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This is basically the exact same question as this question, but for Illinois, USA.

I witnessed a car waiting to turn right at a red light and then began to turn during a break in traffic and was almost struck by someone making a u-turn. The u-turner hit the brakes, honked, and gestured as if he had the right of way. The right-turner looked shocked as if he had the right of way.

I'm not sure if these facts are relevant, but I'll include them just in case:

  • If there had been an accident, the u-turner would have struck the left side near the back end of the right-turner's vehicle, but fortunately stopped in time. (The right-turner got there first.)
  • The u-turner was on a 4 lane road (2 lanes per direction) and turned into the right lane which was the same lane the right-turner turned into. However, I doubt the u-turner's vehicle could have turned tight enough to end up in the left lane, even if it was attempted.

Is the right of way defined for this scenario in Illinois?

Edit: after a little digging, this is the closest rule I can find:

(625 ILCS 5/11-802) (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 11-802)

Sec. 11-802. Limitations on U turns. (a) The driver of any vehicle shall not turn such vehicle so as to proceed in the opposite direction unless such movement can be made in safety and without interfering with other traffic.

If "other traffic" includes cars turning right, then I would interpret that as the right-turner having the right of way.

But that may conflict with this rule:

(625 ILCS 5/11-306) (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 11-306)

... vehicular traffic facing any steady red signal may cautiously enter the intersection to turn right...

...After stopping, the driver shall yield the right of way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another roadway so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time such driver is moving across or within the intersection or junction or roadways. Such driver shall yield the right of way to pedestrians within the intersection or an adjacent crosswalk.

This rule seems to suggest the u-turner would have the right of way. I think the problem is that the right-turner would expect the u-turner to be turning left instead of making a u-turn and therefore would not realize there is an "immediate hazard".

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  • 2
    If U-turns are allowed at the light, they have precedence because they have the green light. Someone turning right-on-red must ensure that they have a clear path.
    – mkennedy
    May 3, 2016 at 17:38
  • @mkennedy - It sees as though in Ontario, CA the opposite is true. I was hoping to find a citation for IL that made it clearly one way or the other.
    – TTT
    May 3, 2016 at 17:44
  • Hmmm, I looked at that question. I would hope that when there is a green arrow for a right turn (and that isn't turning into a dedicated lane), that the opposite direction should not allow u-turns.
    – mkennedy
    May 3, 2016 at 17:55
  • @mkennedy - I would hope that too!
    – TTT
    May 3, 2016 at 18:06
  • @mkennedy - here's a link that supports your assertion, and they even had both with green arrows as you worried: nbc-2.com/story/24832298/…. That's FL though...
    – TTT
    May 3, 2016 at 19:45

5 Answers 5

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Well, a U-turn is inherently dangerous because people don't expect it. So we have on one hand the rule that you can't do a U-turn if it interferes with other traffic, and I would assume that includes traffic that would have the right to drive if you were not there, even if the U-turner might have the right of way. (Clearly if I drive ahead on a green light then I interfere, although completely legally, with other traffic like cars that want to turn but can't because of me. On a U-turn, that seems to be not allowed).

On the other hand, there is a rule that the right-turning car might not have the right of way. So both are not allowed to drive. Both have to be careful, both have to avoid an accident, one of them can go ahead carefully (like four cars on each side of a stop sign in the USA; one can go ahead carefully even though nobody has the right of way). If there's an accident, I'd expect that they share responsibility unless one is clearly at fault by driving into the other with their eyes closed.

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  • Without any evidence proving otherwise, this would be my expectation as well.
    – TTT
    Jun 3, 2016 at 15:30
  • This isn't right because two people don't have the right of way at the same time. Only the right turn guy has the right of way.
    – Putvi
    May 22, 2019 at 18:23
  • 1
    @Putvi: It's not possible for two people to have the right of way simultaneously, but it is possible to have two people who would each be required to yield the right of way to the other.
    – supercat
    Oct 8, 2021 at 18:03
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The following explanation is consistent with the laws cited for both Illinois (in this question) and Ontario (the linked question):

A U-turn is actually two distinct turns:

  1. A left turn, which puts the vehicle in the median (or at least perpendicular to the highway), followed by
  2. Another left turn, made as if from the median (or as if the vehicle had entered the intersection from a cross-street).

