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  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger II

Are U-Turns Illegal in Tennessee: Everything You Need to Know as a Driver

Driving in Nashville and the rest of Tennessee can feel overwhelming sometimes, especially in areas with heavy traffic and many road rules. It is easy to drive too far or make a wrong turn, but is it allowed to make a U-turn to correct the mistake?

Understanding when and where drivers can make a U-turn in Tennessee- and when it is not allowed- is essential for everyone's safety. It also helps avoid fines and license points. Here is everything Tennessee drivers need to know.

The Short Answer

It is not illegal to make a U-turn in Tennessee as long as drivers follow road rules and do not attempt the turn in an area where it is prohibited or dangerous. If someone makes a U-turn where it is prohibited, they may get a citation for breaking traffic laws.

When Are U-Turns Allowed in Tennessee?

When Are U-Turns Allowed in Tennessee?

There are many situations when U-turns are perfectly legal in Tennessee. Drivers should not have any trouble if they follow these rules. Here are examples of when U-turns are legal.

If There is No Sign Prohibiting the Maneuver

The first thing to check for is any signs prohibiting U-turns. If none are present and no other rules would be violated by taking the action, drivers can turn safely.

Where There Is an Opening Provided for Making a Left Turn or U-Turn

Some divided highways have specific openings designed for making a left turn or U-turn to head back in the direction the driver came from. They exist to avoid dangerous maneuvers and help people get where they need to go.

In Residential Areas

Residential zones have fewer prohibited areas for movements such as U-turns. As long as there are no 'No U-Turn' signs and the oncoming traffic is far enough away, it is usually acceptable. Be careful turning at stop signs in residential areas- they are often controlled, and turning is not allowed.

At an Intersection When the Light is Green

Drivers can generally make legal U-turns at intersections- as long as the traffic light is green (never turn on a red light), no police officers control the traffic flow, and no other driver's path will be blocked. That said, many Tennessee intersections have posted signs disallowing U-turns for safety reasons.

When Is a U-Turn Not Allowed in Tennessee?

Tennessee traffic laws do not allow a vehicle to make a U-turn in many circumstances- especially in the cities or on roads with higher speed limits. Usually, signs are posted prohibiting such maneuvers, but not always- so it is vital to understand the rules of the road.

Anywhere With Signs Prohibiting a U-Turn

Never make U-turns if there are signs telling drivers not to. It doesn't matter if there is no traffic and plenty of space- the sign is there for a reason. Turning is also not generally allowed on roads controlled by temporary traffic lights of a police officer.

It is also not allowed to turn on private property marked with a no-entry sign- even if it doesn't mention U-turns. Auto accident attorneys in Nashville have more information about this.

Across Divided Highways Without an Opening

If a driver using a divided highway realizes they need to turn, but there are no divisions to let them through, they cannot legally cross the barrier. U-turns in this situation are not legal and could be very dangerous.

In Busy Built-Up Areas

Most business districts and busy city zones are no-go areas for U-turns. There are too many other vehicles coming from too many directions, and someone blocking the roadway to make a turn can have knock-on effects that bring other traffic to a complete stop.

On a One-Way Street

Understandably, U-turns are not allowed on one-way streets- since turning would mean driving in the wrong direction. If someone pulls into a one-way street, they need to follow it around until they can get back to where they want to go.

All Interstate Highways

A Tennessee driver cannot make U-turns on any interstate highway- it is against state law and applies to the entire country. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys has more information on questions like Is brake checking illegal in Tennessee?

Any Location with Less than 200 Meters of Visibility in Either Direction

Even if there is a green light and no prohibiting signs, Tennessee drivers should never attempt U-turns when they cannot see at least 200 meters (500 meters in areas with higher speed limits) in both directions. A speeding vehicle can very quickly reach the area where the turn is happening, so it should never be attempted to avoid collisions.

Safety Tips for Tennessee U-Turns

Safety Tips for Tennessee U-Turns

Always Check for Traffic Coming in the Opposite Direction

Don't forget to look! Attempting to turn when traffic is busy (even where turns are allowed) could get a driver in trouble for creating a dangerous situation.

Yield to Oncoming Traffic

If other drivers are coming towards the person attempting to move, they must let them pass before turning. Even if the move is allowed, they could still be cited if they do not wait to let traffic pass. There is the chance it could cause an accident or collision if the person doesn't stop on time.

Get Into the Proper Lane

Where there are multiple lanes, a driver should be in the furthest left lane before making U-turns or left turns to avoid other vehicles.

If You Can't See, Don't Turn

Never attempt turns in areas with poor visibility. In most cases, accidents involving U-turns happen when another vehicle approaches from a blindspot. It is dangerous for the safety of drivers and passengers and is likely to get someone cited (or worse) for their actions.


Although U-turns are not expressly illegal in Tennessee, there are many circumstances under which the maneuver is not allowed. It is important to understand your rights and responsibilities as a road user to avoid making a turn that is against Tennessee law. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys also help with questions like Is it legal to settle car accident privately in Tennessee?

If you are cited for an illegal U-turn in Tennessee and don't believe your actions were illegal- or need any legal guidance relating to a Tennessee traffic violation- contact Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys today.


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