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.