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U-turns for Beginners

Turn Your Vehicle Around in Residential Neighborhoods Using U-turns

Embark on an adventure with patient and friendly driving instructor, Kimberly, as she shares the art of U-turns for beginners. Discover the ins and outs of when and where you can legally perform U-turns, and then follow Kimberly's expert guidance as she breaks down the process of executing a U-turn, one step at a time. Get ready to explore the world of U-turns together and steer your path in the right direction!

Turning Around in Neighborhoods - Part 1: U-turns, Video Transcript

Imagine you're driving down a quiet, peaceful residential neighborhood when all the sudden (gasp)... you realize you've reached a dead-end. Whatever will you do? While you might be tempted to abandon your vehicle and run for the hills, don't! Instead, reach into your skilled-driver toolbelt and pull out a U-turn, 2-Point turn, or 3-Point turn. One of these powerful turnabout-tools, if executed properly, will help you get headed back in the right direction.

Hi learning-to-drive-YouTube-verse, it's me, Kimberly, with Drivers Ed Direct and today we'll be going over all the ways you can safely and legally turn you and your vehicle around. In case I forget to ask at the end of the video, can you kindly take a second to like this video, and another split second to subscribe? It's a great way to support our channel and keeps us encouraged to keep pumping out more content. Anyway, enough of us asking for some U-tube help, it's our turn to give you all some U-turn help. Let's go!

DMV Rules for U-turns, 3-Point Turns, and 2-Point Turns

Before we start turning our car around in circles, let's first go over the rules for when it's legal to make a U-turn. These same rules generally apply for 2-Point and 3-Point turns, so please take some notes:

You can LEGALLY turn your vehicle around:

  • In a residential district if no vehicles are approaching you within 200 feet.
  • At an intersection on a green traffic light or green arrow, unless a "No U-turn" sign is posted.
  • On a divided highway if a center divider opening is provided.
  • Across a SINGLE set of double yellow lines.

You can NEVER make a U-turn:

  • Where a "No U-turn" sign is posted.
  • At or on a railroad crossing.
  • Over a divided highway's dividing island, curb, strip of land, or TWO sets of double yellow lines.
  • When you cannot see clearly for 200 feet in each direction... for example, before a hill or curve in the road.
  • On a one-way street.
  • In front of a fire station.
  • In business districts (the part of a city or town where most offices, apartments, and businesses are). The only exception to this is at an intersection where U-turns are allowed.

Making U-turns

Now that we know the rules of the road, let's go over the preferred method for turning your car around... a good old U-Turn. We prefer the U-turn because it allows us to reverse direction without having to drive in reverse, and anytime we can avoid backing up is a win because backing your vehicle is always dangerous due to the limited visibility and added blind zones behind you. Got it? Good! Let's do a U-turn.

Beginner U-Turn at a Cul-de-sac

Let's start by simply showing you the most basic of U-turns you can do by using a cul-de-sac -- the kind you'll typically find at a dead-end of any neighborhood street. A cul-de-sac is a great place to practice U-turns because there is no oncoming traffic or cross traffic. Instead, we can focus more on the mechanics of making a U-turn.

Don't worry, we'll go over all the detailed steps for making a U-turn in just a second, but first let's knock this easy one out so you can get a feel for it.

As I come up to the end of the cul-de-sac, I slow down to a nice walking pace and put on my left turn signal to let other folks know what's going on. I'm also doing a scan of everything going on around me, especially looking for pedestrians, kids, pets, or parked cars with doors that might suddenly swing open. If everything looks clear, I perform my U-turn by more or less tracing the arc of the cul-de-sac, turning my wheel ALL the way to the left as I continue very slowly and cautiously... use very little gas and keep scanning the road throughout the U-turn. Also, notice how I also keep a safe distance from any parked cars? Now, as I finish the U-turn, I start to straighten my wheels out by counters-steering to the right. With my wheels straight, I can accelerate up to the proper speed of traffic. And voila, we just did our very first U-turn. Not bad, right?

U-Turn on Residential Through Street

Now that we've done a very easy U-Turn at a cul-de-sac, let's try a more challenging one where we're not at a dead end and have a few more potential obstacles to juggle.

Step 1) Assess the Situation: You need to turn around, is this a safe place to do a U-turn? Can I clearly see 200 feet ahead? Are there any obstacles or hazards approaching? Is the street wide enough for me to turn fully around without having to back up? My personal preference in residential neighborhoods is to go to an intersection where there will be more room for making a full U-turn. An intersection with stop signs also has the added benefit of controlling traffic to help make our lives easier.

Step 2) Prepare for a safe U-Turn: Signal to the left to let other drivers know your intent to turn. You always want to begin any U-turn from the leftmost lane. In residential areas, you'll start your U-turn from the left-lane position, like this. If you're not starting your U-turn from a stopped position, make sure you're slowing down to a safe speed for your U-turn, about 4-5 mph. Double check your surroundings by scanning ahead, checking your mirrors, and checking over your left shoulder. You really want to make sure everything is clear all around your vehicle by doing a complete 360-degree scan. As we like to say, keep your head on a swivel!

Step 3) Time to execute our U-turn: With your car slowed to a safe speed and everything looking clear in all directions, we begin by making a nice WIDE semi-circle turn... you actually will swing a little to the right as you begin your turn -- this will give us plenty of room to complete our U-turn. You can think of it as if you're tracing a question mark or perhaps driving on an imaginary cul-de-sac road. Go slowly and with control as you trace the imaginary semi-circle, cranking the wheel all the way to the left as you turn yourself around. While you turn, keep scanning your surroundings. When your vehicle begins to point in the direction you want to go, you can start to counter-steer to the right as you come out of the turn, lightly accelerating as your wheels straighten out. Again, keep visually scanning the road situation all around you, looking for hazards. Keep your primary visual target aimed at where you want to end up. As I straighten out, I look ahead to my visual target, but notice how I look out of the corner of my LEFT window to see where I am going. Nice! As we finish straightening out our car, we can accelerate a bit more, up to the appropriate speed. And that's a successful U-turn. Beautiful!

Center Median U-Turn (DMV Test Example)

One last U-Turn example we want to cover is a situation that may show up on your DMV test depending on where you live. This is a less common situation in residential areas, but we want you to be prepared in case you encounter it in real life or on your drive test. Here we are in an uncontrolled residential area with traffic divided by a center median, and as you see, there are several outlets or opening in the center median where we could make a legal U-Turn. In reality, it's just like a normal U-turn: we signal left, slow down, check all around for traffic and pedestrians -- when everything looks safe, we perform the U-turn per usual. That wasn't so bad, but we wanted you to see it in action in case you are ever asked to do one yourself!

Okay everybody, that's it today for U-turns. Stay tuned for part two in this turning-yourself-around series where we'll do a "deep drive" into 2-Point and 3-Point turns. Until then my sprouting drivers-in-training, from Kimberly and everyone at Drivers Ed Direct, please stay safe out there!