There are so many rules of the road to consider and adhere to whilst driving. If you are learning to drive, or have been driving so long that you have forgotten some of the terms used, then we are here to freshen your memory!
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When reading through your driving manual, the terms protected turn and unprotected turn or even semi protected turn.
You may have come across the term a protected turn whilst driving, and be wondering what this exactly means.
A protected turn is often just a term for referring to a green arrow on a traffic light system.
What is a protected turn?
A protected turn basically means everything that it says it does. In most areas of the United States, a protective turn will typically mean that a turn can be made without any conflicting traffic coming your way.
This is often indicated by a steady green arrow that is pointing in the direction of the turn. When you see a green arrow, you may turn into the direction of the arrow.
A protected turn will often be made at a signal controlled intersection, by an arrow that is illuminated green. For the turn to be protected, there would be no other streams of traffic that will be in your way, and therefore these types of turns are much easier to navigate.
When a turn is protected, all of the other streams of traffic such as cyclists or pedestrians or other vehicles will not be coming in your direction or in contact with your direction, and so you can make the turn with full protection.
A protected turn is therefore much easier to take as there is little or no chance of colliding with other road users. These types of turns are often found at busy intersections where the usual risk of a collision would be quite high. Therefore, with a dedicated lane with a protected turn, the risks of collisions are minimized.
How to make a protected left turn
In order to make a protected left turn at an intersection with allowed left turns, you must first enter the lane for this. This means that you have to occupy the lane that is reserved only for left turns.
You will have to ensure that you prepare for this in advance of the turn, as you may struggle to switch lanes or be stuck behind another driver whilst the green arrow shows. As normal, you will also need to indicate that you are going to make a left turn by either using your indicators or blinkers, or with your hand signals.
Then, you will have to wait for the green signal before making the turn. You cannot and should not turn left until the green arrow traffic light is activated. Before you turn, you will also want to make sure that all other conflicting traffic has first cleared the intersection.
This means checking for pedestrians or other road users before making any turns. You should always yield to pedestrians, even if the light has already turned green, you need to give them time to pass.
Once the traffic has cleared, you will be able to make your protected left turn and you can then enter the intersection. If you have not yet had time to enter the intersection before the green arrow turns yellow, then you should stop your vehicle and wait for the light to turn green again.
You can also turn left at an intersection with a green arrow signal if the signal is not active. Remember that you can make a left turn in this situation if there is a steady green light or a flashing yellow arrow, however this type of turn may be unprotected. However, you should still ensure that you yield to any other opposing traffic or pedestrians.
You may also come across a red arrow turning left, which means that turning left in this situation is prohibited when the red light shows.
How to make a protected right turn
To make a protected right turn, the process is basically the same as the left turn. You would have to follow the guidelines outlined above in order to make a protected right turn safely. However, making a protected right turn is probably the easiest and safest turn that you can take as there is no opposing traffic or risk of colliding with another vehicle.
That being said, you should always be careful, and check for other road users before making turns as you never know what obstructions or objects may be in your path.
Just like left turns, you will also need to be in the exclusive lane that says ‘RIGHT TURN ONLY’ to make a protected right turn. In these cases, if the green arrow is not active but a steady green signal is active, you do not have to wait at the intersection before making the turn.
In many states, you are actually able to make protected right turns when there is a red signal light, as there is no opposing traffic to contend with. However, this is not always the case, so you will have to be mindful of the laws in different states and locations.
What is an unprotected turn?
As protected turns are turns that are safe to take with a showing green signal, any and all turns made at intersections without such a green arrow signal would be considered unprotected turns. The term unprotected simply means that when you take the turn, it is riskier as there may be other traffic coming your way.
This means that in an unprotected turn, you would have to yield to the oncoming traffic as they have the right of way. To make an unprotected turn, you would have to wait for a safe space in the oncoming traffic, before you move into the intersection and make the turn.
What’s the difference between a protected turn and an unprotected turn?
The main difference between a protected turn and an unprotected turn is the fact that a protected turn means there will be a green left (or right) turn signal, and there is no risk of oncoming traffic.
On the other hand, an unprotected turn is where you are expected to yield to oncoming traffic. That being said, you cannot always rely on other drivers to stick by the rules, so always be cautious, safe and responsible before making a turn!