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  1. #1
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    Arrow Does a "Left Turn Only" Sign Prohibit a U-Turn

    My question involves a traffic ticket from the state of: Maryland (or California, the two states I currently tend to travel in)

    Actually, I have not been cited for this infraction yet, but I have a question about the meaning of a certain sign or traffic control device, an improper understanding of which would almost certainly lead to a costly citation for me or one of my friends at some point in the future:

    Is it legal to make a U-turn from a left-most left turn lane that is marked "Left Turn Only" by one or more traffic control devices, if there are no other traffic control devices that expressly prohibit U-turns?

    Now, my own reasoning on this question is "of course not" because the sign clearly reads "Left Turn Only", which means the only action the driver can take is to execute a left turn, which is different than a U-turn. However, there are apparently various ambiguities in many states' vehicular codes, or the possible interpretations of those codes....so much so that it almost seems to me that states may have undertaken creating the ambiguities to give peace officers another way in which to stop an unsuspecting motorist who the peace officer suspects of potential involvement in more serious offenses, or as a way to offer an opportunity for revenue-generating citations for ambiguous violations.

    Some states seem to say (explicitly or implicitly) that U-turns are allowable in almost every instance where one would typically see a "Left Turn Only" traffic control device (at an intersection with a green light or green arrow) except where specifically prohibited by a sign that explicitly says "No U-Turn"...but there is often other verbiage in the same code that states that U-turns are not allowed when a sign "prohibits" them...to my mind, a sign reading "Left Turn Only" is a sign "prohibiting" a U-turn, but apparently that's up for some debate....including the seemingly dubious claim that a U-turn is a sort of left turn since one "turns left" to execute it....so, I'm asking the experts here at expertlaw.com to help me understand what the traffic control device verbiage "Left Turn Only" is intended to communicate to drivers, and what action(s) such a sign allows or prohibits based on your understanding of the specific verbiage of the relevant codes of your state?

    I am interested in feedback on this issue from ANY state (as kind of a general knowledge / precedent thing)....thanks in advance!

    Aaron

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Does "Left Turn Only" Sign Legally Prohibit U-Turn

    Are you even reading what you're posting?

    First, you ask if it legal?

    Quote Quoting introspectacle
    View Post
    Is it legal to make a U-turn from a left-most left turn lane that is marked "Left Turn Only" by one or more traffic control devices, if there are no other traffic control devices that expressly prohibit U-turns?
    Then you answer your own question saying it is illegal

    Quote Quoting introspectacle
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    ... "of course not"...
    Reason being:

    Quote Quoting introspectacle
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    because the sign clearly reads "Left Turn Only", which means the only action the driver can take is to execute a left turn, which is different than a U-turn.
    And then you end with the correct reasoning, by saying a left turn is different than a U-turn and therefor, a U-turn is prohibited.

    Quote Quoting introspectacle
    View Post
    because the sign clearly reads "Left Turn Only", which means the only action the driver can take is to execute a left turn, which is different than a U-turn.
    A left turn only sign means you can only make a left turn, you cannot make a U-turn nor can you go straight from a lane marked with a left turn only sign.

    It really is self explanatory!



    And more so for this one:



    This one means Left Turn Only from the left most (#1) lane, and Left Turn Or A Straight Through movement from the #2 lane.



    - - - Updated - - -

    Similarly, the only allowable movement from a lane marked with a right turn, is a right turn only. You cannot go straight from a right turn only lane.

    (Apparently, the forum admins have limited the number of images per post to 4, and I've reached that limit already. So to see the following signs, you'll have to click on the links below).

    Here is the sign which allows a left turn and well as a U-turn:

    And of course on a multi left turn lane set up, you are only allowed a U-turn from the left most lane ONLY:

    Quote Quoting introspectacle
    View Post
    Is it legal to make a U-turn from a left-most left turn lane that is marked "Left Turn Only" by one or more traffic control devices, if there are no other traffic control devices that expressly prohibit U-turns?

