Illegal U-turns in California
Vehicle Code 22100.5

California Vehicle Code 22100.5 VC makes certain U-turns illegal. According to this section, it's illegal for motorists to make U-turns at controlled intersections with signs prohibiting them.

There are five important points to know about VC 22100.5.

  • While making certain U-turns illegal, Vehicle Code 22100.5 does allow drivers to make U-turns when approaching green light signals, and green arrow signals, if there's no sign that prohibits a U-turn.
  • A driver that violates Vehicle Code 22100.5 must pay a fine of approximately $234.00.
  • A driver that makes an illegal U-turn will also receive one point on his driving record. A driver risks getting a negligent operator license suspension if he receives 4 points in 12 months, 6 points in 24 months or 8 points in 36 months.
  • Legal defenses are available to those drivers that want to challenge a ticket for violating 22100.5. It's best, though, for drivers to consult with an attorney before raising one.
  • Drivers must not ignore California tickets for making illegal U-turns. If a driver ignores the ticket, he may be found in violation of a new law, failure to appear, pursuant to California Vehicle Code 40508. This violation may be charged as a misdemeanor.

Our California personal injury attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

1. Vehicle Code 22100.5 – U-turns prohibited under California law

Under California law, drivers make an illegal U-turn when they make one at an intersection controlled by a traffic signal where a sign prohibits it.

California Vehicle Code 22100.5 states:

No driver shall make a U-turn at an intersection controlled by official traffic signals except as provided in Section 21451.1

According to Vehicle Code 21451 (a), a driver approaching a green light can make a U-turn unless a sign prohibits it.2 If a U-turn is allowed, the motorist must yield the right-of-way to any traffic or pedestrians within the intersection or crosswalk.3

Further, Vehicle Code 21451 (b) states that drivers approaching a green arrow signal can make a U-turn unless a sign prohibits it.4 Again, if a U-turn is allowed, the motorist must yield the right-of-way to any traffic or pedestrians within the intersection or crosswalk.5

VC 22100.5 goes on to state that when U-turns are permissible, drivers must make them from the far left-hand lane.

2. The penalties for making an illegal U-turn

A driver receives two penalties for making an illegal U-turn in California. These are:

  1. A fine; and,
  2. Points on the driver's DMV driving record.

2.1 Fine

A driver that violates Vehicle Code 22100.5 VC will receive a ticket and he must pay a corresponding fine.

The fine for violating VC 22100.5 is approximately $234.00, but it can also range from $200.00 to $400.00 depending on the circumstances.6

2.2 Points on the motorist's driving record

Motorists that drive in California and make an illegal U-turn will receive one point on their driving record.7 This is unfavorable since points on a driver's record are ultimately reported to a driver's insurance carrier. The result is typically an increase in the driver's insurance rates for several years.

A further problem occurs when points accumulate, or, when a driver receives multiple points on his driving record over a certain period of time. If a driver in California receives a certain number of points within a 1-,2- or 3-year period, the DMV can declare that person a negligent driver. This means the DMV can either suspend or revoke a motorist's driving privileges.

Please note, though, that either action will require a California DMV hearing.

3. Legal defenses if a driver violates Vehicle Code 22100.5 VC

A driver that receives a ticket for making an illegal U-turn can challenge the ticket by raising a legal defense. However, if this is done, it's best for the motorist to gain the assistance of an attorney.

3.1 Common defenses for making an illegal U-turn

There are three common defenses a motorist can raise to challenge a ticket for violating VC 22100.5. These are:

  1. The officer's view of the incident is obstructed.
  2. Signs prohibiting a U-turn are not clearly marked.
  3. The driver is not making a U-turn (e.g., he is turning left or turning into a driveway or parking lot).

3.2 Contact a lawyer for help

Drivers can represent themselves when challenging illegal U-turn tickets. However, it's best for drivers to contact a California attorney for representation.

There are three main reasons why a driver should consult with a lawyer before challenging a ticket. These include:

  1. Prosecutors typically give better deals to motorists with lawyers.
  2. Defense attorneys understand how to get charge reductions and dismissals.
  3. A driver represented by an attorney does not have to go to court. The driver's attorney can go on his behalf.

4. Violation of Vehicle Code 22100.5 VC and traffic school

Drivers found guilty of making an illegal U-turn in California do not have to attend traffic school.

If a driver violates 22100.5, however, he can voluntarily choose to do so. A driver can attend traffic school in California if he meets three requirements. These are:

  1. The driver has a valid driver's license;
  2. The offense occurred while the driver was driving a noncommercial vehicle; and,
  3. The ticket is for an infraction that is a moving violation.

If a driver attends traffic school, he must still pay his fine.8 However, the driver generally should not get any points on his DMV driving record if he completes the school.9

5. Violations of VC 22100.5 and criminal charges

The State of California does not file criminal charges if a motorist violates Vehicle Code 22100.5 VC. This is because it's not a crime in California if a driver makes an illegal U-turn.

Violations of VC 22100.5 are infractions under California law; and, drivers that make illegal U-turns are not subject to incarceration.

6. Ignoring a ticket for violating Vehicle Code 22100.5

It's extremely important for drivers to not ignore – or even forget about – a ticket for violating VC 22100.5. Two things happen if this takes place. These are:

  1. The driver violates California Vehicle Code 40508 VC, for the failure to appear in court on a traffic citation; and,
  2. The driver faces the possibility of receiving penalties for violating VC 40508.

6.1 Violation of Vehicle Code 40508 VC

Upon receiving a traffic ticket in California, a motorist must sign a written promise to appear in court. The driver promises to appear in court at a certain time and place (given that he is not represented by an attorney – please see 3.2 above).

