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Turnout Areas – What They Are and When to Use Them Full Guide of 2024

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What is turnout areaYou’re cruising down the highway when suddenly a long line of cars stacks up behind you. Glancing in the rearview mirror, you notice an impatient driver riding your bumper.

Not wanting to anger the folks behind you, you ease over into the pullout area and wave cars past.

Turnout areas serve an important purpose – allowing faster moving vehicles to safely pass slower ones on two-lane roads or in areas where passing is difficult. Though not always marked, these extra-wide road shoulders pop up on mountain highways and other routes lacking passing lanes.

If you’re poking along and see that sign, be prepared to scoot over when five or more vehicles queue up. Letting others by keeps traffic flowing smoothly and prevents dangerous passing maneuvers.

But use caution in turnouts and re-enter the roadway slowly.

Key Takeaways

  • Turnouts are widened road shoulders for slower vehicles to pull over and allow faster traffic to pass safely.
  • California law requires using turnouts when 5 or more vehicles stack up behind on two-lane highways.
  • Police can ticket drivers for not using mandated turnouts.
  • Using turnouts demonstrates good driving etiquette and keeps traffic moving smoothly at proper speeds.

What Are Turnouts?

What Are Turnouts
Let me take a moment to remind you about turnouts. They are special areas beside the road for slower vehicles like yours to pull into. Turnouts allow faster traffic to pass you safely when normal passing would be challenging or unsafe.

By utilizing turnouts when suitable, you can assist with keeping traffic flowing seamlessly even on roads without passing lanes.


You should ease over when you see the widened shoulder so the folks behind can zoom by safely. Passing lanes aren’t always available, so turnouts give faster drivers a chance to get around without everyone having to hit the brakes.

They keep traffic flowing smoothly when you’re poking along below the limit. Just be courteous and pull over to let faster traffic by when you see that single solid white line ahead.


Keep your eyes peeled for those widened road shoulders when cruising below the speed limit, or the speed demons barreling up behind you will be fit to be tied! Left turn lanes are your best bet when preparing to maneuver onto the shoulder for some authentic down-home roadside rambling.

Hug that limit line when easing off the gas pedal, then mosey on over when the coast is clear and let faster traffic blow on by.

When to Use Turnouts

When to Use Turnouts
You know those turnout areas you see on two-lane highways sometimes? If you’re driving slower than the speed limit with a line of 5 or more cars behind you, the law actually requires you to use them. Though turnouts exist to help keep traffic moving smoothly, in California you could get a ticket if you refuse to pull over when you’ve accumulated a backup of frustrated drivers behind you.

Slow Traffic

Pull over when you’ve got a line of faster cars stuck behind you. Use the turnouts and slip into the HOV lane or edge when five or more vehicles pile up. Let those approaching vehicles hustle past in the lane of traffic, then ease back out.

Required by Law

Got slowed traffic piled up behind ya? California law says move into the turnouts if you’ve got 5 or more vehicles stuck and want to pass. Those single solid yellow lines mean it’s not safe to pass, so let them by in the turnouts.

The solid white lines and broken yellows separate the lanes and traffic directions. Just yield before re-entering when the road’s clear. The lane markings guide us all safely through.

Turnout Signs

Turnout Signs
You’d better watch for those ‘Slower traffic use turnouts’ signs and move over when you see ’em. Those designated openings along the side of a two-lane highway are there for a reason – to keep traffic moving smoothly.

We’ve all been stuck behind a slowpoke who won’t use the turnout areas. When you see that sign, take the hint and pull into the next opening, letting faster traffic get by.

The turnout entrances are clearly marked for you to enter and exit easily. Use ’em when you should so we can all share the road.

California Turnout Law

California Turnout Law
Ya might wanna move over when ya see that ‘Slower traffic use turnouts’ sign if there’s a line of cars behind ya, even if ya think yer goin’ fast enough. Them turnout areas is there for a reason, so use ’em when ya should to keep traffic movin’, no matter how fast ya think yer drivin’.

