When is it legal (and safe) to make a U-turn? Road Warrior reader Janelle would like to know. She confronts the issue every night on her way home from work. Santa Rosa experts advise her that the motorists who annoy her are in the right, but only if they turn safely.

Question: I work next to Medtronic on Round Barn Blvd. (off Fountaingrove) and everyday multiple cars flip a U turn where there is a break in the center divider. From what I recall from when I did traffic school, you can only perform a U turn in a business area after business hours. Is this correct?

It happens so frequently here and the main problem is that the business park is right across the street, so most of the cars leaving work are making a left, and when people flip U Turns there is no way to tell (especially since anyone rarely uses blinkers anymore!), causing confusion and near accidents regularly!

Some clarity would help and ideally a “No U turn” sign would help this as well. — Janelle

Answers: The area and turn your reader described would be a legal U-turn unless there was a sign posted that prohibited a U-turn.  The area she described does not meet the definition of a business district.   Absent that, it would be legal as long as it was safe with oncoming traffic.  – Sergeant Mike Numainville, Santa Rosa Traffic Bureau

Sonoma County Traffic Court Commissioner Lawrence Ornell provides some background and a photo. ”This appears to be the opening in question,” he says of the photo above. “The only current function of the below break in the divided highway would be to allow for a U-turn.

“It’s the same law for U-turns in a business district 24/7, 365. As the picture below shows, there is a dedicated left turn lane as part of the openings on Round Barn Blvd., therefore these openings are ‘designated and intended by public authorities for the use of vehicles.’

“Keeping in mind under § 360 ‘Highway includes street,’ therefore Round Barn Blvd is a ‘divided highway’ and  U-turns are permitted.”

As for adding a No U-turn sign, that would be up to the City’s Traffic Engineering Division.

Still want more? Here’s the vehicle code that applies:

§ 22102. U-turn in business district

No person in a business district shall make a U-turn, except at an intersection, or on a divided highway where an opening has been provided in accordance with Section 21651. This turning movement shall be made as close as practicable to the extreme left-hand edge of the lanes moving in the driver’s direction of travel immediately prior to the initiation of the turning movement, when more than one lane in the direction of travel is present.

§ 21651. Divided highways

(a) 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 do either of the following:

(2) To make any left, semicircular, or U-turn with the vehicle on the divided highway, except through an opening in the barrier designated and intended by public authorities for the use of vehicles or through a plainly marked opening in the dividing section.


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  1. jeff

    What if the painted left turn arrow on the road surface were re-designed to indicate a left or U turn? They get repainted routinely anyway. This wouldn’t cost anything, compared to signage, and would provide clarity.

    May 21st, 2013 8:15 am

  2. Road.Warrior

    That’s a great suggestion, Jeff.

    May 21st, 2013 9:56 am

  3. nospam

    you can make a U-turn anywhere EXCEPT:

    1. across a double-yellow line.

    2. in a “downtown business district” – meaning in the middle of the block.

    U-turns are always allowed at intersections even in “downtown districts” UNLESS a “no U turn” sign is posted.

    the above is clearly an intersection, no sign is posted, so even if it doesn’t meet the definition of downtown business district

    May 22nd, 2013 10:43 am

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