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How to Make Residential Right Turns

Learning to Make Right Turns for Beginners

Driving instructor Micah wraps up our residential turns series with everything you need to know about making safe right turns! In this video we explain right turn basics in residential neighborhoods, preparing for a safe turn, rolling right turns, and more! And, there are a few bonus driving tips included!!

Making Right Turns, Video Transcript

All right, if you've made it this far, then your newly acquired left-turn knowledge has already taught you 90% of everything you need to know to make a right turn. If you're just joining us for the first time, go back to the beginning and watch the section on left turns. As I mentioned before, we teach right turns last because they can be more challenging -- not only are you making a sharper turn, you also have to deal with not clipping the curb. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, we'll start with the basics...

Right Turn - Assess

Before any turn, you need to be scanning the road far in advance to learn the situation ahead. What kind of intersection will it be? Do you have a stop sign, does cross traffic have stop signs? What's the traffic situation? Are there any bicycles or pedestrians? As you get closer to the intersection start slowing down, but of course check your rear-view mirrors first to make sure it's safe and that there are no dangerous-moving vehicles approaching you from behind.

Right Turn - Prepare

Now that you have assessed the situation all around, it's time to prepare for a safe right turn. Gradually slow your vehicle by releasing the accelerator about 150-200 feet before your turn. You'll put your turn signal on at least 100 feet in advance, and after you do, you want to start to merge towards the righthand curb. But wait! Before you move closer to the curb, you want to check your blind spot to make sure all is clear. This "fading towards the curb" is a key difference between left and right turns. With left turns, you keep centered in the road, but for right turns you always move towards the right curb after signaling. Of course, if there are parked cars or another obstacle, you will have to wait before you merge over... but eventually you always merge to about 4-5 feet away from the curb before your right turn. As you near the intersection, you want to apply gradual pressure to the brake so you can slow down to a safe speed. How much brake you use will depend on if you have to stop before your turn, or if it will be a rolling turn with no stop. Let's look at some examples on how to prepare for different types of right turns.

Example: Right Turn - All-Way Stop

As you know, when you come to an all-way stop, the right of way is "first come, first serve" -- you basically come to a full stop behind the crosswalk, and then go when it's your turn. Because we're doing a right turn, we are already positioned about 4-5 feet away from the curb. We redo all of our traffic and shoulder checks... no pedestrians or bikes, that's good ... and then start to turn when safe. We'll discuss speed and steering control in a bit, but for now just watch to get the feel of how a good right turn looks... I start moving forward and making my turn as I clear the curb, looking ahead on where I want my car to end up on the right side of the road -- again, targeting ahead is key!

Example: Right Turn - Cross-Traffic Does Not Stop

This is an intersection where we have a stop, but cross-traffic does not. After stopping completely behind the crosswalk and doing our traffic checks, we to need to "inch out" into the intersection to get a better view. Notice something new here I do for the right turn that I don't do for the left turn... as I inch out to get a better view, I start to angle the steering wheel slightly to the right. This allows me to start guiding my car into the turn while I get a better look at cross-traffic. Once I am 100% sure that it is safe to go and that I won't impede anybody in the cross-traffic... and note that I check my blind spot again by looking over my shoulder, in case something changed there. Once everything is 100% clear, then I can accelerate to get fully into my turn -- again, looking ahead to where I want to end up on the right side of the road -- creating a visual target that puts me between the parked cars and potential oncoming traffic. We successfully complete our turn and as our wheels straighten out, we accelerate more to get up to the flow of traffic.

Example: Rolling Right Turn - No Oncoming Traffic

At an intersection where you have the immediate right of way and everything is safe and clear, you can make what we call a "rolling right turn" -- a turn where you slow down but don't stop first. After you signal and do all of your mirror, traffic, and shoulder checks, and have moved within 4-5 feet of the curb, you'll just roll through slowly and make your right turn at about 10-15mph... like this... Keep in mind, I had already slowed down BEFORE my turn to a safe turning speed. Also, you may have noticed that I started to angle my steering wheel slightly to the right as I entered the intersection, and then fully started turning the wheel after my mirror passed the curb. During the actual turn, I just gently coasted with my foot over the brake, and then accelerated out of the turn as I finished the turn and counter-steered back to the middle. Most importantly, the entire time I was looking ahead and visualizing where I wanted to end up -- choosing a visual reference point on the right side of the road, a few feet clear of the parked cars.

