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In making a U-turn on a highway, which lane should drivers stay in?

Ken Little

Q. On U.S. 17, medians have breaks for U-turns and for incoming traffic from other roads to enter 17. When a vehicle is U-turning in one of these intersections, should they stay tight to the left like you would with a normal U-turn? Or would you need to stay right? I feel like there are many people who do both and it becomes an issue when people are using the same turning area, but following different rules.

A. “The intention at these median breaks is for drivers to stay to the right of the opening,” said Jessi Leonard, Division Three traffic engineer for the N.C. Department of Transportation, in an email.

“The lane that a vehicle ends up turning in to after a u‑turn is dependent on the size and type of vehicle. For instance, a large truck would need more width to be able to make this movement. It is not expected that any vehicle would be able to complete a u‑turn movement without going into more than one lane; however, we have to rely on the driver to know their vehicle and wait for an appropriate gap to make the movement safely,” Leonard added.

Drivers should stay in the closest lane whenever possible and avoid cutting across traffic, explained Jay Anderson, founder of Stay Alive Just Drive.

“In a lot of situations due to the width of the road and the size of the vehicles, it’s impossible to turn into the appropriate lane,” Anderson said.

Here’s a link to the North Carolina Drivers Handbook: https://www.ncdot.gov/download/dmv/handbooks_NCDL_English.pdf

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