Illegal U-Turn In A Business District (and other illegal U-turns)

In New York City (and pretty much nowhere else) it is illegal to make a U-turn in a “business district”. Under Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 105, a business district” is defined as: “The territory contiguous to and including a highway when within any six hundred feet along such highway there are buildings in use for business or industrial purposes, including but not limited to hotels, banks, or office buildings, railroad stations, and public buildings, which occupy at least three hundred feet of frontage on one side or three hundred feet collectively on both sides of the highway.”

So what does this mean? Basically, you cannot make a U-turn in New York City if there are nearby commercial building such as hotels, banks or stores. If you get a ticket for illegal turn in NYC, check the area. If it is not-commercial, take a bunch of photos (including some that show the nearest street signs) and use them to try and beat such a ticket.

There are three other types of illegal U-turns in New York. These violations are state-wide. Under Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1161, a motorist may not make a U-turn upon any curve, or upon the approach to, or near the crest of a grade, where such motor vehicle cannot be seen by the driver of any other motor vehicle approaching from either direction within five hundred feet. In other words, only make U-turns in areas where you can be sufficiently seen by approaching cars.

Next, Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1160, restricts how one may make a U-turn.   Specifically, its states: “U-turns shall be made from and to that portion of the highway nearest the marked centerline. Where more than one lane of a highway has been designated for left turns, U-turns shall be made only from the lane so designated that is adjacent to the marked centerline.” I have trouble with this one as it’s impossible for vehicles with limited turn radii to complete such a turn. Fortunately, we do not see many tickets issued for this type of U-turn violation.

Finally, Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1110(a) prohibits any motorist from disobeying any traffic control device such as a sign or pavement marking. Therefore, before making a U-turn, always check for any signs (such as the ones above) which prohibit such a maneuver.

All the above U-turn violations carry 2 points and roughly a $150 fine. More importantly, because a U-turn potentially requires you to cross in front of on-coming traffic, always be extra careful when make such a turn.

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52 Comments. Leave new

  • Good morning Matthew.
    I received a u-turn in business district as well. Need a little clarification please. Is business district= 600 feet within a highway and 600 ft is the key? If not, is business district= any place with commercial buildings? The definition, I didn’t quite understand. Using google map measurement, my location was 1012 ft from BQE @ 73-11 37th Avenue, Jackson Heights. There’s TD bank, Duane Reade etc. nearby. Have 3 points already. Is it worth the fight? Thanks very much for your help!

    Best,
    Fred

    Reply
    • Fred,

      Under Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 105, a business district” is defined as: “The territory contiguous to and including a highway when within any six hundred feet along such highway there are buildings in use for business or industrial purposes, including but not limited to hotels, banks, or office buildings, railroad stations, and public buildings, which occupy at least three hundred feet of frontage on one side or three hundred feet collectively on both sides of the highway.” A structures which house a TD Bank and Duane Reade are buildings used for business purposes.

      Given your that you have 3 points already, I recommend that you fight this one.

      Matthew Weiss

      Reply
  • Eric L Balzer
    June 13, 2019 6:21 pm

    Thanks for the nice citation counselor. What about where are the non u-turn signs to be posted if there are no double yellows?

    Reply
    • Matthew Weiss
      June 15, 2019 4:15 am

      Eric L Balzer,

      You cannot make a legal U-turn when there are signs restricting such turns.

      Matthew Weiss

      Reply
  • I got a u-turn ticket on a Business District in Jamaica, Queens. It was Monday around 12:30am midnight. No traffic. Officer gave me 4-05 Violation.

    How can fight my ticket? Or should I just pay off my fine?

    Reply
    • Matthew Weiss
      April 15, 2019 1:12 pm

      Nizam,

      You can fight this ticket but, if you have an otherwise clean record, then it is probably not worth it. NYC is difficult to win, this is a minor ticket and, alone, will not adversely affect your license or insurance rates.

      Matthew Weiss

      Reply
    • How was this resolved? Did you fight the ticket or just pay the fine?

      Reply
  • Got a ticket for making an illegal U-turn in a business district in Manhattan. I am on probation in NJ, so any moving violation will result in suspension. I have pleaded not guilty online. Hearing is in October. How can I beat it?

    Reply
    • Matthew Weiss
      April 11, 2019 4:06 pm

      Alexander,

      It is possible but will be difficult In NYC, they do not engage in plea bargaining.