Example: Right Turn - Parked Car Obstacle

Let's do a right turn example with a parked car interfering with our normal plan for making a right turn. In this example, if I start to do my turn when my mirror passes the curb like I usually do, I will probably clip or swipe the parked car ahead of me in the lane where I intend to turn into. In this scenario, I am going to have to make my right turn much sharper than normal. To compensate, I will take this turn a little slower AND I won't start my turn until my mirror passes the parked car. While doing this forces me to make a very sharp turn, it allows me to safely finish on the right side of the road while avoiding a scrape with the parked car.

Right Turn - Execution

Now that we know all the safety rules, as well as how to assess and prepare ourselves for a successful right turn, let's go over the motor skills needed to carry out a right turn. That is, let's discuss what our brain needs to have our feet and hands do in order for this turn to happen... here we go!

Right Turn Speed Control

Just like with left turns, right turn speed really depends on a lot of factors:

  • Is the turn sharp or wide?
  • Is the curb a gradual curve or very pointed and sharp?
  • Are there a lot of parked cars making things tight?
  • Are you turning into a very narrow street?
  • Are you starting your right turn from a dead-stop, or is it a rolling right turn?

The point is, every turn will have a slightly different flavor, but in general, 10-15mph should be your speed goal for a right turn. Again, don't stare at the speedometer and only glance if you really have to... eventually you will just get a natural feel for the safe and appropriate speed for each turn.

Also, don't forget the speed blueprint you should always follow for rolling right turns:

  • Slow down well BEFORE the turn
  • Release and cover the brake, coasting through the arc of the turn
  • Accelerate out of the turn

Say it with me, one more time: Slow before. Cover during. Accelerate out.

Right Turn Steering Control

When we discussed left turns, we broke down two good options for handling the wheel: "hand-over-hand" and "push-pull". The idea is exactly the same for right turns, except that you'll basically move the wheel in the opposite direction than you did for left turns... which is a no brainer of course.

In general, making right turns is mechanically harder because the turns tend to be sharper than your average left turn. In addition, many beginner drivers struggle with oversteering, where they turn the wheel too much and risk hitting the curb or parked cars. Again, it's important to keep your visual reference point on the lane where you want to finish. Taking your time will help you overcome this as well.

Finally, right turns are different when it comes to the steering wheel movement at the beginning of your turns. You will usually start to turn your wheel slightly -- maybe a quarter turn -- as you enter the intersection... and then start your full turn once your mirror passes the curb. Remember, for your LEFT turns, you never start turning the wheel AT ALL until your mirror passes the curb and you are ready to commit to your turn... but for RIGHT turns, you do start to turn a little earlier.

Right Turn Hand Over Hand Steering Method

Just as with the left turns, the hand over hand technique is a 3-step process, but now we do it in the reverse order:

Step 1: With your wheel already turned a quarter of the way to the right and both hands reset on the wheel at the 10 and 2 position, you're first movement will be with your LEFT hand. As your right hand releases grip of the wheel, use your left hand to push the steering wheel from the 10 o'clock position to about the 2 o'clock position, like this...

Step 2: Now with your RIGHT hand, reach OVER your left hand and grab the steering wheel at the 10 o'clock and pull it to the 2 o'clock position as your release your left hand grip.

Step 3: Now put your LEFT hand back to the 10 o'clock position and hold the wheel steady while you make the arc of your right turn.

Looking at the steering wheel, it should now be turned about three-quarters to a full-turn -- somewhere between facing left and right-side up -- and that's about how much you turn the wheel for a normal right turn. For a wide turn, you'll turn in a bit less. For a very sharp turn, you may turn it much more. Again, every turn will be unique, but in general, most turns can be done with the hand over hand steps we just outlined.

After starting your turn and you have reached your intended target, you can now walk the steering wheel back to the forward position, like this: "3-2-1".

When you put it all together, it's "1-2-3" to start the right turn and then walk it back "3-2-1" to return the wheel to the normal position and complete the turn.

Let's get out on the street and do a couple of right turns so that you can watch the entire hand over hand technique from start to finish!

Example 1 : Hand Over Hand from Stopped Position, Right Turn

Here we are at an all way stop, let's turn to the right. My wheel slightly turns to the right as I pull forward and as soon as my right mirror passes the curb, I continue by turning hand-over-hand to the right like this "1-2-3"... I hold the wheel through the turn, and aiming at my target I begin to walk the wheel back "3-2-1" ... easy.

Example 2 : Hand Over Hand Rolling Right Turn

Now a rolling right turn. I've already slowed down and positioned myself closer to the curb, as I enter the intersection, I start to angle my wheel slightly and as my mirror passes the curb I turn the wheel "1-2-3" and hold it and then start to counter-steer "3-2-1" as I accelerate out of the turn. Beautiful.

