Right turns and u turns
January 9, 2016 12:47 PM   Subscribe

It occurred to me if you're making a right turn from, say, a parking lot, you would be in obvious conflict with someone in the left turn lane who decides to make a u turn (which you would have no way of knowing beforehand). When you're making a right on red or from a parking lot, do you usually wait for the left turn lane to be clear of cars? Or is that overkill? I never see people taking that precaution and I think lots of honking would result if you did.
posted by theshire to Travel & Transportation (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
As someone who regularly is the person making the U-turn in this scenario, I take it as my responsibility to wait for the parking lot line to clear. I'd be interested in knowing the legal requirements, but I have been assuming the person turning left does not have the right of way (plus, as you said, the U-turner is doing the more unexpected thing). My situation doesn't have a traffic light, though, so that might change the calculus.
posted by jaguar at 12:50 PM on January 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

At a stop sign, you have the right of way over the u-turn person in my jurisdiction and probably most of them. It's on them to watch for you, not vice versa.

Right on red is more nebulous but if there's an opening you'll be through your turn and on your way before they can complete the U.
posted by ftm at 12:52 PM on January 9, 2016

If everyone is doing what they're supposed to do -- that is, using their turn signals -- then:

The U-turner knows that:
A) they themselves are making a U-turn
B) the right-turner is making a right turn.

The right-turner knows that:
A) they themselves are making a right turn
B) the U-turner is either making a left turn or making a U-turn.

And each of them knows that the other person knows those things. In this case, the person with more information is obligated to allow the person with less information to proceed, to clear up any potential confusion.
posted by Etrigan at 12:55 PM on January 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

The way I learned it, the general rule is that whoever is interfering with the least traffic has right of way - so a right turn will win over a u-turn (or a left turn) in general.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:55 PM on January 9, 2016 [8 favorites]

The U-turn is probably also illegal, and the person who is doing the least legal thing cedes the right of way to anyone making a legal turn.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 1:01 PM on January 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

.... and in the event of a collision, in my jurisdiction at least, judges are known to sometimes split the responsibility. 25%-75%, 50%-50% -- that kind of thing.
posted by philip-random at 1:01 PM on January 9, 2016

FWIW my ex-fiancé was in this exact scenario (he turned right out of our apartment complex, a lady was making a u-turn from the main road) and was in an accident, and he was still ticketed, though the cop was almost apologetic about having to do it. He said these are usually "both people are kind of at fault but I have to ticket someone" cases.
posted by celtalitha at 1:13 PM on January 9, 2016

When you're making a right on red or from a parking lot, do you usually wait for the left turn lane to be clear of cars? Or is that overkill? I never see people taking that precaution and I think lots of honking would result if you did.

I'd think if you were making a right on red and the person making the left turn has a green arrow, you definitely would not have the right-of-way. Uncontrolled intersections are more of a judgement call. But I've seen people making U-turns with a green arrow honk at people blocking them by turning right on red, so if you're trying to avoid being honked at... But I've seen people get honked at for not turning when there's a clearly posted "No right on red" sign, so I wouldn't worry about it too much.

The U-turn is probably also illegal

That's overly broad. At least in California, a U-turn is legal from just about any designated left turn lane, controlled intersection or not, unless there's a sign saying otherwise.
posted by LionIndex at 1:35 PM on January 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

The way I learned it is that whoever is not stopped by a light or stop sign has right of way, so if the u-turner does not have a red light, they have right of way over someone at a stop sign. My city selectively overrides this with added signs giving right turns right of way over people making u-turns.

I had to make turns like that for two years to get out of my apartment lot, and mostly it came down to exercising a lot of caution and trying to make sure the potential u-turns driver saw me.
posted by Candleman at 1:35 PM on January 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah, it's worth noting that a lot of traffic stuff (especially u-turns) varies *wildly* depending on jurisdiction.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:44 PM on January 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I was once in an accident where the other guy was ticketed because even though he stopped at the stop sign, he went on and ended up in front of me as I was coming down the road. Stop signs require you to yield the right of way. The guy was very upset with this and insisted he'd done nothing wrong, and finally the exasperated cop yelled at him:

"Sir, did this man hit you?"
"Yes! Yes he did!"
"Well if you had yielded the right of way how was it that you were in the middle of the road so he COULD hit you?"

Not far from my place of work there is an intersection where I end up making the U-turn at least twice a week. The light turns round green for a period before the left-turn arrow comes on, but there is a sign saying for left turners to yield on round green. Staying parked during a traffic break in the left turn lane will get you honked, but lots of people come flying off the side street to turn right without bothering to stop first. (It's not right turn on red, it's right turn on red AFTER STOP. Nobody remembers those last two words.)

It's not super obvious from either the left turn lane or the side street right turn lane that there is another source of cars that might intersect with you which have pretty much an equal right to that patch of asphalt.
posted by Bringer Tom at 2:24 PM on January 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Leaving my neighborhood, you're required to make a u-turn at a four-way light if you want to go south on the main thoroughfare. There's a sign that gives u-turners the right of way (we also have a protected turn light for everybody going left). Yet at least 25% of the time I go through, some asshole is making that right turn on red. I usually keep going and expect them to stop unless they're coming especially fast. I have the right of way.
posted by liet at 2:58 PM on January 9, 2016

On the Mid-East Coast of the US there is a VERY popular convenience store chain called "Wawa". They are so popular that traffic patterns are (apparently) devised to minimize problems. But people still manage to make things bad. For instance, there are two places to turn right into the one I'm thinking of, but only one place to turn in left. The left turn takes you onto an access road between a restaurant and the Wawa, then you turn left into the Wawa.

