U-Turns in California: Legal or Not?
Wrong turns are a part of life, but how you choose to deal with them can have consequences — whether we’re talking about your personal life or traffic. Whether you missed your turn or the GPS routed you to a road that doesn’t exist, there are times when making a U-turn makes the most sense. Find out whether U-turns are legal in California and what happens if someone causes an accident and hits you while making a U-turn.
What Constitutes a U-Turn
A U-turn is a 180-degree turn. That means that you are driving in one direction, and after making the U-turn, you are driving in the opposite direction back the way you came. This turn gets its name from the fact that the path the car takes is shaped like the letter U. Pulling into a parking lot or driveway and then backing out to turn the other way also doesn’t constitute a U-turn.
U-turns are commonly used when someone misses a turn or needs to turn around. U-turns are illegal in many states, but in California, whether a U-turn is legal depends on the circumstances, including where you are, what kind of road you are on, and the surrounding traffic situation.
Situations Where a U-Turn Is Legal
In general, making a U-turn is acceptable in a residential area as long as there are no other vehicles or traffic lights within 200 feet. It’s not always easy to determine what qualifies as a residential vs. a business district. A business district is one where at least half of the property that lines the street is made up of businesses that can be accessed by that specific road. U-turns are also allowed at intersections when you have a green light or green arrow and across a double yellow line as long as it is safe and there are no signs prohibiting them.
Situations Where a U-Turn Is Not Legal
U-turns are not legal anywhere there is a sign prohibiting them. You cannot make a U-turn on a one-way street or across a divided highway if it requires you to cross the diving section, any strip of grass, or two sets of double yellow lines. U-turns are generally not allowed in business and commercial areas, except at some intersections. It’s also important to note that the legality of a U-turn depends on the circumstances. If you are making the turn where it would usually be allowed but there is a car coming, that makes the U-turn illegal.
There are some extenuating circumstances where it may be possible to make a U-turn even if it would otherwise be illegal. For example, if you had a woman in labor or someone having a heart attack in the car, that might qualify, but having to use the restroom probably wouldn’t.
What Happens If Someone Makes an Illegal U-Turn
If a police officer observes someone making an illegal U-turn — or one that they deem unsafe because of the circumstances, such as traffic — they can be pulled over. An officer can pull a driver over for any traffic violations, even those that are seemingly minor, or any unsafe driving behavior they witness, which can be subjective in some cases. If someone is pulled over for making an illegal U-turn, it’s a minor traffic infraction. However, they can face a fairly hefty fine of $200 or more and get a point on their license. Depending on any other tickets they’ve had recently and how many points they have on their license, this could be enough to cause their license to be suspended.
What Happens If Someone Hits Me While Making a U-Turn?
If someone hits you while making a U-turn, it can cause a major accident and serious injury. Someone who causes an accident by making a U-turn is often found at fault for the accident. For example, if someone makes a U-turn where there isn’t at least 200 feet of clear space and you don’t have time to react to the turn, the accident would likely be deemed their fault. If so, you may have grounds to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover compensation for any medical expenses or money lost from time off of work due to the injury.
It’s important to make sure that you understand what to expect and what the law allows for before pursuing a lawsuit. For example, the other party needs to be found at least 51% at fault for the accident for you to be able to file a suit, and in general, the higher their at-fault percentage, the higher the amount of damages you may be entitled to. The statute of limitations for these types of cases in California is also only 2 years. That’s the maximum amount of time you have to file a personal injury case with the civil courts, starting with the date of the accident.
If you’ve been injured in an accident because another driver made an illegal or unsafe U-turn, an attorney can help you understand whether you have a case and what your next steps should be. At the Weinberger Law Firm, we’ve successfully helped clients in this and similar situations pursue compensation through the civil courts. The bottom line is that another person’s negligence shouldn’t mean that you’re stuck footing a huge hospital bill and facing financial challenges from time off work.
Our legal team is here to help, from filing your initial case to negotiating a settlement or going to trial. Schedule your appointment with one of our attorneys to find out more about our services and how we can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call our office at 916-661-4464 to get started.