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Traffic Checks on Major Streets


Major Street Intersection Traffic Checks - Skills Needed for City Driving

When driving on busy major streets, making all the required intersection traffic checks is so important. One bad judgement call can lead to more than just an automatic fail on your DMV test. The truth is, one bad judgment call can be a fatal mistake. Even the best drivers sometimes struggle with proper traffic checks when there is heavier traffic, higher speeds, and more commotion on the road. Join Drivers Ed Direct instructor Micah as he expertly demonstrates and discusses how to make the required traffic checks when navigating major intersections out in traffic.

What is an Intersection Traffic Check?

A defensive driving scan that drivers need to do BEFORE entering any intersection - checking for other traffic, cyclists, pedestrians or any other obstacles that may be present in an intersection.

Generally speaking, you perform an intersection traffic check using quick glances to the left, to the right, and then back to the left again (left-right-left). On some challenging intersections you will need to repeat the left-right-left checks over and over again, until it is safe to go.

When Do You Make a Traffic Check?

Before every intersection! Do traffic checks before each intersection when you are driving straight, whether you have the right-of-way or not. Do traffic checks before making left and right turns. When you are waiting at a red light and your light turns green, make sure you do a left-right-left traffic check before going into the intersection - there may be vehicles or pedestrians still clearing the intersection, or another driver running a red light!

Any Traffic Check Tips for Entering Heavy Traffic?

Yes! Always remember that you must never enter traffic until you are 100% sure that it is safe and clear. You cannot enter traffic if it will impede another driver's progress (i.e. you cannot make another driver slow down or change lanes to avoid hitting you). This is not only dangerous, it is an auto fail on your DMV drive test. If you do not have the right of way and are entering traffic at an intersection where visibility is poor (maybe parked cars or bushes are blocking your view), then you must "inch out" or "creep out" far enough to determine when it is safe to enter traffic. Always "inch out" very slowly and look left-right-left over and over until you are 100% certain it is safe to go!

Traffic Checks - Part 2, Video Transcript

Hello! Welcome to Traffic Checks Part 2. In the last video, we looked at the role traffic checks play at any intersection you'll find in a neighborhood, but today we're doing major streets.

Alright! Let's start with the review so a traffic check is a quick turn of the head, left, right, left, before we go through any type of intersection. It helps to determine right of way. Let's start with me trying a right turn from a neighborhood onto a major street, so I'm going to make a right at the stop sign... signaled at least 100 feet ahead of time. I'm going to come to a full complete stop behind the limit line. We do have a couple of people here on our right. Now as I come to a complete stop, I can't see around the fence on either direction of the car. If I just go for it, I wouldn't be able to see when it's safe, so I'm going to inch out and look left, right, left, and I'm going to have to do a lot of these. Okay, it looks pretty good, no pedestrians coming. I know it's safe to make my right turn.

Now let's try a right turn at this light... so I'm going to signal, I'm going to do my S.M.O.G. and I'm going to get into the bike lane. Now it's red. I can't just go through a red light. I've got to come to a full complete stop behind the crosswalk and I've got to do a traffic check to see if there is any pedestrians coming, so I'm going to do a full complete stop. I'm going to look left, right -- oh I do have a couple of pedestrians here on the right, so I'm going to wait. Actually, it looks like they are going to be crossing away from me. I can look back to the left, look to the right, but now these two people here, I have to wait until they get halfway before I can go, I'm going to look to the left one more time, back to the right. They are halfway. Alright, so I can finish my right turn.

I'm going to try another right turn at this light, so I'm going to signal, I'm going to S.M.O.G. Now it's green. I'm going to get in the bike lane, oh but the crosswalk counter just stopped, it's yellow, so I'm going to do my full complete stop, so I don't think I'm going to make this light. I'm going to look left. Here comes a cyclist on the left, so I'm going to look back to the right, no pedestrians, back to the left. Now after the cyclist goes, I'm going to inch out to see if it's clear, looking good, so I know it's safe to make my right on red because there was no pedestrian coming to the left or to the right, but I did wait for that cyclist.

Let's try some left turns. Now I'm going to start with the left turn from a neighborhood onto a major street at a stop sign up here. Now, this is generally considered to be a tougher left turn because there's 2 directions of traffic, you do not have the right of way, cars are coming fast, you have to turn across 2 directions of traffic... So I'm going to signal. I'm going to come to a full complete stop and I'm going to start some traffic checks. Now I can see a couple of people coming from the left, so I have to wait. They have the right of way. I don't want to start this left turn and I'm going to let them know that I saw them so I kind of just gave them the peace sign. I'm not going to make this... oh it looks like they're not going to cross so now I'm going to inch out to see if it's clear, so I'm going to look right, okay, now some of these parked cars are blocking my vision a little bit so I just have to keep inching, keep doing some traffic checks. Now here comes a car from the left, so I'm going to let them go but then, it looks good both directions, so I know it's safe to finish my left turn. Oof, that is a tough one! A left turn from a neighborhood onto a major street, you don't have the right of way. I had to do a bunch of traffic checks there to make sure that there were no pedestrians coming and no cars coming and I had parked cars blocking my vision.

Now let's try some left turns at lights with crosswalks, with multiple directions of traffic, where I'm going to do some serious traffic checks. I'm jumping in my turn lane. Now, this is going to be an unprotected left. Now I see ahead of me that there is a couple of cyclists. You can kind of see the left. It's unprotected so I'm going to roll out a third, I'm looking left, right, left. I've got to let these cyclists get all the way across. They are. Now I know it's safe to finish my unprotected left turn. There were no cars coming straight. Those cyclists had finished going through the intersection so I knew it was safe to make my left turn.

Now a protected left is a left turn where you're going to get a green arrow and a green arrow means, "Hey you should have the right of way," but as you can see, to the left, we've got a couple of pedestrians over there at the corner. Now I'm going to show you, we've got one to the right. She's kind of waiting to use the crosswalk. I'm going to look to the left. Now just because you get a green arrow, doesn't mean someone is not going to jaywalk. Um, so we still need to do our traffic check. Okay, look at this person on the left, she's standing on the street corner, there is someone across from her as well but we have the green arrow. They are waiting for me to make my left turn but the traffic check helps me make sure that no one is going to impede my right of way or jaywalk when they shouldn't be, but I did have the green arrow so I did proceed and it was safe because I did my traffic check.

Well, thank you for watching Intersection Traffic Checks Part 2! You can see how important traffic checks were today at intersections on major streets. There were parked cars, pedestrians, oncoming traffic, and doing those traffic checks helped me determine who had the right of way and when it was safe to turn. Well good luck on your Drive Test and see you in the next video!