Making Turns
Unprotected Turns

Unprotected Turns - The Right Way To Navigate Complex Intersections

Updated Oct. 30, 2020

“Protected turns” are made at an intersection under a green directional arrow signal. When you make a protected turn, pedestrians, cyclists and other streams of traffic are held back by a red traffic signal. Providing that no road users are still in the intersection when the green arrow signal comes on, you may complete your turn without yielding or having to contend with conflicting traffic. With that in mind, let’s talk about unprotected turns.

What is an unprotected turn?

Any and all turns made at intersections without the aid of a green arrow signal qualify as unprotected turns. As the name suggests, making an unprotected turn is riskier and more complicated than making a protected turn. When the turn is unprotected, you must yield the right-of-way to oncoming traffic and pedestrians before turning. Drivers should monitor opposing traffic and wait for a space large enough to move through the intersection safely.

Where can you make an unprotected turn?

You will only encounter protected turn green arrow signals at busy intersections that experience high volumes of traffic. On rural roads and small intersections, protected turn signals and dedicated turn lanes simply are not necessary to ensure the safety of road users. Uncontrolled intersections with no traffic lights whatsoever are common in rural areas. When making an unprotected turn at an uncontrolled intersection, be sure to abide by road signs and right-of-way laws.

Many intersections will allow both protected and unprotected turns. If this is the case, it may be indicated by signs at the intersection. For instance, a “LEFT TURN YIELD ON GREEN” sign reminds drivers that they may make an unprotected left turn while yielding to other motorists, even if an inactive left-pointing green arrow is present.

In this instance, a solid green light would permit the unprotected turn. This would be true even when an explanatory sign is not present. Just remember that your turn is only protected if you move through the intersection under the green arrow. Otherwise, you must yield to pedestrians and other traffic.

Left turn yield on greenThe left turn yield on green sign reminds drivers that they may make a turn, but do not have the right-of-way and must yield to traffic coming from the other direction.

Would you pass a driving test today?

Find out with our free quiz!


Like the article? Give us 5 points!

Click a star to add your vote

5.0 out of 5 stars based on 7 votes.

Read next

Making Right Turns
Making Turns 4 of 9

Making a Right Turn

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

Making Left Turns
Making Turns 5 of 9

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
Making Turns 6 of 9

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.

Using Driving Lanes 1 of 4

Using Driving Lanes

There is far more to using driving lanes than simply keeping yourself within the road markings that separate one row of traffic from another. Which lane you should occupy and how you should drive within that lane depend on your speed, direction of travel, whether you intend to turn and a whole host of other factors.

Using Driving Lanes 2 of 4

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.

Using Driving Lanes 3 of 4

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.

Using Driving Lanes 4 of 4

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.

Making Turns 2 of 9

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.