U-turn Laws in Washington and Seattle

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Many Seattle drivers previously learned that U-turns were illegal except at specifically marked intersections. This was true when many people were required to take driver’s education in high school, but the laws have since changed.

The State of Washington changed their U-turn ordinances in 1997, and the City of Seattle followed suit the next year. Today, you can legally make a U-turn at almost any intersection, unless there is a “No U-turn sign” posted.

When are U-turns legal in Washington? When are they illegal?

Washington State’s § RCW 46.61.295 outlines the situations when U-turns are acceptable, and under what circumstance they are illegal. It states, “The driver of any vehicle shall not turn such vehicle so as to proceed in the opposite direction unless such movement can be made in safety and without interfering with other traffic.”

In short, Washington drivers can make a U-turn anywhere they can safely execute the turn as long as there are not posted signs expressly forbidding the maneuver.

A U-turn “made in safety” must not:

  • Impede other traffic
  • Be done on a hill or curve
  • Be done on a bridge
  • Occur anywhere that oncoming traffic would not be able to see you within 500 feet


In addition to the statewide laws, each city or municipal government can set its own laws regarding U-turns. Some restrict them further through ordinances or mark unsafe intersections individually with no U-turn signs.

In Seattle, the ordinances that outline U-turn laws are very similar to those issued by the state.
Seattle ordinance 11.55.120 says that drivers cannot make U-turns:

  • When current traffic conditions would make it unsafe
  • On any curve
  • On or atop a hill
  • Anywhere that other drivers cannot see them for at least 500 feet in both directions

What are the dangers of U-turns?

Despite Washington and Seattle laws clearly outlining the situations where a safe U-turn is possible, many drivers continue to make unsafe turns with little consideration to the dangers of their decision. The laws are in place to protect motorists from crashes caused when a driver attempts to turn around in a blind spot, or to do so without first ensuring they are not endangering others around them.

U-turns in inappropriate areas – or negligently negotiating a U-turn in a legal location – may cause a variety of accidents. Head-on collisions are not uncommon on two-lane roads, while t-bone accidents often occur on wide roads or those with medians.

While these accidents can cause serious injuries or even fatalities, improper U-turns are also a common cause of pedestrian vs. car and cyclist vs. car accidents. Because of the nature of this type of accident, they are more likely to be fatal than a collision that involves two cars.

How can Max Meyers Law PLLC help?

If you or a loved one suffered injuries in an illegal U-turn accident in Seattle, you may be eligible to receive compensation from the at-fault driver. Car accident attorney Max Meyers can help. At Max Meyers Law, we help clients obtain compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. Contact us today at 425-399-7000 to learn more.

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Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.