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  • Writer's pictureAlex Maltese

Are U-turns Illegal in New York?

When a person driving their vehicle misses their turn on the street, taking a U-turn appears as one of the most appealing actions. Moreover, another horrendous traffic rule-breaking action is the need to change direction by taking a sharp left turn without looking at nearby vehicles.

All of these can be a reason for massive collisions, accidents, or injuries. Hence, to avoid such mishappenings, states have formulated specific laws to prevent accidents caused by improper turns.

The Law Office of Carl Maltese presents a complete guide on illegal U-turns and other wrong turns in New York.

Statistics and Data Involving Improper Turns in New York

Statistics and Data Involving Improper Turns in New York

According to the data reported in 2018 by the Department of Motor Vehicles, nearly 50,000 tickets were issued in New York, much more significant than in 2018. In addition, a regular increase in the tickets issued for improper turns has been observed in the past 10 years, comprising 1.3% of the total tickets issued in 2018.

Why Is It Illegal to Make a U-turn in New York?

U-turns are considered driving maneuvers that occur explicitly when the drivers try to change the direction of their vehicles by staying on the same road and without considering other vehicles nearby or behind them.

There is a prohibition on making U-turns in New York at most places. The main reason is the uncalculated move which may not be predicted by the driver behind, resulting in a collision, injury, and in the worst case, death. Vehicles nearby, pedestrians and bicyclists are at equal risk from illegal U-turns.

How Is a Legal U-turn Made in New York?

U-turns are observed as legal when those driving nearby or the pedestrians walking nearby have clear visibility of the driver making a turn; that is when the traffic is clear, and no one is nearby. If the turning radius is inappropriate, the driver should refrain from making a U-turn, as it may result in blockage and traffic.

Where Are U-turns Strictly Prohibited in New York?

In New York, there are regions where U-turns are strictly prohibited:

  • School area zones.

  • Road with curves or hilly areas with no turns around 500 feet.

  • Highways near offices or industrial buildings.

  • The street around hotels, banks, and shops.

  • Areas where NO U-TURN signs are placed.

When U-turn lanes are unavailable, the driver should look for a lesser traffic area and a legal space to make a turn.

What Are the Penalties for Taking an Improper Turn in the NY State?

The penalties can include a conviction for the driver for making an illegal U-turn or an improper turn in prohibited areas. Here is a list of a few penalties that can be imposed on a driver for such action:

  • An individual taking improper turns while driving can be charged with heavy fines, depending on the number of times the offense has been repeated. The first offense will cost the driver 150$, the second offense 300$, and the third can cost nearly 450$.

  • A driver taking improper turns can be convicted to pay precisely specified state surcharges, which may cost 85$ to 95$ depending on the driver who was given a ticket.

  • The drivers who have received more than six points for breaking traffic laws in the past 18 months are made to pay an additional fine of 300$ in addition to 75$ with every gain in a point after six points.

  • A driver convicted for improper turns in the NY state is given two points every time they act against the law.

  • If improper turns result in an accident, the state can claim the convicted driver as guilty, and the insurance companies can act against them, increasing the rate by 20%.


Taking U-turns is primarily prohibited in New York unless specific U-turn lanes are available to allow the change in directions. There can be severe consequences to breaking traffic laws, as it may result in injury, accident, and collision. For legal help from the Long Island motor vehicle accident attorneys at The Law Office of Carl Maltese, call now. They can help answer various questions about traffic rules, including the legality of walking on the highway in New York.

Individuals can be withheld for making such illegal turns and may be charged with heavy fines. In addition, the driver will be liable for a civil lawsuit if this results in an accident. If the driver is at no fault or falsely accused, they should immediately seek legal help.


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