Residential Driving
Special Use Driving Lanes

Special Use Driving Lanes: Reversible & Center Left Turn Lanes, One-Way Streets

Updated Aug. 14, 2020

One of the first things you must learn when driving in residential, suburban and urban neighborhoods is that not all traffic lanes are designed to be used in the same way. To increase public safety and minimize congestion, “special use” lanes and road features are present in some areas.

Some of the most common residential road features are:

  • One-way streets
  • Center left-turn lanes
  • Reversible lanes
  • Traffic circles

These lanes are governed by a unique set of rules. In this section of the drivers education course you will find out how to identify special-use lanes and drive in them correctly.

Identifying a one-way street

If you pay attention to pavement markings, street signs and the traffic around you, one-way streets are easy to spot. This type of road is found most commonly in urban, inner-city areas, though they also exist in residential and rural neighborhoods. They are generally implemented in busier districts, to allow high-volumes of traffic to move freely and safely.

One-way streets can be identified by:

  • White lane markings. Yellow lane markings are not used on one-way streets.
  • “ONE WAY” signs, prominently positioned at both ends of the street.
  • Vehicles on both sides of the street will be parked facing the same direction.

There will also be signs marking the point at which the one-way street finishes or changes to a two-way street, if it would not otherwise be obvious.

Using one-way streets

Firstly, let’s discuss choosing a lane. If the one-way street has multiple lanes of traffic it is often wise to choose the center lane. Central lanes usually have better traffic flow and less obstacles than outside lanes – though this is not always the case.

Ultimately, you should choose whichever lane presents the least danger. When turning into a one-way street, this will be the closest available lane. You can merge into a different lane further down the road if you feel it is necessary. Be sure to check for road signs indicating whether a street is one-way or two-way as you turn off the one-way street.

Additional rules and considerations apply when turning left either from a one-way street, or to a one-way street.

While clear signs and pavement markings make it surprisingly hard to drive the wrong way up a one-way street, it does occasionally happen. Do your best to remain calm if you encounter a vehicle traveling towards you, against the flow of traffic. Try to catch their attention by sounding your horn or flashing your headlights and be prepared to pull over to the side of the road if neither of these tactics work.

Drivers should only ever make a U-turn on a one-way street if they discover they are traveling in the wrong direction and have space to execute the turn safely. Otherwise, making a U-turn on a one-way street is illegal.

Identifying a center left-turn lane

Center left-turn lanes (more commonly referred to as “two-way turn lanes” on road signs) are found in the center of the roadway in some busier areas. Center left-turn lanes are designed to allow drivers traveling in both directions to make turns – they cannot be occupied for any other reason.

You can usually identify these lanes by the solid yellow pavement lines marking them and pairs of arrows painted at intervals along the center of the lane. Each pair will have one arrow pointing in each direction. In some cases, center left-turn lanes will be outlined with a broken yellow line inside a solid yellow line.

Using center left-turn lanes

Center left turn lanes must NEVER be used as an ordinary driving or passing lane. Most states prohibit traveling in a center left-turn lane for more than 200ft – check your DMV manual for local details. You may use the center left-turn lane to:

  • Start a left turn.
  • Finish a left turn.
  • Enter a congested street from a driveway, alley or parking lot – more on this further down.
  • Make a U-turn, if posted road signs allow it.

Remember that center left turn lanes are commonly found in busy areas and are used by motorists traveling in both directions. The longer you remain in this lane, the greater the chances of conflict occurring with another driver. Always wait for a large enough gap in the traffic to safely complete the turn. If needs be, you may stop or wait in the center left-turn lane before turning. Follow these instructions when using the center left-turn lane to make a left turn:

  1. 1

    Try to enter the center left-turn lane as close as possible to the turn-off. This should stop you from blocking others or being blocked yourself.

  2. 2

    Before entering a center left-turn lane, check that you may do so without disrupting other motorists. Watch out for drivers entering the lane from the roadside, attempting to merge from another lane or waiting to complete their turn.

  3. 3

    Signal your intention to turn and check traffic to your rear before merging.

  4. 4

    Slow down or stop as necessary until an adequate gap is available.

  5. 5

    Complete the turn when oncoming traffic allows.

How drivers should use the center left-turn lane to enter the roadway from a driveway, parking lot or alley will depend on how much traffic is around. If there is a break in the traffic coming from both directions, you may signal and move directly to the far side of the road without stopping in the center left-turn lane. However, if there is no gap large enough to safely allow this, follow these steps:

  1. 1

    Signal your intention to turn left from the driveway or parking lot entrance.

  2. 2

    Wait for a gap in traffic approaching from the left.

  3. 3

    Turn into the center left-turn lane and activate your right turn indicator.

  4. 4

    Wait for a gap in traffic on your right, then maneuver into the adjacent right-hand lane.

Identifying and using reversible lanes

Reversible lanes are often used on streets where traffic is substantially heavier moving in one direction than the other, but where this differs throughout the day. The reversible lane’s direction will be altered, depending on in which direction the traffic is currently heaviest.

You will recognize that a lane is reversible thanks to the double, broken yellow lines that mark out its boundaries. It will always be easy to identify in which direction traffic in the reversible lane should move, as directional arrow signal lights will be in operation above the lane. A flashing arrow signal indicates that the direction of traffic is about to change. If you are using a reversible lane when this happens, merge into an adjacent lane that can accommodate traffic moving in your direction, as soon as is safely possible.

Traffic circles and roundabouts

Roundabouts and traffic circles are essentially circular intersections, at which vehicles move in a counter-clockwise, curved pathway around an island. This improves traffic flow and decreases the chance of conflicts and collisions occurring. Motorists must slow and yield as they enter a traffic circle, keeping speed at a safe and manageable level.

The main thing to remember about roundabouts and traffic circles is that the motorists already using them have the right-of-way. Remember to look left and wait for a safe gap in the traffic before entering the roundabout. Occupying the outside lane is advisable if you intend to leave the traffic circle at the first exit or travel straight across. From this position, you will need to yield to drivers wishing to merge from the inside lane.

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