USA and Canada Holiday Hints
In some towns the left turn lanes are separated from other lanes by concrete barriers, with gaps where vehicles can enter them. This is presumably a safety measure to avoid vehicles entering or leaving the left turn lanes suddenly. Judging which entrance to take can be difficult and a mistake is awkward to correct. If you do make a mistake then you must always continue on and never reverse in order to enter or leave such a lane.
For example, there may be a side or rear exit from the parking lot onto a minor road, which then has an intersection with the road you wish to join. Turning left from the minor road may be safer and easier than doing so directly from the parking lot.
Even better, there may be a side or rear exit onto a minor road which then has an intersection with the road you wish to join which is controlled by traffic lights, making the left turn much safer and easier.
Left Turns Across Double Yellow Lines
It is perfectly legal to make a left turn into or out of a driveway or entrance (for example into or out of a gas station or a car park outside a restaurant or a shop) on a stretch of road where there is a double yellow line. You must of course yield to oncoming traffic.
The California Driver Handbook 2002 (external link verified Jul-02) says: "Two solid yellow lines mean 'no passing.' Never drive to the left of these lines. Stay on your side of the road. Exceptions: (1) When turning left at an intersection or into or out of a private road or driveway. (2) When the right half of the road is closed or blocked. (3) Some carpool lanes. Enter and exit at designated places only." (Page 22 - Use of Lanes) and has two clear statements: "You may cross a solid double yellow line to turn left" and: "You may cross a solid double yellow line to turn left. OK to cross double yellow to turn left. Do not cross double yellow to pass another vehicle." (Laws And Rules Of The Road - Road Markings; checked Jul-02).
The Oct-98 printed edition of the Illinois Driver's Manual "Rules Of The Road" says: "Solid yellow lines may be crossed to make a left turn to or from an alley, private road, driveway or street" (Chapter 8: Traffic Signals and Pavement Markings - Pavement Markings - Solid Double Yellow Lines).
The Massachusetts driving manual says: "Do NOT cross a double yellow line unless turning left." (Section 4: Pavement Markings - Yellow Lane Lines - Double Yellow Line: Both Solid; checked Jul-02).
According to the California Driver Handbook 2002 (external link verified Jul-02): "You may make a U-turn across a double yellow line, if the turn can be made safely and legally." (Laws And Rules Of The Road - Turns - Legal U-Turns; checked Jul-02)
By the way, the same rule seems to apply to turning right across double white lines in Britain (Britain drives on the left and uses white lines where yellow lines are used in the USA.) Paragraph 71 of the British Highway Code says: "Where there are double white lines along the road and the line nearer to you is solid, you must not cross or straddle it except when you need to get in and out of premises or a side road...".
Two-Way Left Turn Centre Lanes (also called Centre Left Turn Lanes)
Many main roads in towns in the USA and Canada have five lanes. There are two lanes in each direction plus a two-way centre lane which is reserved for use by vehicles turning left.
Two-way left turn centre lanes, also called centre left turn lanes, have solid and broken yellow lines on both sides, solid on the outside and broken on the inside. In addition they have pairs of white curved arrows on their road surface, showing the paths of two vehicles turning left in front of each other.
Two-way left turn centre lanes are also indicated by the road sign "Centre Lane For Left Turns Only". This sign always has a pair of curved arrows showing the paths of two vehicles turning left in front of each other. In one version of the sign the wording "Centre Lane" appears above the arrows and the word "Only" appears below. In the other version of the sign only the word "Only" appears below the arrows.
When a road has a two-way left turn lane, left turns are not allowed from other lanes.
Two-way left turn centre lanes must not be used for any other purpose, such as overtaking. According to the California Driver Handbook 2002 (external link verified Jul-02) you are limited to driving for about 200 feet in these lanes but the law in other states may be different.
Two-way centre lanes can be used for vehicles making left turns from a five-lane road, or into it.
When turning left into a driveway from a road with a two-way left turn centre lane, check for other vehicles, signal and enter the centre lane completely (do not leave any part of your vehicle straddling a normal lane). It is perfectly legal to stop and wait in the centre lane until a gap in the traffic allows you to complete the left turn.
When turning left from a driveway into a road with a two-way left turn centre lane, when the road is clear from the left make a left turn so as to completely enter the centre lane and pull along a short distance so as to avoid blocking other vehicles turning into the driveway. Then stop in the centre lane and wait until it is safe to pull right into the outer normal lane in the direction you wish to travel. On a busy road with fast traffic this is a highly dangerous manoeuvre. You often need to accelerate quickly to match the speed of the other traffic.
If the road has a two-way left turn centre lane then U-turns (if permitted) must be started from it.
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Most recently modified 7-Jan-04