Left turns and intersection etiquette
Question: When I learned to drive 50 years ago, my Driver's Ed teacher instructed me to pull into the intersection on a green light, even when there was oncoming traffic, to attempt to make a left turn. I still practice this, green arrows or not. I actually asked a driver's test person at the DMV office about this and was told I am correct, you are supposed to pull into the intersection. However, it drives (no pun intended) me crazy when people sit at a green light and stay out of the intersection, causing only that one car to get through the green light, leaving many other cars behind them to wait for another green light.
Answer: What was taught 50 years ago is still being taught today according to the Minnesota Driver's Manual. Signaling is for the purpose of communicating to other motorists what you (as a driver) are going to do. Some drivers signal their turns too late or don't signal their turns at all.
When attempting to make a left turn at an intersection, the manual reads:
• When waiting to make a left turn at a green traffic light with oncoming traffic, position the car into the intersection where your body appears even with the curb line. The only opportunity to make a left turn may occur when the green light changes to yellow.
• While waiting to turn, keep your wheels straight and your foot on the brake. If your vehicle is struck from the rear, you will be less likely to be pushed into oncoming traffic.
• Continue signaling until you begin your turn.
• Do not make sudden turns from the wrong lane of traffic.
• Watch for traffic or obstacles in the road you plan to enter.
• Always finish your turn in the correct lane.
• If the car ahead of you is signaling for a left turn, slow down and prepare to stop.
Remember, Minnesota law requires a driver to signal their intention to turn continuously during your turn at least a 100 feet prior to the turn.
In some cases, signaling 100 feet might not be good enough. Each driver must determine for each circumstance how far ahead of time they should signal. Using our signals consistently and correctly can aide in avoiding many crashes, some of which may be serious or fatal.
Also, make it a habit to periodically check all the lights on your vehicle and replace them when needed.
A portion of state statutes were used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes. If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Trp. Jesse Grabow — Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205. (You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or reach him at, firstname.lastname@example.org).