Right Turn Push-Pull Steering Method

My personal preference is to use the push-pull method more so for left turns, because left turns are wider and the push-pull method is great for wider turns. However, you can still make right turns using the push-pull method, so let's go over how that works for right turns specifically.

Again, the push-pull is most easily executed by starting with the 9-and-3 hand positions. With your hands on the 9 and 3 positions, you push the wheel up with your LEFT hand until the 12-position like this. Then grab the wheel with your RIGHT hand at the same 12-position, without crossing your hands, and pull it down to the 3-position. You will probably have to repeat this same motion twice ... left hand push the wheel up from 9 to 12, right hand pulls the wheel down from 12 to 3.

Let's do an actual right turn using the push-pull method so you can see it better illustrated. As we approach the intersection with our signal on, slowing down and fading towards the curb, I begin to angle my wheel slightly to the right as I enter the intersection. Then, as soon as my mirror passes the curb, I push the wheel up to the 12-position with my left hand, and then pull the wheel down with my right hand to the 3-position. I repeat this same motions as needed and then hold wheel through the turn, and then do the opposite as I come out of the turn -- basically shuffle the wheel back to the normal position as I accelerate out of the turn.

There you have it, nearly everything I could possibly think of to teach you about turning! You should now be able to safely and properly practice left turns and right turns to your heart's desire. With that said, I have a feeling many of you out there are passionately wondering why we haven't addressed the concept of letting the steering wheel slide back or spin back when finishing a turn. Well wonder no more my friends, let's talk about that!

Advanced Topic for Completing Your Turn: The Slide Back or Spin Back

So far we've discussed "walking back" the wheel to the center position after completing a turn. Not only is this an essential skill to know, it's the only way you can counter-steer older cars without power steering, and it's the only way you can counter-steer any car if you are at a stand-still or moving extremely slowly.

You see, all cars in recent history come equipped with a power steering feature that allows the steering wheel to actually correct itself as the car moves. In fact, the faster you accelerate, the quicker the steering wheel will correct itself by spinning back to the center position. Don't believe me?

Here's the proof, check this out (and kids, please don't try this at home): I've got my steering wheel cranked all the way to the left. Now notice that I'm not touching the wheel at all, but as I gently accelerate, watch the steering wheel start to correct itself towards the center position. The faster I accelerate, the faster the wheel unwinds itself. Amazing, right! Or it's at least mildly interesting. Anyway...

Utilizing this brilliant feature, many seasoned drivers complete their turns by allowing the momentum of the car to counter-steer for them. That is, as they complete their turn, they allow the steering wheel to spin back through the loose grip of their hands to the center position... like this. As I accelerated out of the turn, the steering wheel naturally spins back to the starting position. While this spin back happened, did you notice how I never lost contact of the wheel? The wheel slid through my palms and fingers, and I could have grabbed the wheel at any time if I needed to make a sudden correction. It is important that you always keep both hands in contact with the wheel if you do the "slide back" technique, especially if you plan on passing your drive test!

Anyway, this is an advanced technique and one we do teach, but only after our students have demonstrated that they can walk or shuffle the wheel back to the center position manually.

Defensive Driving Tip: Checking Your Mirrors After Turning

One thing I want to point out is the importance of checking your rearview mirror AFTER you complete your turn. This is often overlooked, but as a good defensive driver, you'll want to survey the traffic situation behind you after completing your turn. Now that you have turned onto a new street, do you see any emergency vehicles to the rear? Or maybe a speeding car racing towards you? Take a look in your rear mirror after each turn to figure that out, and take evasive action if needed!

Additional Safety Tip: Larger Vehicles

If you are driving a truck or SUV, you'll want to take your turns a little more slowly than if you were in a low-to-the-ground car. Trucks, vans, and SUVs have a higher center of gravity and are therefore more likely to tip over if you take a sharp turn at a high rate of speed.

And there you have it folks! 6000 words after we started this long-winded lecture on turns, we finally are ready to bring this video to an end. We hoped you learned a lot today and I want to reiterate the importance of being patient and taking your time learning to turn. Afterall, turning is one of the most challenging skills for new drivers and not everyone learns it in a single lesson (or two or three). If you can convince your parents, then get out into an empty parking lot and really practice (with your signed permit, of course) turn after turn after turn... after turn. I promise you, it will eventually become 2nd nature and you won't even think about all of these steps we discussed today, they will simply become part of who you are as a driver.

All right all, now it's my turn to sign off! From Micah, Alejandra, and everyone at Drivers Ed Direct, we wish you well on your driving journey and we'll be seeing you again soon. Bye-bye!