Now, you could do a U turn instead and then turn right into the Wawa, but there is a very clear NO U TURN sign. People also need to turn left out of that access road, or may turn right if they came from the restaurant. This would be difficult if not for the people making U Turns directly in violation of the sign, at which point it ends up requiring mind reading, especially at night.

My point is that bad drivers are pandemic, and the only thing they have in common is they don't think they're bad drivers. You have my understanding and sympathies!
posted by forthright at 3:20 PM on January 9, 2016

This was just in Minneapolis Star Tribune--MN specfic, but maybe useful http://m.startribune.com/the-drive-in-many-cases-u-turns-are-ok/363595221/
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 3:22 PM on January 9, 2016

The parking lot vs. right-on-red distinction may make a difference. I've believed (possibly erroneously) that generally cars that are not "in traffic" (e.g. parked on the side of the road or exiting parking lots) should yield right-of-way to cars that are in traffic (including turning).

I found this from the California Driver Handbook:

"If you have parked off the road or are leaving a parking lot, etc., yield to traffic before reentering the road."

Also, (in my experience) traffic turning left generally needs to yield to traffic turning right (e.g. if two cars are opposite each other at a stop light and both have green, the left-turn must yield).

Not knowing the actual rules but using the scenarios above, my thinking about this would go: If I'm leaving a parking lot, I need to yield to everyone already in the roadway. If I'm at a stop sign or stop light and turning right, a person turning left (including a 180-degree left turn) would need to yield.
posted by brentajones at 3:32 PM on January 9, 2016

If you are facing each other at an intersection, you are turning right on red and the other person left, (so you both end up going the same direction on the same road), then that person has the right of way. I drive that situation every day and don't wait until that left turn lane was absolutely empty but I certainly wait until I'm sure their light has turned red or I can safely turn in between those left-turning cars.

In the other scenario, the left-turning person has the right of way. You are supposed to assume there is a stop sign at that parking lot drive way. The person in the road does not have one so that person has the right of way.

In both these scenarios, the right turning person has a traffic control device - either the red right turn arrow or the "assumed" stop sign at the driveway.
posted by Beti at 3:43 PM on January 9, 2016

Assuming that the person making the U-turn is doing it legally, on their green and not at an intersection where it is expressly forbidden, then they have the right of way.

The thing is, 'right on red' is NOT all of the law: it's more like 'right on red, after a complete stop, and only if everyone else --- cars with green lights, pedestrians, EVERYONE else --- is clear'. The vehicle doing a right turn on a red light is always the person with the LEAST amount of right to move.
posted by easily confused at 4:02 PM on January 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

Near my work, there's a sign saying that cars making U-Turns must yield to people making right turns. Since it's not possible for both cars to have a green light at the same time, that must mean that the U-Turner must also yield to people making rights on red. I frequently make right turns at this intersection and I always wait to see if someone's making a left or a U-Turn, and if they're going to yield to me or not. It only takes one idiot to wreck your life.
posted by desjardins at 4:22 PM on January 9, 2016

Notice that I just contradicted "easily confused," even though there's a very clear sign in my example, so this obviously varies quite a bit by location.
posted by desjardins at 4:24 PM on January 9, 2016

A recently reconfigured major US highway near me now explicitly allows U-turns (by indicating that the left-turn lane is suitable for both left turns and U-turns). On the same sign, they caution that U-turners must yield to right turners. This is in Illinois.
posted by DrGail at 4:52 PM on January 9, 2016

Best answer: Here in North Carolina, at any intersection where a U-turn is possible, there's almost always a sign saying "U-turn must yield" (by which they mean, yield to oncoming traffic or right turners from the intersecting street). I don't recall if it's a universal traffic law in this state, but whenever I make a U-turn I assume I have to yield to right-turners, and when making a right turn on red I assume that potential U-turners will yield to me.

Also, at intersections with left turn arrows, there will often be a simultaneous right-turn arrow on the cross-street. So right-turners may well have a green arrow to turn right and really won't be expecting a U-turner to come at them.

(In this state, U-turns are legal unless there's a sign stating "No U-turn." I haven't analyzed whether the green right-turn arrows only exist where U-turns are forbidden, but I doubt it.)

So it very much depends on your local traffic laws.

If there are often U-turners, I would probably pause a beat before turning right, just to see what the car in the left lane is going to do. But if the first car is turning left, I'd likely make the right turn; if the next car in the left lane is U-turning, I'd figure they'll see me start my right turn and yield. I likely wouldn't wait for the left lane to totally clear out.
posted by snowmentality at 7:42 PM on January 9, 2016

Seconding what LionIndex said. This happens all the time in CA.
posted by persona au gratin at 3:54 AM on January 10, 2016

That's one reason why U-turns are illegal in some states. Personally I assume everyone on the road is slightly deranged and adjust my own driving accordingly.
posted by deathpanels at 7:51 AM on January 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

« Older Residual Smoke Detection   |   Who do I create a panoramic draggable video for... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.