Rules of the road for turns: Wisconsin’s March Law of the Month

​​This month, the Wisconsin State Patrol reminds drivers to follow the “rules of the road” when making turns – especially in intersections.

“Safely navigating an intersection is one of the most complex activities that motorists perform,” Superintendent Anthony Burrell.

The Federal Highway Administration reports that over the last several years, an average of one-quarter of traffic fatalities and roughly half of all traffic injuries are attributed to intersections. Engineers continuously refine designs and signaling changes to improve intersection safety. “Drivers play a huge role in preventing crashes by being attentive and cautious, especially when making a turn,” Superintendent Burrell said.

Some common safety rules for turns

  • Plan ahead and start moving to the lane that is appropriate for the turn you wish to make - at least one block in a city area or about 500 feet in the rural area. That way, you will not be in a traffic situation to suddenly have to move over multiple lanes.
  • Check your mirrors and check over your shoulder for your blind spot to make sure there are no vehicles before changing lanes.
  • Use your turn signal in advance. (WI law requires at least 100 feet before the turn) to indicate to other drivers your intention of changing lanes or getting ready to make a turn.
  • Slow down to a safe speed when you are getting ready to make a turn.
  • Be careful around pedestrians and bicyclists and give them the right-of-way.
  • If there are signs or lane markings that allow for two or more turning lane, stay in your lane during the turn.
  • If you start turning at an intersection, do not change your mind about turning. Last second changes can cause a crash. Complete your turn and correct your travel at the next intersection.
  • Do not drive in a reserved lane. Reserved lanes that are marked for parking, or restricted to buses, bicycles, or turns only should not be used for general travel.
  • You may be more likely to misjudge the speed and distance of large vehicles such as semi-trailer trucks or buses, so be much more careful and be patient when there are large vehicles approaching.

Right turns

Unless otherwise marked or posted, turn as closely to the right-hand-edge or curb of the roadway.

Left turns or U-turns

Unless otherwise marked or posted, turn into the travel lane farthest to the left going in your direction.

Shared center lanes

On a two-lane highway, the center lane is reserved for making left turns (or U-turns when permitted) by vehicles traveling in either direction. On the pavement, left turn arrows for traffic in one direction alternate with left-turn arrows for traffic coming from the other direction. These lanes are marked on each side by solid yellow and dashed yellow lines.​​ Be sure you enter the lane only if it is safe to do so.


For more information, contact:

WisDOT Office of Public Affairs
(608) 266-3581,