Ask a Trooper: Practice left-turn etiquette at green lights

n 1958, the State Patrol adopted maroon as the standard car color. Courtesy photo.

Editor's note: New editions of the "Ask the Trooper" column are on hiatus by the Minnesota State Patrol. Following is a previous column from the Perham Focus archives.

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.

Related Topics: ASK A TROOPER
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