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When making a left onto a divided highway, is it legal to stop in the median to wait for traffic to clear?

Ken Little

Q. When making a left-hand turn at an intersection with a stop sign, is it legal in North Carolina to cross two lanes (for example, the eastbound lanes) of a median-divided interstate highway, then come to a complete stop in the median for the purpose of merging into oncoming traffic (example: westbound), or should the driver wait at the intersection stop sign until able to cross lanes and completely merge into traffic without stopping?

A. Stopping at a median while crossing two lanes of an interstate highway isn’t against the law, but it’s “probably not a safe practice,” said First Sgt. Jeff Gordon, N.C. State Highway Patrol spokesman.

“If there is, for example, a four-lane highway and if you have a stop sign on the side of one of those roads, is it against the law to cross the lanes of travel and then come to a stop in the median and then make your left-hand turn?

“The answer to that is no, it’s not against the law,” Gordon said. “The only law that would pertain to is that you always have to yield to traffic, for example, in the eastbound and the westbound lanes.”

Gordon said if a driver is at a stop sign and the eastbound lane must be crossed into the median, and a wait is necessary for westbound traffic to clear to make a left-hand turn, then “that will suffice.”

“There’s no law that prohibits you from coming stationary in the median to make that left-hand turn, but the safer thing to do is basically proceed across all lanes so that you don’t have to stop because what you will see sometimes is individuals who will stop in the median and the back portion of the car is still hanging out in the travel lane and that can cause some issues,” Gordon said.

Another potential issue is a when one car stops to make a turn, resulting in a “conglomerate of cars in the median,” Gordon said.

“It’s not against the law, but it’s probably not a safe practice. But you can do it by law,” Gordon said.


Why is it legal to drive across the median at the auto parts store on U.S. 74/76 at Delco?

Why are median islands sometimes not painted?



User-contributed question by:
Irene Gallagher

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