I see this all the time, and it's often a topic of debate among friends. I'm curious to know what the answer is. I can see it going either way.

Car at red light making right turn and another car coming from the right making a u-turn. This car has a green light.

  1. The car at red light should yield, as it has a red light.
  2. But how does the car at red light know that the intersection allows for u-turns? There are no signs for the car in 1 to see the intersection allow for u-turns, and there is no signal on the vehicle coming from the right to indicate it's making a u-turn. If you see the signal for left, wait until you know it's not making a u-turn?
  3. It's California, and none of the laws here make sense ;0
  • At which speeds do you make an U-turn and a right turn? I know you talk about California, but at the speeds I am used to, the maneuver is so slow than if both drivers are reasonably aware of their surroundings there is no way for one vehicle to hit into another witthout doing it intentionally.
    – SJuan76
    Mar 10, 2018 at 14:58
  • @SJuan76 It's usually a problem of inattention. The person turning right-on-red is looking to the left to make sure there's no one coming, and doesn't see the person to the right start a u-turn.
    – mkennedy
    Mar 10, 2018 at 22:37
  • @mkennedy It really only requires that one of them is paying attention, as long as the other one is executing his maneuver reasonably. The only exception might be when the cars are turning onto a single lane street (as otherwise there's a second lane and the aware driver can easily slow down and adjust to permit safe passage). But many of those either explicitly prohibit u-turns, or are effectively prohibited by most cars having inadequate turn radius to make a u-turn onto them without it becoming a 3-point turn (or worse). Jul 9, 2018 at 11:47

1 Answer 1


The person turning right with a red light must yield to cars that have a green light. From the California DMV Driver Handbook:

Right turn against a red traffic signal light–Signal and stop for a red traffic signal light at the marked limit line. If there is no limit line, stop before entering the crosswalk. If there is no crosswalk, stop before entering the intersection. You may turn right if there is no sign to prohibit the turn. Yield to pedestrians, motorcyclists, bicyclists, or other vehicles moving on their green traffic signal light.

(Emphasis mine)

It's up to the driver who wants to turn right on red to make sure the lane is clear before the person turns into it.

  • Your final comment is especially relevant for OP's point #2: legally speaking, the law is unlikely to care about how aware the right-turner is of u-turn signs, as he has the greater obligation to ensure his maneuver is safe, which includes accounting for potential u-turns. One might be able to pressure the local government to prohibit right turns (or U-turns) if somehow the potential U-turn/right-turn combos are an unreasonable problem (dunno how; some sort of visual obstruction between the two lanes, maybe?), but it's unlikely to eliminate existing infractions. Jul 9, 2018 at 11:54
  • Perfect answer. I also remember reading that in the CA booklet years ago. Despite this, I often encounter cars turning on red and looking only one way (not watching for other cars making U-turns). When making a U-turn, it is advisable (for safety's sake) to have your hand over the horn, ready to alert such drivers. Dec 19, 2021 at 19:46

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