Left Turns, Right Turns, & U-Turns

California Vehicle Code: Left Turns, Right Turns, and U-Turns

When turning, the rule of thumb is that a driver may not turn a vehicle from a direct course or move right or left on a roadway until he can make any movements with reasonable safety.  He then may turn only after giving an appropriate signal in the manner provided by the Vehicle Code. However, this does not mean that the driver must be 100% certain that it is safe to turn. A turning driver is not presumed negligent when an accident occurs.  He is only required to take precautions that a reasonably prudent man would take under the circumstances facing him at that moment.   

The Vehicle Code provides specific rules on turning that every driver must obey; otherwise, he will be presumed negligent when his violation is the proximate cause of an accident.   

Right Turn

To make a right turn, a driver must: 

  • Drive close to the right edge of the road.  
  • Drive into the bike lane no more than 200 feet before turning if there is a bike lane. 
  • Begin signaling about 100 feet before the turn.  
  • Look over his right shoulder and reduce his speed.  
  • Stop behind the limit line.  
  • Not turn wide into another lane.  
  • Complete your turn in the right lane.  

 Left Turn

To make a left turn, a driver must: 

  • Drive close to the center divider line or into the left turn lane.  
  • Begin signaling about 100 feet before the turn.  
  • Look over his left shoulder and reduce his speed.  
  • Stop behind the limit line.  
  • Look left and right, then left again, and make the turn when it is safe.   
  • Not turn too soon and “cut the corner” of the lane belonging to the vehicles coming towards him. 


A U-turn is the turning of a vehicle around to go back the way where it came from.  A driver must signal and use the far-left lane or the center left-turn lane in making a U-turn.  U-turns may be done legally in the following: 

  • Across a double yellow line when safe and legal. 
  • In a residential district where no vehicles approach the driver within 200 feet and whenever a traffic sign, light, or traffic signal lights protect him from approaching vehicles. 
  • At an intersection on a green traffic signal light or green arrow, unless a “No U-turn” sign is posted. 
  • On a divided highway, but only if an opening is provided in the center divider. 

On the other hand, U-turns are prohibited in the following: 

  • At or on a railroad. 
  • On a divided highway. 
  • When the driver cannot clearly see 200 feet in each direction due to a curve, hill, rain, fog, etc. 
  • Where there is no “No U-turn” sign is posted. 
  • On a one-way street. 
  • In front of a fire station. 
  • In business districts. 
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