    Now, my own reasoning on this question is "of course not" because the sign clearly reads "Left Turn Only", which means the only action the driver can take is to execute a left turn, which is different than a U-turn.
    Quote Quoting introspectacle
    View Post
    However, there are apparently various ambiguities in many states' vehicular codes, or the possible interpretations of those codes....so much so that it almost seems to me that states may have undertaken creating the ambiguities to give peace officers another way in which to stop an unsuspecting motorist who the peace officer suspects of potential involvement in more serious offenses, or as a way to offer an opportunity for revenue-generating citations for ambiguous violations.
    I suspect that these so called ambiguities are self generated by drivers who refuse to acknowledge any responsibility for their actions when they get cited. These signs and their meaning are often part of the written test administered by the DMV... Here they are on page 14 of the 2010 California Driver's Manual:



    Now if you think they're ambiguous, should you just leave them alone until you get cited and then try to use an ambiguity defense, or should you inquire about it and clear up any ambiguity like you did here?

    Sort of mind boggling as to how some people can manage to pass the written test and the driving test in spite of not being able to read a left turn ONLY sign and only interpret it by luck or by fluke.

    Quote Quoting introspectacle
    View Post
    Is it legal to make a U-turn from a left-most left turn lane that is marked "Left Turn Only" by one or more traffic control devices, if there are no other traffic control devices that expressly prohibit U-turns?
    "YES", it is illegal.

    Quote Quoting introspectacle
    View Post
    Some states seem to say (explicitly or implicitly) that U-turns are allowable in almost every instance where one would typically see a "Left Turn Only" traffic control device (at an intersection with a green light or green arrow) except where specifically prohibited by a sign that explicitly says "No U-Turn"...but there is often other verbiage in the same code that states that U-turns are not allowed when a sign "prohibits" them...to my mind, a sign reading "Left Turn Only" is a sign "prohibiting" a U-turn, but apparently that's up for some debate....including the seemingly dubious claim that a U-turn is a sort of left turn since one "turns left" to execute it....so, I'm asking the experts here at expertlaw.com to help me understand what the traffic control device verbiage "Left Turn Only" is intended to communicate to drivers, and what action(s) such a sign allows or prohibits based on your understanding of the specific verbiage of the relevant codes of your state?
    I think you're convoluting the issues too much for your own good. If you're convinced that the state is out to set you up and get you, then you really have no business driving simply because your suspicions are causing you to second guess your decisions, and you're having trouble with the most basic tasks of driving. Instead of complicating matters you should try and simplify them.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Does "Left Turn Only" Sign Legally Prohibit U-Turn

    If U-turns are legal and you make a left turn, when initiating the turn in the left turn lane, you are simply making a second left turn, to complete the U turn.

    Now repeat that 10 times as fast as you can. We are grading you.
    With enough thrust, pigs fly just fine.
    You may believe that you understood what you think I said. I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Does "Left Turn Only" Sign Legally Prohibit U-Turn

    Quote Quoting That Guy
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    A left turn only sign means you can only make a left turn, you cannot make a U-turn nor can you go straight from a lane marked with a left turn only sign.
    I can't speak to Maryland, but at least for California, I don't agree.

    21451.
    (a) A driver facing a circular green signal shall proceed straight through or turn right or left or make a U-turn unless a sign prohibits a U-turn. Any driver, including one turning, shall yield the right-of-way to other traffic and to pedestrians lawfully within the intersection or an adjacent crosswalk.

    (b) A driver facing a green arrow signal, shown alone or in combination with another indication, shall enter the intersection only to make the movement indicated by that green arrow or any other movement that is permitted by other indications shown at the same time. A driver facing a left green arrow may also make a U-turn unless prohibited by a sign. A driver shall yield the right-of-way to other traffic and to pedestrians lawfully within the intersection or an adjacent crosswalk.

    The pictures of the signs that you've posted are for Mandatory Movement Lane Control signs, and this is governed by VC22101:

    22101.
    (b) When turning movements are required at an intersection notice of such requirement shall be given by erection of a sign, unless an additional clearly marked traffic lane is provided for the approach to the turning movement, in which event notice as applicable to such additional traffic lane shall be given by any official traffic control device.

    This doesn't say anything about U-Turns, only that if a turning movement is required at an intersection there needs to be a lane, a sign, or both. 22100.5 does discuss U-Turns:

    22100.5.
    No driver shall make a U-turn at an intersection controlled by official traffic signals except as provided in Section 21451, and then only from the far lefthand lane that is lawfully available to traffic moving in the direction of travel from which the turn is commenced. No driver shall make a U-turn at an intersection controlled by official traffic control devices except from the far lefthand lane that is lawfully available to traffic moving in the direction of travel from which the turn is commenced.

    U-Turns at intersections must comply with 21451, and be made only from the leftmost lane. At intersections controlled by traffic control devices instead of signals, the movement must also be made in the leftmost lane of traffic flowing in the same direction.

