California Drivers: Never get an Illegal U-turn Ticket Again

No U turn - Defensive Driving

Do you think California U-turn laws are confusing?  You are not alone.  U-turns are a major source of confusion for many drivers, even those that consider themselves good drivers.  Here we have dissected, examined and simplified California U-turn laws to help you avoid the dreaded illegal U-turn ticket for good.

The most common questions we at Traffic101.com are asked about U-turns in our California traffic school include:

  • “How do I know if I can make a U-turn?  Do I just look for the No U-Turn signs?”
  • “Can I cross a double yellow line to make a U-turn?”
  • “Can I make a U-turn in the middle of the block?”

1. NEVER MAKE A U-TURN IN A BUSINESS DISTRICT

Because of the high number of pedestrians and other vehicles, business districts are U-turn No-Zones! (Areas with churches, apartments, multiple dwelling houses, clubs, and public buildings (except schools) are also considered to be business districts.)

The only time a U-turn is legal in a business district is at an intersection or at an appropriate opening provided specifically for turns (Example B).  A two-way left turn lane, which has a solid line on the outside and a broken line on the inside (Example A), is NOT a place where you can make a U-turn in a business district.

Defensive Driving Diagram
Example A – Courtesy CA DMV Handbook

Defensive Driving Diagram
Example B - Courtesy CA DMV Handbook

2. U-TURNS IN RESIDENTIAL DISTRICTS ARE ALMOST ALWAYS LEGAL

There are fewer restrictions on U-turns in residential districts – As long as you have an unobstructed view of at least 200 feet in both directions; you may make a U-Turn almost anywhere. You MAY use a center left turn lane and you MAY cross a double yellow line.

3. REMEMBER THE UNIVERSAL U-TURN NO-NOS

These seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many people forget these basic rules.  They apply no matter where you are.

  • Never make a U-turn on a railroad crossing
  • Never make a U-turn in front of a fire station or its driveway
  • Never make a U-turn where you cannot see clearly 200 feet in each direction because of a curve, hill, rain, fog, or any other reason.
  • Never make a U-turn where a no U-turn sign is posted
  • Always remember to signal at least 100 feet in advance to let other drivers know you plan to turn

4. ONLY MAKE A U-TURN IF YOU CAN DO IT SAFELY AND LEGALLY

And last but not least, by law a U-turn must be completely safe for everyone on the road in order to be legal.  If you have the slightest doubt about the safety of the U-turn you are about to make, don’t do it.  If a police officer patrolling the area has reason to believe your turn was unsafe, he may write you a ticket.

And remember, these tips apply specifically to California laws and may not be appropriate for other states.

Please send your questions and comments to blog@traffic101.com

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