Driving in Heavy Traffic
Making Turns At Multi-Lane Intersections

Making Turns on Multi-lane Roads Safely | Driving Like A Pro

Updated Dec. 11, 2020

Making turns at intersections on multi-lane roads is a little more complicated than it is at dual-lane intersections. On a standard intersection, the general rule for executing turns is as follows:

  • Right turns should begin and end in the furthest lane to the right
  • Left turns should begin and end in the furthest lane to the left

Multi-lane intersections often have additional lanes or dedicated “turn lanes” for motorists wishing to turn, in which case, the general rules outlined above may no longer apply. When preparing to make any turn from a multi-lane road, drivers must:

  • Identify which lane or lanes they may use to turn, as they approach the intersection.
  • Merge into the correct lane and activate their turn signal at least 100 feet before the turn – even if you are in a protected turn lane. Some state handbooks may specify other distances, so be sure to check yours out.
  • Proceed with caution if their view around the intersection is obscured.

The risk of conflict with other motorists when turning from one multi-lane road onto another multi-lane road is high. You can mitigate this risk by yielding to all other traffic crossing the intersection before executing the turn.

In addition, be sure to finish the turn in the lane which corresponds to the lane you started in. For example: when beginning a turn in the third lane from the right on one street, you should end up in the third lane from the right on the new street. Never attempt to switch lanes while part-way through an intersection.

Staggering your vehicle in relation to cars in adjacent lanes will reduce the chances of a collision occurring. Turning while directly alongside another vehicle is risky, as your paths of travel may conflict.

Turning left on a multi-lane roadway

Turning left on a multi-lane road presents additional dangers and challenges, as it requires you to cross multiple lanes of conflicting traffic. Many intersections have brief lanes dedicated to left turns, sometimes known as “left turn bays”. These lanes are designed to maintain traffic flow through the intersection and protect motorists wishing to make a left turn.

When no such dedicated turn lanes are available, you may have to contend with relentless streams of opposing traffic while attempting to make a left turn. Do not rush to complete the turn or panic if the signal lights change while you are still at the intersection. A vehicle part-way through making a left turn is permitted to sit on the intersection even after signals have changed, for as long as it takes to safely complete the maneuver.

You must come to a complete stop and leave your wheels pointing straight ahead until all traffic has cleared the intersection. Eventually, cross traffic will be halted by a red or yellow signal light and you will be able to finish the left turn.

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