Defensive Driving Rule #54: Turn Right, LOOK Right!

Defensive Driving Rule #54: Turn Right, LOOK Right!
In the United States, a driver’s natural tendency when making a right turn is to look left, since left is the direction the traffic is coming from (we hope). For this reason, right-turning motorists are one of the biggest dangers to bicyclists!

Many bicyclists ride on the wrong side of the street — if you are riding a bike, you are supposed to ride with the flow of traffic. But for convenience or whatever other reason, you ride down the street on the wrong side (on the sidewalk) — facing the opposing traffic.

So…Joe Driver is leaving his neighborhood supermarket, and he stops short of the sidewalk for a split second, looks to his left to make sure he’s not about to be hit, then begins to pull out to make a right turn onto the street. Maybe he’s in a bit of a hurry because other traffic is quickly approaching. As he crosses onto the sidewalk, Joe Bicyclist runs smack into the side of his vehicle, from his right, and the forces of impact (quite possibly) toss him out into the street where another oncoming car runs over him. He’s D.O.A. This is one of the leading causes of death for bicyclists.

While a bicyclist is quicker, and he’s not supposed to be riding the wrong way, you can have the same unfortunate encounter with a law-abiding pedestrian. If you are a bicyclist, or a pedestrian, your life may very well depend on following the “rules,” and never assuming that a motorist will see or yield to you. You need to be aware of danger areas. Don’t run down sidewalks, or across streets – walk, but don’t lollygag, and keep an eye on everything around you. (If you are running, you tend to get “tunnel vision.”)

Most of us know we’re supposed to stop before crossing a sidewalk, when exiting a private drive, parking lot, or side street. But many of us do not think about the dangers posed by not looking BOTH directions, to make sure that sidewalk is clear. You can probably think of other situations where you might not think about looking both ways — but should. One-way streets, for example — might a motorist be coming down that street the WRONG way? Or, there can be places where your vision is hampered by obstacles, and dangers can pop out without warning. Be wary — and continually work on your situational awareness, whether you’re a driver, a biker, or a pedestrian. Don’t take anything for granted. Always make it a habit to look BOTH ways, whether something should be coming from that direction or not!

Key Points to Remember

  1. Look Both Ways:

    • Always look left and right before making a turn, even if you think nothing should be coming from that direction. This is especially important when crossing sidewalks and bike lanes.
  2. Watch for Wrong-way Riders:

    • Be aware that some bicyclists might ride against traffic on sidewalks. This can result in sudden and dangerous encounters, particularly when you are making a right turn.
  3. Pedestrian Awareness:

    • Remember that pedestrians can also be in danger if you don’t check both directions. Always assume someone might be approaching from an unexpected direction.
  4. Situational Awareness:

    • Continuously work on your situational awareness. Be aware of your surroundings and anticipate potential hazards, whether you’re driving, biking, or walking.
  5. Practice Defensive Driving:

    • Defensive driving isn’t just about protecting yourself from other drivers; it’s also about protecting more vulnerable road users, like bicyclists and pedestrians.
  6. Follow the Rules:

    • As a bicyclist or pedestrian, follow the rules of the road. Ride with traffic and avoid running or biking on sidewalks where cars might not expect you.
  7. Avoid Tunnel Vision:

    • Keep an eye on everything around you. Running or biking fast can lead to tunnel vision, which limits your awareness of your surroundings and increases the risk of accidents.


The key to avoiding accidents is to never assume that others will see or yield to you. Always be cautious and make it a habit to look both ways, ensuring your safety and the safety of others. Stay vigilant and maintain situational awareness at all times, whether you’re behind the wheel, on a bike, or on foot.