      Matthew Weiss

      Reply
  • Hi Matthew,
    I was taught never to make a U-turn unless a sign stated it was allowed. To me it was nearly akin to driving on the sidewalk (extreme I know). I’ve lived in multiple cities and when I moved to NYC 8 yrs ago, was shocked at how many people make U-turns all over (esp car-services/taxis), even +3-point turns between intersections. I live in Washington Heights (muy residential neighborhood) and have come to the conclusion U-turns are basically like jaywalking, if you can get away with it without being hit then congrats, you live to see another day! How true is this statement? It doesn’t feel right or safe or even convenient for others but if I follow the letter of the law: residential area (check), traffic light controlling turns (check-but I’ll be honest I don’t fully understand this part. Is a u-turn ok only at a standard red light intersection?), make sure other motorists can see you (check-there are always motorists everywhere, and pedestrians, and bicyclists, etc. This is Manhattan). *This is less of a legal issue and more of settling a marital dispute that has potential financial implications (ticket). I hope you understand.

    Reply
    • Jared,

      In answer to your question (Is a U-turn ok at a standard red light intersection, yes if (1) there are no signs prohibiting U-turns, (2) in NYC, it is not a “business district”, and (3) the U-turn is done in the manner approved under the NY’s Vehicle and Traffic Law.

      Matthew Weiss

      Reply
      • Is it legal to make a 3 point k turn in a business district ?

        Reply
        • Matthew Weiss
          March 8, 2019 5:41 pm

          Steve K,

          In NYC, it is illegal to make a U-turn in a “business district”. A K-turn is essentially a U-turn.

          Matthew Weiss

          Reply
  • Hi I was driving down a Main Street in Far Rockaway- Seagirt Blvd. I turned left and was stopped by the new red light in the intersection. Once the light turned green I turned left again to go in the opposite direction. A cop pulled me over and gave me a ticket for making a u turn (he said it’s not a left and a left- it’s a U turn) he said there is a no u turn sign there- which here is e/b on Seagirt. But how can that be considered a u turn if there is a red light?!?

    Reply
    • Matthew Weiss
      January 21, 2019 7:45 am

      Miriam,

      Per Vehicle and Traffic Law Sectin 158-u, a U-turn is “any turn executed so as to proceed in the opposite direction”. Further, in NYC, it is illegal to make a U-turn in a “business district”. Defined below:

      The territory contiguous to and including a highway when within any six hundred feet along such highway there are buildings in use for business or industrial purposes, including but not limited to hotels, banks, or office buildings, railroad stations, and public buildings, which occupy at least three hundred feet of frontage on one side or three hundred feet collectively on both sides of the highway.

      Matthew Weiss

      Reply
  • Are u turns illegal all the time even late at night when all business is closed ?
    What about Holidays when there is no business? Are u turns permitted then?
    i have a trial tomorrow for a u turn i made late at night during A Holiday when all business was closed.

    Reply
    • Shmuel,

      VTL Section 105 defining “Business District” does not have any time or holiday exceptions. It states:

      The territory contiguous to and including a highway when within any six hundred feet along such highway there are buildings in use for business or industrial purposes, including but not limited to hotels, banks, or office buildings, railroad stations, and public buildings, which occupy at least three hundred feet of frontage on one side or three hundred feet collectively on both sides of the highway.

      Reply
  • I have a question regarding U-turn. I got a ticket stating “improper u-turn” on Riverside drive between 94th & 95th st. The police office didn’t elaborate what I did wrong other than saying it was an improper u-turn. My question is: is that area designated as business district? I read the definition provided and there were no buildings used for business or industrial purpose and no parking lots close by. Riverside drive is right off the 9A highway, so does that make it business district?
    The road does not curve or has any other obstruction of traffic view. I am not sure why I received this citation.
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Matthew Weiss
      May 31, 2018 12:49 am

      Maddie,

      The definition of business district is set forth in my article. I refer you to this definition.

      Matthew Weiss

      Reply
  • Telman Hasanov
    January 31, 2018 5:35 pm

    H can i make a u turn in 2 way road on Coney Island ave(business district) where the 2solid yellow signs(inside filled with horizantal lines one yellow also) ending and starts on the next intersection there is no any other sign at all?

    Reply
    • Matthew Weiss
      January 31, 2018 8:02 pm

      Telman Hasanov,

      You cannot make a U-turn in a “business district” in New York City (regardless of whether there is a no U-turn sign).

      Matthew Weiss

      Reply
      • Bavan Samuels
        March 15, 2018 4:59 pm

        Yea but the are no sign saying that you can make a u-turn in business district.

        Reply
        • Matthew Weiss
          March 16, 2018 1:10 am

          Bavan Samuels,

          Signs alerting motorist of a “business district” are not required under NYC regulations.

