Etiquette for turn lanes

When I am going to make a turn via a turn lane, if the turn lane is long enough I enter the lane, then slow down. However, I see most drivers slow down, then enter the lane. Which is correct? My rationale is that the turn lanes are there so that turning cars do NOT slow down traffic. This is especially annoying on roads that have that middle lane for left turns from either direction.

I would think it depends on how close to the rear end of the car already waiting in the turn lane you would be when you yourself enter the lane. I dont want to whip it over into the turn lane at 40mph when I will end up being 20 feet from the car in front of me.

If there’s enough room to slow down in the turn lane, I wait until I’m in it. But most people seem to slow down ahead of time. It’s like they’ll miss it if they don’t slow down. I’ve also noticed that many people don’t speed up to match traffic when they merge on a limited access road. They pull in at 10 MPH under the limit, wait for about 30 seconds, then take off; often going well over the speed limit.

You should try to match the speed of the cars in the lane you are in and the lane you are entering. Each case may call for a slightly different technique.

You want to do it SAFELY. So you don’t want to slow up much below the rate in the lane you are in, nor do you want to enter the turn lane slower than cars already there. If the turn lane is empty, enter it as the same speed as you are exiting, then slow.

I want to add another very important safety-related detail that seems to escape most drivers.

When placing your car in a left-turn lane, get as far from the adjacent travel lane as possible. For some reason that I cannot fathom, most drivers wind up positioning their car right on the line separating the turn lane from the travel lane, with the result that they are–literally–parked about 3 inches away from cars traveling at high speed.

And, then of course, we have the drivers who are even more careless, and who veered into the turn lane at the last moment. Those cars may actually still be partially in the travel lane.

When I am stopped in a left-turn lane and I compare my car’s position to that of the cars in front and in back of me, I am invariably about 1 foot further to the left than those other cars. I really believe that most drivers are oblivious to the dangers that they place themselves–and others–in daily.

It’s Not Clear To Me If You Are Referring To Left Turn Lanes At Intersections Or Turn Lanes Used For Ingress Of Businesses, Etcetera, Away From Intersections.

Intersection Turns
Most center turn lanes at intersections in my area have yellow lines that one cannot legally cross until very near the intersection, necessitating slowing before entering because of the short run-up to the intersection, particularly if cars are already lined up waiting to turn.

I would say that if you’ve got enough distance to safely slow your car after entering the lane then you can enter it before slowing down, but those are few and far between in my area.

Turns Not Near Intersections
Speaking of center turn lanes (away from intersections) that can be used from either direction, improper use causes them to become dangerous and difficult to use. Too many people use these lanes (illegally) as merging lanes, while entering the road. They race out from stores and businesses and stop or drive slowly in the center turn lane waiting to merge with the traffic on the far side of the road. These turn lanes can only be used while exiting and our State Police have been actively citing people for improper use.

Either way, I adjust my speed for heavy traffic conditions just as I would for poor visibility, slippery roads, construction, or other conditions that can make “accidents” more probable, but not eveyone does. The problem is that some drivers just keep the pedal to the metal and let the good times roll.


You should be thanking your lucky stars that is the limit of your frustration. Here, people like to slow to a crawl and then make an abrupt left turn so they are across the turn lane with the rear end of their car still sticking out in the travel lane blocking the through traffic.

That’s my big gripe, folks that slooooowly wander from the through lane into the turn lane, instead of getting completely into the turn lane at the earliest reasonable opportunity.

I agree with you.

But, in general, over the past few years, I have seen more and more people making unsafe lane changes of all types. Besides those slow transitions from a travel lane to a turn lane, there are also the people who insist on riding in the left lane on expressways, and then when they notice that their exit is very close, they cut across all 3 or 4 lanes, causing other drivers to jam on their brakes, and sometimes causing trucks to jackknife.

As I mentioned previously, it really seems that more and more people are oblivious to what is going on around them. It’s a jungle out there!

I daily drive on a busy street with a center left turn lane. Not a day goes by that I don’t see someone that does not know how to use the lane properly. Usually they stick their nose in the center lane, leave their tail in the traffic lane, and sit waiting for an opportunity to complete the turn.

there’s nothing anyone can do about it. There are just plain millions of bad drivers out there. I saw a car trying to make a turn recently and wandering all over the place. She had a cell phone up against her ear with one hand, a cigarette in the other hand, and wasn’t even focused on her turn. Her mouth was going a mile a minute. Scary. But common.

Many left turn lanes (and right turn lanes) are too short to delay braking.

The suicide lane (the middle lane for left turns from either direction), is a dangerous place to be, especially if there are many intersections close to one another. In this case, pulling into the suicide lane too early to delay braking could leave you nose to nose with another car with each of you blocking the other person’s way.

The most important etiquette rule to follow is to share the road. If someone brakes early for a turn, it shouldn’t be a big deal. If you are in such a hurry that this bothers you, perhaps some time spent volunteering with cancer patients will help you put petty issues like this in perspective. What is important is that you leave plenty of time to get where you are going, and that you get there safely. How fast you got there because of the flow of traffic is far less important.

I agree that there’s some bad designs out there. Courtesy, if it still existed, would get us all through even those without problems.

My impression is that on average people were more courteous and attentive before cell phones were invented…