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That IMPROPER SAFETY U TURN just earned you a ticket and demerit points on your driver’s license!

It is late at night and you’re tired from a long evening out with friends. You have to be up early the next morning for work and want to get home as quickly as possible. As you are dreaming of just how good your goose down feather pillow is going to feel, you realize you are traveling down the wrong street; you should’ve turned a mile back. Frustrated, you maneuver your car to a break in the intersection, glance at the “No U-Turn” sign, put your foot to the pedal, and turn around. Just as you do, lights start flashing behind you.

You are being pulled over and you know why: an illegal U-turn. The U turn or Sh-t Hook in traffic as some call it I both legal and illegal pending the drivers actions in North America.  So as a supervisor or fleet operator what have you covered with staff regarding driver safety and doing proper turns and WHEN!

On top of the 2 to 6 points on your drivers license for doing such a skilled move in traffic you must also be thinking of when turning movements are required at an intersection, notice of such requirement shall be given by erection of a sign, unless an additional clearly marked traffic lane is provided for the approach to the turning movement, in which event, notice as applicable to such additional traffic lane shall be given by any official traffic control device.

Basically, all these laws forbid right, left, or other specified turns when “notice” of special turning requirements is given by a sign, signal, or white arrow painted on the road surface. For example, a sign at an intersection may prohibit all U-turns and left turns during certain hours.

Do not do a U-turn unless you can do

it safely. U-turns are not permitted:

• at an intersection controlled by a traffic

control signal (traffic lights) unless

permitted by a traffic control device

• where a sign prohibits U-turns

Outside urban areas (rural) U-turns are

not permitted:

• on a curve

• approach to or near the crest of a hill

where the driver of another vehicle

cannot see you that is approaching

within 150 metres from either direction

A driver is guilty of making an improper left or right turn at a traffic signal when he or she fails to turn with proper care on the green light. The driver may also commit this offense if he or she turns right when facing a red light without coming to a full stop and yielding to all pedestrians and traffic traveling in the direction in which the turn will be made. A driver can also be convicted if he makes a right turn on a red light at an intersection that has a sign posted prohibiting such a turn.

In most states and provinces, U-turns are almost always illegal in business districts. In residence districts and other areas, they are likely to be legal except where traffic conditions make them unsafe.

Most state/ provincial laws read something like this:

No person in a residence district shall make a U-turn when any other vehicle is approaching from either direction within 200 feet, except at an intersection when the approaching vehicle is controlled by an official traffic-control device.

To be convicted of this, the prosecution must prove that you did all of the following things (violated all of these legal elements):

  1. You were driving in a “residence district,” which is usually defined elsewhere in your state/province laws or code.
  2. You made a full 180-degree or U-turn.
  3. Another vehicle was approaching (not merely stopped) within the distance specified by the law.
  4. You were at an intersection not controlled by an “official traffic-control device” (sign or signal).

Improper right or left turn

You must approach right turns from a roadway into an alley, driveway, private road or onto property off the roadway by traveling as close as practicable to the right hand curb or edge of the roadway. Otherwise, you can be found guilty of making an improper right turn. The same statute applies to left hand turns.

Improper turn from approved turning course

Turning at intersections clearly indicated by buttons, markers, or other direction signs, within an intersection, the course to be followed by vehicles turning therein. No driver shall fail to turn in the manner so directed, when such direction signs are installed by local authorities.

A typical state or provincial  law reads as follows:

To make a U-turn safely, you must be able to see well in both directions. It is illegal to make a U-turn on a curve in the road, on or near a railway crossing or hilltop, or near a bridge or tunnel that blocks your view. Never make a U-turn unless you can see at least 150 metres in both directions.

To make a U-turn, signal for a right turn, check your mirror and over your shoulder and pull over to the right side of the road. Stop. Signal a left turn and when traffic is clear in both directions, move forward and turn quickly and sharply into the opposite lane. Check for traffic as you turn.

The procedure for making a U-turn:

·       Check that the turn is allowed and the way is clear.

·       Signal the turn and approach as you would a left turn.

·       Move very slowly. Turn the wheel into a full lock as soon as you can (use hand over hand).

·       Once you are on full lock, slightly increase your speed.

·       Throughout the turn, check to see that the way is still clear (both ways).

·       Complete the turn. Before the car is straight, start unwinding the wheel (hand over hand).

·       Straighten your front wheels.

·       Proceed as normal.

Whenever a highway has been divided into two or more roadways by means of intermittent barriers or by means of a dividing section of not less than two feet in width, either unpaved or delineated by curbs, double-parallel lines, or other markings on the roadway, it is unlawful to drive any vehicle over, upon, or across the dividing section, or to make any left or U-turn except through a plainly marked opening in the dividing section.

In other words, you can’t legally cross two pairs of double white or yellow lines two or more feet apart or a highway divider strip, except at an opening or a place where the double-double lines drop to one set of double lines (or, in some states, become intermittent).

Your best defenses:

  • The two sets of parallel lines were less than two feet apart. At your trial you can challenge the officer to say whether he or she measured the distance between the lines or just estimated them. Although technically this is a decent defense, most judges probably won’t go for it (they will assume the two sets of lines were the correct distance apart) unless you measure them and prove they were not. Since people who paint highways aren’t perfect, it can pay to wait until traffic is light and get out the old measuring tape.
  • There appeared to be a break in the double-double lines to accommodate a driveway. Pictures help a lot with this one, although sometimes you can challenge an officer on cross-examination to get the officer to admit that he or she can’t remember. If so, when it comes to your turn to testify, you’ll want to claim that the officer’s inability to remember raises a reasonable doubt as to your guilt.
  • You were forced to divert over a set of double lines to avoid a dangerous traffic situation. The burden of proving any “emergency defense” is squarely on you. Be sure your emergency really relates to road conditions (you had to avoid an out-of- control truck) and not just your personal situation (you needed to stop to adjust your seatbelt).

Unsafe Turns and Lane Changes

In addition to the specific turn laws outlined above, most states also have a catchall category called “unsafe turns or lane changes.” Here is a typical statute.

No person shall turn a vehicle from a direct course or move right or left upon a roadway until such movement can be made with reasonable safety and then only after the giving of an appropriate signal in the event any other vehicle may be affected by the movement.

In theory, at least, it is up to the prose cution to prove facts that, taken together, demonstrate that you were not driving safely. But in a real courtroom, the ticketing officer will probably just testify that your actions were dangerous. Although this is a conclusion—not really proof—it is usually enough to shift the burden of proof to you. (The judge will now expect you to show your actions were safe.) It is, therefore, important for you to be prepared to produce evidence that this was the case. Following are some suggestions on how to do this.

Turning Left Against Oncoming Traffic

It is legal to make a left turn in front of oncoming traffic if you can do so with reasonable safety. If ticketed, you can start by testifying that, because your turn did not cause an accident and the other driver did not have to swerve or brake sharply, your turn was safe. In addition, you may wish to point out that there was enough distance between your car and an oncoming car to make the turn safely. One good approach is to use a little mathematics to show the judge how much time you had to make your turn. Start by understanding that six car-lengths equals about 100 feet. Assuming the car approaching yours was traveling at 25 mph (or 37 feet per second), you would have about three seconds for you to make your turn. Twelve car lengths (or 200 feet) would allow about six seconds, and so on. You should explain that with the help of a diagram as part of your direct testimony and reiterate it in your closing argument.

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