          Matthew Weiss

          Reply
  • Good evening. I was parked at a business place in a business district, after completing my appointment I got in my vehicle turn and drove in the opposite direction: the police officer pulled up behind be and said I made an illegal U-turn, was this justified and is this ticked worth fighting?

    Reply
    • James,

      It is illegal in NYC to make a U-turn in a “business district”. This ticket carries only 2 points so, if you have an otherwise clean record, then you may not want to fight it.

      Matthew Weiss

      Reply
  • Rigsangpo Rigsangpo
    October 25, 2017 6:10 pm

    Hi, so yesterday at 11 pm I got a ticket for “illegal u turn in business district”. It was red light, the traffic was clear so I made the u turn and parked my car. I got out the car and the police tells me to go back to my car. I said I don’t want to and failed to comply which result me to getting another ticket for disorderly conduct. I also refused to give them my license when I was on the sidewalk.
    P.S. Both tickets were given after they search my pockets and took my license to give the tickets. Also the street was clearly not a business district because there were no commercial buildings a block away.

    How wrong am I and are they right to search through my pocket for license to give me ticket?

    Reply
    • Rigsangpo Rigsangpo,

      That’s unusual scenario. Sounds like you made this into a worse situation than it had to be.

      I doubt that you’ll win based on the license search.

      Matthew Weiss

      Reply
  • I got a u-trn ticket via mail. I was not stopped and do not remember about taking any u-turn ( I’m almost certain that I didn’t take any u-turn).
    It was a surprise when I got the mail with the ticket and court hearing date.
    Anything can be done for this?

    Reply
    • Matthew Weiss
      October 15, 2017 7:44 am

      Samuel,

      It is very weird for you to receive an illegal U-turn ticket in the mail. I have never heard of this before. Is it a yellow moving violation ticket, or white colored?

      Matthew Weiss

      Reply
      • Hi Mr. Weiss,
        It is a white colored ticket. No information about location of the U-turn or Photo included. except the date of the violation.

        Reply
  • I missed my exit to make a left turn on Canal St so I drove up to the next street and made a U-turn when the light was green and in the left lane turn only. There I was able to make my right turn onto Canal St. Will I get a ticket for that?

    Reply
    • Matthew Weiss
      July 14, 2017 7:54 am

      Kim,

      If you weren’t stopped and issued a ticket at the scene, you very likely got away with it.

      Matthew Weiss

      Reply
      • Traffic camera wouldn’t have picked it up either? I’m a little nerves because it was my first drive to the city on my own

        Reply
  • I am not from NY, and had no idea about this u-turn law. Because I am out of state, would that work to my benefit should I decide to fight the ticket?

    Reply
  • Reese Edginton
    July 1, 2016 9:21 am

    I was in a business district and as a got about a block away from the Chinese restaurant I was heading to to pick up my order I noticed that the right side (Which I was driving on), had construction barricades and construction equipment parked along the street which extended a block or two which precluded my finding parking on that side of the street. I not noticed a single open parking spot on the opposite side of the street and the traffic light ~ 50 ft. ahead of me was red so there was no traffic coming. I made a U-turn directly into the parking spot and as I exited my car to purchase a meter ticket I noticed an unmarked car with it’s lights flashing. I explained to the officer that due to the construction zone along the opposite side of the street, and beyond that a large bus stop and driveways precluding parking I didn’t make a U-turn to change direction, I was attempting to park in the one open spot. Since I was not turning but moving into a parking spot on the opposite side of the road can I use this as a defense along with the construction zone taking up any available spots on the side I was driving on?

    Reply
    • Reese Edginton,

      Sorry. The defense in your inquiry does not indicate to me that you will win. It is illegal to make a U-turn in a business district even if you are trying to get to a parking space and U-turn right into that spot.

      Matthew Weiss

      Reply
  • Kristen Clark
    June 3, 2016 12:58 pm

    Hey,

    I got a ticket in upstate ny for doing a uturn at an intersection. I have an Indiana license and license plates. I didn’t know where I was going and was with my sister and her friend who live in the area. And I was using my gps and it told me to do a uturn at the next intersection because where we were going was on the opposite side of the median. I saw a green arrow and used my signal and did the uturn and immediately a cop flew around and did the same uturn as me and then pulled me over. He said the arrow was for the next intersection and not mine and was extremely rude. He also marked that my registration wasn’t up to date but it was? He was looking for a sticker on my windshield but Indiana does them on the license plate and mine was clearly good until 2017 but he just ignored me when I tried to explain this. I pleaded not guilty but my court date is already in a month and I won’t be in NY until two months from now. What should I do??
    Thanks.

