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Illegal U-Turns

A common traffic violation is an illegal U-turn. Drivers make this maneuver to turn around, with the shape of the turn resembling a “U." The U-turn tends to be a go-to move for motorists who have missed their turn or realized they need to head in the opposite direction.

While a U-turn can seem like the most efficient way to reverse direction, it can result in a traffic ticket in some areas or under certain conditions. In most states, you can receive an illegal U-turn ticket if you make an unlawful or unsafe U-turn. Read on to learn more about what makes a U-turn illegal, penalties, safety concerns, and more.

What Is an Illegal U-Turn?

What exactly is an illegal U-turn? It depends. Factors that determine the legality of a U-turn include:

  • The area where you are driving
  • The local statute (law) in place
  • The specific driving conditions

The easiest way to avoid making an illegal U-turn is to be aware of the posted signs and traffic signals around you. Intersections that prohibit U-turns often have a clearly marked “No U-Turn" sign. You should also check your city and state traffic laws regarding turns.

These are some general guidelines to keep in mind:

  • It is almost never permissible to make a U-turn in the middle of an intersection or street.
  • Crosswalks need to be free of all pedestrians before you make a U-turn.
  • U-turns are generally prohibited on divided highways unless a specific opening is provided.
  • Conditions must allow you to safely complete the U-turn, with no obstructions blocking your view.
  • U-turns are almost always restricted in front of fire stations or on railroad crossings.

Most jurisdictions have more specific regulations in place for business districts, school zones, and residential districts.

U-Turns and Safety Concerns

U-turns can pose safety risks to you, other drivers, and pedestrians. Making a U-turn in a high-traffic area or busy intersection increases the risk of vehicle collisions and pedestrian accidents. U-turn restrictions protect you and others from potentially dangerous traffic situations.

In some states, traffic laws allow drivers to execute a U-turn only when it is reasonably safe under the circumstances. Some of these circumstances include the driver's ability to see approaching cars and the speed of oncoming traffic.

Other states specifically prohibit drivers from making a U-turn on or near the crest of a hill. You'll likely also face restrictions near a curve that limits visibility to a few hundred feet. In some states, it is illegal simply to cross two double yellow lines in the roadway.

Local and State Regulations

U-turn laws vary by state and city. Regulations for U-turns are a part of each state's traffic laws and motor vehicle code. Local municipalities can also set their own rules for where and when they permit U-turns.

You can find U-turn regulations for your location by checking your state's traffic laws, driver's manual, and municipal code. Your local department of motor vehicles (DMV) or other equivalent agency may also be able to provide this information.

Illegal U-Turn Penalties and Consequences

Traffic tickets are expensive. If a police officer tickets you for making an illegal U-turn, expect a fine. The fine amount depends on your area and driving record but typically ranges from $50 to $300. On top of the fine for the citation, you may also see an increase in your auto insurance premiums.

If you live in a state that uses a point system, an illegal U-turn citation will also add points to your driver's license. It varies by state, but U-turn citations generally carry around three points. Depending on how many existing points are on your license, an illegal U-turn could even lead to a driver's license suspension.

If the U-turn violation is part of a more significant offense, you could face vehicle impoundment or have to appear in court.

U-Turn Citation? Get an Attorney's Help

If law enforcement cites you for an illegal U-turn, you have options. The quickest and most straightforward option is to pay the fine and accept the consequences. You can also choose to fight the ticket in traffic court. A qualified traffic ticket attorney in your area can help with this process and provide sound legal advice.

Your attorney will review your citation and local and state traffic laws, helping you build the best defense possible. This could save you from a fine, increased costs from your insurance company, and points on your driving record.

Additional Traffic Law Resources

FindLaw's Illegal U-Turn State Laws article provides each state's U-turn statutes. Learn about general traffic laws, traffic tickets, and more with the articles below:

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