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The Hazard Perception Test

Safe gaps - turning left

Left turns seem less complicated than right turns as you do not need to look for traffic approaching from the left. However, left turns are generally sharper than right turns and may take longer to complete. You may also need to give way to pedestrians crossing the road that you are entering. You also need time to accelerate to match the speed of the traffic on the road that you are entering. The faster the traffic, the more time you will need to accelerate to match the traffic speed.

Gap selection for left hand turns is a skill that takes time and practice to develop. But here are some guidelines that may help. If you are turning left in a 60km/hour zone you will need a gap of about 6 seconds between your car and vehicles approaching from the right. This assumes that the traffic is travelling at 60km/hour - it may actually be faster.

A 6 second gap means that you could count from "one thousand and one" through to "one thousand and six" before a vehicle from the right would be level with your car. Of course, you need to be able to judge what this distance looks like as you can't use this counting tool when trying to make a left hand turn.

Most experienced drivers will not go unless the gap is this size or bigger. Some drivers will go when the gap is only 4 seconds, but this may cause other vehicles to have to brake to avoid crashing into them.

As a relatively new driver you should be looking for gaps that are at least 6 seconds. This is shown in the following picture. A 6 second gap at 60km/hour is the same as a distance of about 100 metres.

Diagram showing vehicle turning left out of side street, 6 seconds(100m) ahead of vehicle.

If you don't have a gap of at least this size in a 60km/hour zone, it would not be safe to go. In higher speed zones the gap that you will need will be the same in time, but longer in distance. For example, in an 80km/hour zone where the traffic is travelling at 80km/hour a 6 second gap equals about 135 metres.

A word of caution. These are guidelines only, not hard and fast rules. You will need to build your gap selection skills to establish what a safe gap looks like to you when you are driving.

Key points summary: Safe gaps - turning left

  • when turning left in a 60km/hour zone you need at least a gap of 6 seconds (about 100 metres) between your car and vehicles approaching from the right
  • if a gap is not large enough, don't go - wait till it is safe


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