    Reply
  • Just got a ticket (not in a business zone) for making a “U-Turn obstructing traffic” “405 b2” . I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean, as I had deliberately checked to make sure that no vehicles going the other way were close enough to reach my position at normal street speed before I would complete the U-Turn.
    Is it just my word against his, or does he have to “prove” my guilt, somehow?

    Reply
    • NG,

      NYC Traffic Regulation Section 4-05(b)(2) states:

      “The operator of a vehicle shall not make a U-turn upon any street outside a business district unless such turn is made without interfering with the right of way of any vehicle or pedestrian.”

      Thus, the police officer is apparently alleging that you made your turn while interfering with other traffic or pedestrian(s). At your hearing, it sounds like it will be your word against the police officer’s. This is a 2-point ticket so good luck fighting it.

      Matthew Weiss

      Reply
  • I have a question . I Recently got an illegal U-turn ticket in NY in a business area. i made the trun going east bound stop at a red light. The cop was coming west bound & stop at the same red light & waited for the light to turn green to pull me over the point I’m getting at is the cop made the same illegal U turn and impeding traffic to get behind me What are my chances of beating this tickets with that information. I know cops have to obey the laws they are ticketing people for and inforcing.

    Reply
    • Robert,

      Police officers are able to disobey traffic laws in order to perform safety (and other) functions. Therefore, proving that the officer made an illegal U-turn will not help you beat your ticket. Sorry.

      Matthew Weiss

      Reply
  • Matt:
    First, I’ve been driving in NYC for 35 years; never with incident. I was in a left-hand turn lane on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn, got a green light, and made a u-turn. A cop pulled me over immediately, and said I couldn’t make a U-turn in a Business District. I said that there were no signs indicating “no U-Turn” or indicating that I was “entering a business district”. My questions pertains to the lack of signage warning the driver of each: the u-turn and entering the business district. Does the Gov’t. have any culpability whatsoever in the lack of notice? How can a driver obey the law if there’s no signage indicating what can or cannot be done? I once got off on a parking ticket because the “no parking” sign was missing. Would this fall under the same category?
    Thanks, Dimitri

    Reply
    • Dimitri,

      There is no signage requirement for a NYC traffic ticket for making an illegal U-turn in a Business District. Sorry. A “Business District” is pretty self-evident. Below is the legal definition.

      VTL S 105. Business district. The territory contiguous to and including a
      highway when within any six hundred feet along such highway there are
      buildings in use for business or industrial purposes, including but not
      limited to hotels, banks, or office buildings, railroad stations, and
      public buildings, which occupy at least three hundred feet of frontage
      on one side or three hundred feet collectively on both sides of the
      highway.

      Matthew Weiss

      Reply
  • I have a question about the u turn laws, I have an Nj license and I got a ticket. Today in a business district making a U turn and frankly I’ve seen numerous people doing the same thing all the time. Anyways I didn’t see the cop car until after making the U turn and he was right up on my car. The cop was very unprofessional and was being a wise guy. Once he gave me the ticket today his partner in the car both got out and had his hand on the holster of his uniform and I’m like what the hell?? Then the cop gave me the ticket and said here is your summons along with your license and insurance. Like I said very unprofessional. The question I have is since I have an Nj license and had a prior ticket for a cell phone in NYC back in October of 2014 I would like to know what my options are for this ticket and what type of impact it will have on my license in Nj, Should I fight this ticket or just pay it?

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Mike,

      You should fight this ticket by pleading not guilty. This is the only way to possibly save NY points and avoid a $375 Driver Assessment Fee. An illegal NY U-turn conviction will transfer as 2 points on your NJ license.

      Matthew Weiss

      Reply
  • Got a U turn ticket today. Cop said it was a business area. There was no sign. I saw the cop parked behind me. Traffic was clear, I waited until all traffic was clear . About just after 9 am, most business places were closed. Cop was parked several feet behind me and started to move slowly like a hawk into traffic, I saw him and signalled to turn thinking he was waiting and allowing me to make the turn! He was actually waiting for me to make the turn to give me a ticket! I did not know it was illegal here, I see people doing it all the time.
    If it was illegal, shouldn’t the cop stop me from doing something illegal? Be proactive? I think he was trying to make up his quota of tickets! He did not accept an apology.

    Reply
  • Depending on the cop behind you, all U-turns are illegal. Cannot trust NY cops whatsoever. Better off never doing one in NY.

    Reply

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