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Rules about U-turns are quick, clear

What is the law regarding U-turns? I thought you cannot make a U-turn unless there is a sign stating "U-turns permitted." I am asking because at the corner of Highway 99 and Garfield, people heading south on 99 frequently make a U-turn at Garfield so they can access the new Walmart. This is an accident waiting to happen because while they have a green light to turn left, the traffic on Garfield has a green light to turn right.

— Ryan, by email

Sorry to say you are wrong, Ryan, but a sign is not necessary for a U-turn to be legal. However, we're happy to say that you are right about the folks making U-turns at Highway 99 (South Pacific Highway) and Garfield Street, because it is illegal to make a U-turn at an intersection that's controlled by a traffic signal, unless there is a sign specifically permitting it.

Oregon Revised Statute 811.365 details the circumstances in which U-turns are illegal. It is illegal to make a U-turn in any of the following places:

  • Within an intersection where traffic is controlled by an electrical signal. This paragraph does not apply where posted otherwise.
  • Upon a highway within the limits of an incorporated city between intersections.
  • At any place upon a highway where the vehicle cannot be seen by another driver approaching from either direction within a distance of (A) 500 feet within the incorporated limits of a city; or (B) 1,000 feet outside a city.

In short, you can make a legal U-turn at any uncontrolled (nonsignaled) intersection, as long as you can clearly see oncoming traffic.

So there you go, Ryan. Because the intersection at Garfield and 99 is controlled by a traffic signal, it is illegal to make a U-turn there. That is, unless there's a sign saying U-turns are allowed, which you indicate there isn't. We would check that out ourselves but we're afraid to go there because of the large number of people making illegal U-turns.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.