The rules for the first turn are the same as for any left turn: The vehicle must have the right of way. This can be because the vehicle has a left turn light, or because the vehicle has entered the intersection and can complete a left turn without impeding opposing traffic.

The rules for the second turn are the same as for any left turn from an intersection: If an opposing vehicle (referencing now the cross-street) can go straight or turn right, then the vehicle turning left must yield.

In the scenario described: The opposing vehicle could not go straight because it had a red light and was not in the intersection. There are only two circumstances in which the vehicle making the U-turn (i.e., the second left turn) could claim the right of way:

  1. The vehicle turning right failed to signal its intent to make a right turn.
  2. The cross street was marked "NO TURN ON RED," meaning the vehicle signaling a right turn could not have legally made it during the red light.
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  • This certainly makes sense, but it relies on your bolded statement being correct. It's logically correct that a U-turn is two lefts, but I've not heard it legally defined that way. The fact that U-turns are specifically mentioned makes me believe that separate rules may apply to them.
    – TTT
    Jun 3, 2016 at 15:35
  • @TTT - Correct. As I said, this is merely consistent with all rules, laws, and customs (e.g., those applied by insurance companies) I have seen. It could very well be that statutes and regulations simply say (as you found), "When executing a U-turn be careful and don't interfere with other traffic." Failure of any statute to grant a right-of-way to vehicles making a U-turn is legally equivalent to saying, "You don't have a right-of-way when making a U-turn, so if you collide with a car that does then you're at fault."
    – feetwet
    Jun 3, 2016 at 15:44
  • I'll buy that. It is consistent.
    – TTT
    Jun 3, 2016 at 16:33
  • I am not trying to criticize, but even if you fail to turn on the turn signal the individual making the U turn does not have right of way.
    – Putvi
    May 22, 2019 at 18:22
  • Consider the not so infrequent scenario of cars turning left while through traffic is stopped, the car turning left will have the right of way. Your supposed second turn will be exactly equivalent to that situation, and the driver making a right on red turn will have “yield the right of way to any vehicle in the intersection”.
    – jmoreno
    Jul 8, 2022 at 2:25
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I think the right of way descriptions in Illinois' Rules of the Road help clarify the problem.:

A driver must yield the right of way to other drivers or pedestrians: • When making a right turn on a red light after a complete stop.

If a driver making a right turn on a red light is required to yield the right of way to "other drivers", then it would reason that the car making the u-turn on a left arrow has the right of way.

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  • As pointed out in the question, there is also another rule that the U-turner is not allowed to interfere with other traffic. Either rule by itself would suggest the other has the right of way.
    – TTT
    Jun 25, 2016 at 18:43
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without interfering with other traffic

Doesn’t apply to the car that is stopped at the red light as it isn’t moving and the turn does not interfere with it continuing not to move.

Consider the closely analogous situation of a 4 way stop. If a car stops at the intersection with no other vehicles stopped it has the right away, if it starts to make a u-turn, and another vehicle then arrives, stops and then proceeds to run into the car that was making the u-turn, the non-uturn vehicle will clearly be at fault.

Any other vehicles can only proceed into the intersection when it is safe to do so, and it will only be safe to do so if their path does not intersect a vehicle already in the intersection. Frex, you can’t run into a vehicle that is broken down in the intersection and then claim “right of way”.

Right turn does take precedence over a left/u-turn but ONLY when the left turn is not already in progress. Consider a three trailer semi truck making a left turn at the 4 way. The truck and the first trailer could already be past the intersection when the right turning vehicle comes to a stop, letting them deliberately run into the moving vehicle then claiming that the truck/trailer that was completely blocking the intersection was at fault because it didn’t somehow let them past would be crazy.

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Not to criticize the other answers, but I am actually from Illinois.

The person turning right from the turn lane has the right of way. That is the literal intention of the turn lane.

Even if you want to argue against the person in the right turn lane, IL vehicle codes say you must slow down to prevent an accident. So, even if the other driver had the right of way he did not operate his vehicle in a safe manner and would, therefore, be in the wrong.

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  • Among other problems with this answer, there was no mention of a "right turn lane" in the question.
    – hobbs
    Jul 6, 2022 at 4:13

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