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Published April 28 2012

Ask Your Government: Reader asks if U-turners have right of way

Dear Teri,

I recently found myself leaving one of the many business places in south Fargo where the boulevard in the middle of the street forced me to turn right, though I would have wanted to turn left.

I reached an intersection where cross-traffic had stop signs and prepared to make a U-turn from the left turn lane, since there was no sign to prohibit U-turns there. When opposing traffic cleared up to allow my turn and I started to go, a right-turning driver who was intending to go the direction I wanted to go left their stop sign (incorrectly assuming that I was making a normal left turn, probably) and would have collided with my car if I hadn’t already expected their motion.

If there had been a collision, who would have been considered to be in the wrong? And would it have been any different if it had been an intersection with a green left-turn arrow light and with a “U-turn permitted” sign?

Patrick Tschetter

Fargo

Thanks for writing. I contacted Lt. Jody Skogen with the Highway Patrol. Here’s what he said:

“The following North Dakota traffic law governs the right of way granted to drivers making U-turns: 39-10-36. Limitations on turning around. 1. The driver of any vehicle may 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.

“Basically, they cannot make the turn unless they can do so without interfering with any other traffic in the area. The driver making the U-turn would have been at fault regardless of the signage (unless there was a sign prohibiting a right turn on red for the motorist that he almost struck).”

Do you have a question for a North Dakota state government official or agency? Send us your question, and we’ll do our best to find an answer.

E-mail politics@wday.com (Subject: Ask your government).

You may also write to Teri Finneman c/o Forum Communications, Press Room, State Capitol, Bismarck, ND 58505.

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Teri Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co.