Drivers often make turns abruptly without signaling or fail to take their surroundings into account when making a turn. This can result in a traffic ticket, although the prosecution will need to prove that the driver violated each element of the applicable rule, which can be very technical. One common type of ticket involves a failure to signal continuously before turning. A driver usually needs to start signaling about 100 feet before the turn. Deciding whether the driver signaled before turning usually comes down to whether the officer or the driver is more credible, so these cases can be hard to win.
Other types of turning tickets may be easier to fight. For example, a driver can be ticketed for making an unsafe left turn in front of oncoming traffic. They may have a strong argument that the turn was safe if no accident resulted, and no other driver needed to swerve to avoid them. In some situations, another driver may have gestured to encourage the turning driver to proceed, which also can be a defense.
Traffic rules covering U-turns depend on the state and tend to be complicated. In general, you cannot make a U-turn in a business district, unless you are making the turn from the far left lane at a traffic signal. If you were ticketed for making a U-turn in a business district, the prosecution has the obligation of proving that you actually were in a business district. This usually means that more than half of the property along the stretch where you made the turn is used for business. If the prosecution fails to present any evidence on this point, you probably can get the ticket dismissed.
You usually can make a U-turn in a residential district unless another vehicle is approaching from either direction within a distance provided by state law. The distance might be about 200 feet. (There is an exception for U-turns at an intersection controlled by a traffic control device.) Defenses to this violation might include arguing that the area was not a residential district or that the other vehicle was not within the required distance. Rural areas may have more flexible U-turn rules, so you may be able to show that there were not enough homes in the area for it to be considered a residential district. If your argument is based on the relative position of the vehicles, you can use diagrams and maps to prove your position.
If an element of the violation concerns the distance from another car, the driver may cast doubt by showing that the officer only estimated the distance between the driver and the other car.
Other rules apply to U-turns on highways or across traffic islands, which can be physical barriers or two sets of double yellow lines two feet apart. You can make a U-turn on a highway as long as you can see for 200 feet in both directions, regardless of whether other vehicles are approaching. By contrast, you cannot make a U-turn across a traffic island unless there is an opening in the double yellow lines, or unless they become a single set of double lines or a set of intermittent lines. If there is a break for a driveway, you can make a U-turn. A driver also may have a defense if they needed to make a U-turn to avoid a hazard, but they will have the burden of proving that this was necessary.
Turns Prohibited by Signs
If there is a sign, a traffic signal, or an arrow on the road surface that prohibits a turn, a driver must comply with those requirements. Sometimes a sign will prohibit left turns or U-turns during certain times of day because of heavy traffic. These cases tend to be straightforward, but sometimes a driver can argue that the sign or signal was obscured. It may have been twisted because of weather damage or vandalism, or another sign or object may have been placed in front of it.
Diagrams can help a driver defend against a ticket for an alleged wide turn.
Whether you are making a right turn or a left turn, you will need to stay as close as practicable to the edge of the road to make the turn. This violation comes down to the subjective judgment of the officer issuing the ticket. The driver may be able to defeat the ticket by showing that they stayed as close as practicable to the edge of the road under the circumstances. For example, they would need to steer around parked cars, vehicles exiting parking spaces, pedestrians at street corners, and any other obstacles in the road.