Why can’t I make a U-turn on the Interstate turnarounds?

We all see it happen.  There’s a big traffic jam on the interstate and drivers are sick of waiting.  Or, someone from out-of-town is unfamiliar with the area and has just missed their exit.  So they find the nearest cut through on the interstate and try to pull a U-turn.  So what’s the big problem?

Well for one, those turnarounds are for emergency and authorized personnel only.  The average driver is not allowed to use these turnarounds for private use.  And there are good reasons for that.

 A car traveling at 70 MPH is moving at 102.67 feet per second.  That’s really fast!  Now imagine trying to accelerate up to that speed from a stop.  That’s going to take a few seconds to do even in the highest performing vehicles.  If you look at your average On and Off ramps from the interstate, you will notice one common theme.  All these ramps are long.  They are designed to allow you to accelerate and decelerate from 70 mph at a safe and reasonable speed.  The turnarounds on the interstate are short.  They are not designed to allow people to merge into traffic moving at 70 mph.  This makes it inherently dangerous for you to attempt to use a turnaround to make a u-turn.  You do not have the necessary amount of road to get up to speed with traffic.  In contrast, if a police car is attempting to use this turnaround, it can turn on its sirens to alert people that it is attempting to turn around for emergency purposes and force them to yield.  The average driver does not have that luxury.

 Also, these turnarounds are not as well maintained as the average road.  They are often bumpy and deteriorating because they are rarely used and not maintained at the same level as the main roads.  So even if traffic is light and you are confident you can merge with traffic, you are still risking damage to your car due to unpredictable terrain on these turnarounds.

 Using these turnarounds can cause severe damage to your vehicle and to you and the passengers inside.  These turnarounds are intended for emergency vehicles, not the common driver.  Most states will ticket individuals who use these turnarounds to make illegal u-turns.  The better choice is to turn around at the next available off ramp or just ride out that traffic jam you are stuck in.  It’s a better option than risking life and limb.  Stay safe on the roads.