Using Turn Signals In California: How Many Feet Before Turning?

Using turn signals properly is a key part of safe driving and following the rules of the road. But when exactly should you hit the blinker before making a turn in California? Proper signaling distance can vary based on your speed and road conditions.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: California law requires using your turn signal at least 100 feet before turning when driving under 25 mph. At speeds above 25 mph, you must signal at least 300 feet before the turn.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about proper turn signal use in California. You’ll learn the specific distances required by law based on your speed, best practices for signaling in different situations, how to perform legal U-turns, and consequences for failing to use turn signals.

California’s Legal Requirements for Signaling Distance

When it comes to using turn signals in California, it’s important to follow the state’s legal requirements for signaling distance. These requirements vary depending on the speed at which you are traveling and whether you are changing lanes or making a turn.

Under 25 MPH

If you are traveling at a speed of under 25 miles per hour, California law requires you to signal for at least 100 feet before making a turn. This ensures that other drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists have enough time to react to your intended maneuver.

Over 25 MPH

When traveling at a speed exceeding 25 miles per hour, California law requires you to signal for a minimum of 200 feet before making a turn. This increased signaling distance is necessary due to the higher speed and the increased stopping distance required at higher velocities.

Special Rules for Changing Lanes

When changing lanes, California law requires you to signal for at least five seconds before initiating the lane change. This gives other drivers around you enough time to anticipate your movement and adjust their driving accordingly.

It is important to note that signaling alone does not give you the right of way – you should always check your mirrors and blind spots before changing lanes to ensure it is safe to do so.

It’s worth noting that these signaling requirements are not just a matter of legal compliance, but also a matter of safety. Signaling your intentions helps to prevent accidents and promote a smoother flow of traffic on the roads.

So, the next time you’re behind the wheel in California, remember to use your turn signals and give other road users ample warning of your intended maneuvers.

Recommended Practices for Maximizing Safety

Adding Extra Distance

When it comes to using turn signals in California, it is always recommended to add extra distance before making a turn. This means that drivers should activate their turn signals at least 100 feet before the intended turn.

By doing so, it allows other drivers on the road to anticipate their actions and make necessary adjustments, ensuring a smoother and safer traffic flow. Additionally, adding extra distance also provides ample time for pedestrians and cyclists to notice the signal and proceed with caution.

Signal First, Brake Second

A common mistake that drivers make is braking first and then signaling their intention to turn. However, it is important to remember that turn signals are meant to indicate your intention before you actually begin to slow down or brake.

By signaling first and then braking, you are effectively communicating your intentions to other drivers, reducing the risk of sudden lane changes or rear-end collisions. So remember, signal first, brake second!

Use for Stop Signs and Yield Signs

Turn signals are not just for making turns; they should also be used when approaching stop signs and yield signs. Even though you may not be making a turn, indicating your intention to stop or yield can help prevent confusion and potential accidents.

By using your turn signals in these situations, you are effectively communicating your actions to other drivers, giving them a clear indication of your intentions and allowing them to react accordingly.

For more information on California driving regulations and best practices, you can visit the official website of the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Performing Legal U-Turns

Performing a legal U-turn can be a convenient way to change directions while driving, but it is important to understand the rules and regulations surrounding this maneuver. In California, there are specific guidelines that drivers must adhere to in order to execute a legal U-turn safely and avoid any potential traffic violations.

Two-Way Left Turn Lanes

One common scenario where U-turns are permitted is when there is a designated two-way left turn lane in the center of the road. These lanes are designed to allow drivers to safely make left turns into businesses or residential areas.

When using a two-way left turn lane for a U-turn, it is important to signal your intention to turn, wait for a safe gap in traffic, and make the turn from the lane closest to the center of the road.

Uncontrolled Intersections

In certain situations, U-turns may be allowed at uncontrolled intersections where there are no traffic lights or stop signs. However, it is crucial to exercise caution and yield the right-of-way to any oncoming vehicles or pedestrians before making the turn.

This ensures the safety of all road users and prevents accidents.

No U-Turn Signs

Some roads may have specific signs indicating that U-turns are prohibited. It is essential to pay attention to these signs and follow the instructions accordingly. Disregarding a “No U-Turn” sign can result in a traffic citation and fines.

These signs are usually placed in areas where U-turns would be unsafe or disruptive to the flow of traffic.

Remember, when performing a U-turn, it is always important to use your turn signals to indicate your intention to other drivers. This ensures that those around you are aware of your actions and can adjust their driving accordingly.

By following the rules and regulations regarding U-turns in California, you can navigate the roads safely and avoid any unnecessary traffic violations.

Consequences of Failing to Signal

Failing to use turn signals while driving can have serious consequences in California. Not only is it a violation of the law, but it can also lead to accidents and put other drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists at risk.

The California Vehicle Code requires drivers to use their turn signals at least 100 feet before making a turn or changing lanes.

Legal Consequences

When a driver fails to signal, they can be ticketed by law enforcement officers. In California, the fine for not using a turn signal can range from $35 to $234, depending on the jurisdiction. Multiple violations can also result in higher fines and points on the driver’s record, which can lead to increased insurance premiums.

Increased Risk of Accidents

Not using turn signals can increase the risk of accidents on the road. Without a signal, other drivers are left guessing the intentions of the driver, leading to confusion and potential collisions. Using turn signals helps to communicate your intentions to others, allowing them to adjust their driving accordingly.

According to a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, failure to use turn signals is one of the top contributing factors to accidents. In fact, it was found that around 2 million accidents per year in the United States are caused by drivers failing to use their turn signals.

Pedestrian and Cyclist Safety

Failing to use turn signals not only poses a risk to other drivers but also to pedestrians and cyclists. Pedestrians rely on visual cues from drivers to determine their next move, and the absence of a turn signal can lead to confusion and accidents.

Similarly, cyclists need to anticipate the actions of drivers to safely navigate the roads, and the failure to signal can make this more challenging.

It is important to remember that using turn signals is not only a legal requirement but also a way to promote safety on the roads. By signaling your intentions, you are helping to create a more predictable and harmonious driving environment for everyone.


Using turn signals appropriately in California comes down to following the required distances of 100 or 300 feet based on your speed, while also driving defensively. Signal early, make your intentions clear to other drivers, and avoid last-minute unsafe lane changes. Follow the rules for legal U-turns as well. Failing to signal properly can lead to citations and accidents, so make signaling a safe driving habit.

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