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Associate, North America Environmental Risk Consulting

  • It is just after 1:00 AM and a tractor trailer attempts to make a U-turn on a highway with a 60 mph speed limit.As the rig begins to swing for the turn, the driver is unaware of the approaching car to the rear.With the inside lane blocked by the turning trailer, the driver of the car is unable to stop and violently collides with the trailer.The car’s driver is pulled unconscious from the burning vehicle and suffers severe injuries.The resulting claim exceeds $1.1 million.


  • It is in the evening and a tractor trailer driver, after missing his turn, decides to make a U-turn on a rural highway with a 75 mph speed limit.The tractor trailer driver pulls into a cross-over; however the trailer is still in the lane of travel and is struck by another vehicle.The accident results in a fatality and a claim totaling just under $500,000.


  • During morning rush hour, a pick-up truck driver decides to make an illegal U-turn on a 50 mph roadway and is struck by an on-coming vehicle.The accident results in serious injuries to the other driver and a claim in excess of $1.1 million.


  • While traveling after night fall, a tractor-trailer driver decides to make a U-turn on a country highway with a 65 mph speed limit.The driver doesn’t see any traffic coming and starts to make the U-turn.While progressing through the maneuver, the driver feels a thud and realizes the trailer has been struck by an on-coming vehicle.The accident results in serious injuries to the other driver and passenger, and a claim approaching $750,000.


What do these four accidents have in common?  They all involved an attempted U-turn on roadways with speed limits in excess of 50 mph.  Accident files of trucking firms are loaded with cases of disaster that occurred when a driver decided to save a couple minutes by making a U-turn on a public highway instead of finding a safe place to turn around.


Making a quick turn on the road in your car is dangerous enough.  Making that same move in a combination vehicle that can effectively block multiple lanes is reckless.   It’s a move no approaching motorist can reasonably anticipate happening, and it leaves almost no options for someone who runs up on you.  Add in factors such as high speeds, darkness, rain, snow, fog, road hills, or curves and the maneuver becomes even more dangerous. 


Consider the following risk factors before considering how and where you will turn:

  • When you make a U-turn with a tractor/trailer, you risk blocking the road for as much as a minute or more.  If your tractor gets stuck on the soft shoulder in the process, then what? 
  • When you make a U-turn with a tractor/trailer, you lose all ability to see what’s happening around your vehicle.
  • Vehicles traveling at posted speed limits will not be expecting a slowing tractor-trailer (or any vehicle type) in the left lane and may not react in time to avoid your turning vehicle.
  • Finally, when other drivers approach you mid-U-turn at night, in bad weather, or when they’re in a state of distraction or fatigue, they’re not likely to figure out what you’re up to, or that the road is blocked.  Even with lights and reflective tape on the side of your trailer, it’s still a slow process for most motorists to realize you have the entire road blocked.

When you make a U-turn with a tractor/trailer, you lose all ability to see what’s happening around your vehicle.

If you miss a customer or a turn,  don’t make a U-turn on the highway.  Use one of the following alternatives, even though it takes a couple minutes longer:

  • Go around the block and come back to your destination.
  • Take the next highway exit, get off the highway, cross over the bridge and get back on going the other direction back to your correct exit.
  • Find an off-road lot big enough for you to turn around and head back in the right direction.  Make sure side roads and lots have safe access points with good visibility.


The bottom line is when a driver attempts to make a U-turn they increase their risk of having a severe accident.  Often they have to slow in the inside passing (fast) lane and are often blocking most/all of opposing lanes during the maneuver.  U-turns are not common and most drivers are not expecting another vehicle to make such a move.  These factors contribute to the risk of having a serious accident and significant insurance claim.  Accidents while making a U-turn, as pointed out earlier, are often serious and result in high claim amounts.


AVOID U-TURNS – plan ahead and if necessary go the extra distance to be safe!  


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