If the driver willfully fails to appear as promised, he violates Vehicle Code 40508 VC.10 The driver willfully fails to appear when he is willingly a no-show. It's not a defense if the driver did not intend to break the law.11

It also does not matter whether the offending driver is guilty or innocent of the underlying traffic citation.12 He violates Vehicle Code 40508 just by breaking a promise to:

  • Appear in court,
  • Appear to pay bail,
  • Pay bail in installments,
  • Pay a fine within the time authorized, or
  • Comply with any condition of the court.13

6.2 Penalties for violating VC 40508

A violation of Vehicle Code 40508 VC is a misdemeanor. The penalties include:

  • Up to six months in county jail, and/or
  • A fine of up to $1,000.14

7. The effect of making an illegal U-turn on a personal injury lawsuit?

A driver that makes an illegal U-turn in California may cause – or get involved in – an accident with another motorist. If the motorist later files a personal injury lawsuit against the driver, the driver may be found "negligent."

California law defines "negligence" as the failure to use reasonable care to prevent harm to oneself or to others. When it comes to auto accidents, negligent drivers are considered at fault for the accident and they may have to pay for any damages caused.

Proving negligence in a personal injury case can sometimes be difficult. But, in California a driver is considered "negligent per se" if he violates a statute.

Negligence “per se” is a type of legal theory. It presumes a driver is negligent if he violates a statute or ordinance

This means a driver would be negligent per se if makes an illegal U-turn since he would be in violation of VC 22100.5.

Please note, however, that even if a driver is negligent per se, he may still be able to recover for any damages he incurs. This is because of California's comparative fault laws.

8. Laws related to Vehicle Code 22100.5 VC

There are three laws related to VC 22100.5. These include:

  1. California's other U-turn laws;
  2. The law on running a stop sign in California; and,
  3. California's failure to yield to pedestrians law.

8.1 California's other U-turn laws

California has three other U-turn laws, in addition to Vehicle Code 22100.5. These are:

  1. Vehicle Code 22102 – making a U-turn in a business district;
  2. Vehicle Code 22103 – making a U-turn in a residential district; and,
  3. Vehicle Code 22105 – making a U-turn on a California highway.

VC 22102 makes it unlawful for a driver to make a U-turn in a business district, unless the driver makes the turn at an intersection or a clear opening in the street.15

Under VC 22103, it's unlawful for drivers in a residence district to make a U-turn when another vehicle is approaching from either direction within 200 feet.16 The only exception is when a driver is at an intersection controlled by an official traffic device.17

VC 22105 pertains to U-turns on California highways. The section prohibits all U-turns on California freeways, unless a driver can see with an unobstructed view for 200 feet in both directions.18

The penalties for violating these other U-turn laws are the same for violations of VC 22100.5 – a fine of $234 and one point on the driver's DMV driving record.

8.2 Running a stop sign in California

California Vehicle Code 22450 VC states that motorists cannot run stop signs.

This means that if a driver in California enters an intersection with a stop sign, he must stop.19 And, he must stop at the first of the followings:

  • A marked line
  • A crosswalk
  • The approaching street20

Complete stops are required under Vehicle Code 22450 VC. Rolling stops are not allowed. A rolling stop is when a vehicle is still in motion, even at the slightest of speeds.

The penalties for running a stop sign include:

  1. A traffic ticket and an approximate fine of $238; and,
  2. One point on the driver's DMV driving record.

8.3 California's failure to yield to pedestrians law

California Vehicle Code 21950 says that drivers in California must yield to pedestrians crossing a roadway within any marked or unmarked crosswalk. For failure to yield to another vehicle cases, please see our page on Vehicle Code 21800 21801 21802 21803 and 21804 failure to yield to other motorists in California. 

Under VC 21950 (a):

The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.21

VC 21950 (c) places additional responsibilities on motorists in that it requires drivers to exercise due care when approaching pedestrians.

That section states:

The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian.22

Drivers that violate Vehicle Code 21950 VC will receive:

  1. A fine of $238; and,
  2. One point assessed to the driver's DMV driving record.

Were you accused of making an illegal U-turn in California? Call us for help…

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Call us for help

If you or someone you know has violated Vehicle Code 22100.5 VC, or has been injured in an accident in California, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. For tickets in Nevada, please see our page on NRS 484B.403 - tickets for illegal u-turns in Las Vegas Nevada.

We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LAW-FIRM.

Legal References:

  1. California Vehicle Code 22100.5 VC.

  2. California Vehicle Code 21451 (a) VC.

  3. See same.

  4. California Vehicle Code 21451 (b) VC.

  5. See same.

  6. See

  7. See same.

  8. See California Courts website.

  9. See same.

  10. California Vehicle Code 40508 VC.

  11. CALCRIM 2240, endnote 1: Someone commits an act willfully when he or she does it willingly or on purpose. It is not required that he or she intend to break the law, hurt someone else, or gain any advantage.

  12. See same.

  13. California Vehicle Code 40508 VC, endnote 1.

  14. California Penal Code 19 PC. Except in cases where a different punishment is prescribed by any law of this state, every offense declared to be a misdemeanor is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both.

  15. California Vehicle Code 22102 VC.

  16. California Vehicle Code 22103 VC.

  17. See same.

  18. California Vehicle Code 22105 VC.

  19. California Vehicle Code 22450 VC.

  20. See same.

  21. California Vehicle Code 21950(a) VC.

  22. California Vehicle Code 21950 (c) VC.

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