a traffic fine.

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Changing Lanes

New drivers must learn how to change lanes safely and practice the maneuver as often as possible – there is more to it than you think. Changing lanes unsafely endangers you and everybody with whom you are sharing the road! Getting marked down for an unsafe lane change during the driving test will probably cost you your license.

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Merging onto A Highway

No matter how thoroughly you mentally prepare yourself for the challenge of driving on the highway, your very first time is going to be stressful. Knowing what you are doing on paper is not the same as being able to execute the advanced maneuvers needed during highway driving. Being around other motorists traveling at speed is intimidating but you will quickly adapt, with regular practice and guidance from your instructor. Let’s find out what you need to know about entering a highway and merging with other traffic safely.

Making Turns 1 of 9

Making Turns

The art of making turns correctly is a skill often neglected by learner drivers. There are more techniques involved in turning than simply moving the steering wheel in the direction you wish to go. When turning to completely reverse your direction of travel – perhaps because you have missed your destination or are going the wrong way – you have three main options. These are U-turns, two-point turns and three-point turns.

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Protected Turns

Protected turns are made at signal-controlled intersections when a green arrow light is present. When a turn is protected, all other streams of traffic, cyclists and pedestrians are halted by red traffic signals. This makes protected turns safer and easier to negotiate than unprotected turns, as the chances of colliding with another road user are minimized.

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Unprotected Turns

Any and all turns made at intersections without the aid of a green arrow signal qualify as unprotected turns. When the turn is unprotected, you must yield the right-of-way to oncoming traffic and pedestrians before turning.