    All of this means that unless a sign is posted at an intersection that prohibits U-Turns, it should be legal to make such a turn. The CA-MUTCD supports this interpretation of the law:

    CA-MUTCD 2012 2B.18:
    Support:
    Motorists can make a semicircular or U-turn on a green signal or green arrow except where such turn is prohibited by signs. Refer to CVC 21451 and 21454.

    Option:
    Local authorities, by ordinance, may prohibit the making of any turning movement by any vehicle at any intersection or between any designated intersections. Refer to CVC 22113.

    Standard:
    The No U-Turn (R3-4) sign shall be used where U turns are prohibited except when Intersection Lane Control signs (R73(CA) Series) signs are used at signalized intersections with separate left turn phases. The No U-Turn/No Left Turn (R3-18) sign shall be used where both, left turns and U turns are prohibited.


    The two sections after 2B.18 deal with mandatory movements either at intersections or in lanes. The 2B.19 section only mentions U-turns in the context of suggesting that the R73 sign be used instead of the R3-4 sign when U-turns are prohibited at a signalized intersection. The 2B.20 section, about mandatory movement lanes, states that the authority for this regulation comes from 22101, and that signs should be used "to indicate the type of movement permitted at a major intersection where ground mounted signing is not adequate." This means that unless there's a sign that prohibits U-turns, drivers should be able to make a U-turn from a Left Turn Only lane provided that it was otherwise legal to make a U-turn there. (E.g. it's the leftmost lane, done in accordance with 21451, and no local ordinance prohibits it).

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Does "Left Turn Only" Sign Legally Prohibit U-Turn

    u-turn is a left turn. It is just a 180º left turn instead of a 90º left turn.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Does "Left Turn Only" Sign Legally Prohibit U-Turn

    Quote Quoting jk
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    u-turn is a left turn. It is just a 180º left turn instead of a 90º left turn.
    If you're simply describing the driver's action and/or the direction of the vehicle then you are correct. Clearly a bit different when it comes to compliance with the rules of the road... If it were as simple as you describe it, then there would not be statutes governing U-turns that are separate from those that govern left tuns. Similarly, we would not have signs specifically allowing or forbidding U-turns independent of those directions for left turns.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Does "Left Turn Only" Sign Legally Prohibit U-Turn

    Quote Quoting themadnorwegian
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    This means that unless there's a sign that prohibits U-turns, drivers should be able to make a U-turn from a Left Turn Only lane provided that it was otherwise legal to make a U-turn there. (E.g. it's the leftmost lane, done in accordance with 21451, and no local ordinance prohibits it).
    Great analysis -- agreed 100%.

    Quote Quoting jk
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    u-turn is a left turn. It is just a 180º left turn instead of a 90º left turn.
    At the risk of over-analyzing the situation, I'd say you can think of it as two left turns in series. Now, the first left turn is obviously permitted by the sign, and its job is done when you obey it by completing the first half of the U-turn. At that point, mid-intersection, can anyone think of any codes which would make the second left turn illegal?

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Does "Left Turn Only" Sign Legally Prohibit U-Turn

    Quote Quoting themadnorwegian
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    The pictures of the signs that you've posted are for Mandatory Movement Lane Control signs, and this is governed by VC22101:

    So, in answer to the OPs question: "Does a "Left Turn Only" Sign Prohibit a U-Turn" my answer is still wrong?

    And where is it in the OPs post did he specify which code section he was concerned with being cited for?

    Your reply regarding a left turn or a u-turn not being prohibited on a circular green without any sign being posted is correct. But that does not address the OPs question regarding a left turn that is controlled by a "left turn only" sign.

    In fact, the 21451 section you cited clearly differentiates between a left turn and a u-turn. Thereby confirming my point that a "left turn only" sign does not automatically allow a "u-turn" as that is a different type of turn!

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Quoting quirkyquark
    View Post
    Great analysis -- agreed 100%.
    And so you would agree that I can go straight from a right turn only lane? After all, it does not specifically prohibit a straight movement, it only mandates a right turn.

    Fact is, if we were to evaluate a question had there been a specific code section cited here, specifically a 21451, then yes, it would not apply to prohibit a u-turn from an intersection where no signs existed.

    However, when someone is asking a general question about the meaning of a left turn only sign, that type of sign implies that the ONLY allowed movement is a left turn, and therefore any other movement, including a u-turn, is not allowed!

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