If yer pokin’ along in the slow lane on a two-lane highway in California and five or more vehicles get stacked up behind ya, it’s the law ya gotta use the next turnout to let ’em pass, even if ya don’t think yer holdin’ anybody up.

Them’s the rules of the road, so pay attention to the signs and make use of them turnout lanes when required.

When Turnouts Not Required

When Turnouts Not Required
Now hold on there, partner. Just ’cause ya got a pileup behind ya don’t always mean ya gotta skedaddle into the next turnout.

If yer already moseying at or near the speed limit, ya ain’t obligated to pull over. Even with a hullabaloo of honkin’ horns tailgatin’ ya down a lonesome stretch of blacktop, the law’s on your side. The CHiPpies say turnouts are for pokier folk, not leadfoots like you already maxin’ out the limit.

So keep your eyes peeled for speed signs and don’t let impatience pressure ya. Ride easy knowin’ the rules allow you to go full gallop without guilt. Just use caution and good judgment to avoid a dustup. There’s no reason to risk a wreck just to shave a few seconds off your ETA.

Benefits of Turnouts

Benefits of Turnouts
Turnouts let faster vehicles pass safely and smoothly without dangerous attempts, partner.

  1. Helps move traffic at proper speeds in each lane.
  2. Avoids risky passing maneuvers on tight roads.
  3. Allows continuous flow despite varying vehicle speeds.

Them double yellow lines keep opposite lanes apart for good reason. Overtaking against traffic is askin’ for a head-on tussle. But some backroads still need a way for faster folk to mosey on past slowpokes without causin’ a ruckus.

That’s where turnouts come in handy as houses on the range. They let speedier vehicles breeze by in the same direction, bypassin’ the single set of double yellow lines that protect the inner overtaking lane.

The outer line keeps oncomin’ cars at bay. Together, them lane markings make turnouts an oasis of opportunity for safe, smooth passin’ where overtaking otherwise just ain’t possible.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long are turnouts typically?

Typically turnouts are around 30 to 40 feet long, providing just enough space for a few vehicles to pull over and let faster traffic pass by. As a driver, you’ll want to watch for the Slower Traffic Use Turnout signs and politely pull into the next available turnout when you’ve got a line of cars behind you.

Do all states have laws requiring slow drivers to use turnouts?

Not all states have laws requiring slow drivers to use turnouts. Some states like California mandate turnout use when 5 or more vehicles are following behind on a road with unsafe passing, but many other states don’t have any laws requiring slow drivers to use turnouts to allow faster traffic to pass.

Is it illegal to pass in a no passing zone if there is no oncoming traffic?

You should never pass in a no passing zone, even if you see no oncoming traffic. These zones exist for safety, as areas with limited visibility. Passing risks a head-on collision with a car you cannot see. Your impatience is not worth endangering lives.

What should you do if there is an accident or obstruction blocking a turnout?

You should stop safely before the blocked turnout and proceed carefully when you can see it’s clear ahead. Use caution and follow any temporary signs or traffic directions around the accident or obstruction site.

Can law enforcement ticket drivers for not using a turnout when required by law?

Yes, law enforcement can and will ticket drivers for not using a turnout area when the law requires it. If there are five or more vehicles lined up behind you on a two-lane highway with unsafe passing conditions, and you’re driving below the speed limit, you must use an available turnout to allow faster traffic to pass safely.


You’ve learned that turnout areas are special roadside sections designed for slower traffic to pull into, enabling faster cars behind to pass safely. Used properly, they create smooth traffic flow by preventing dangerous attempts at overtaking.

Watch for ‘slower traffic use turnouts’ signs, and move over when you’ve got a line of 5+ vehicles behind you, letting them go by quicker.

Turnouts make mountain roads safer for all. Even when not legally mandated, pulling into one politely if you’re holding back the pack shows good driving etiquette.

Safe travels!

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is an author and software engineer from the United States, I and a group of experts made this blog with the aim of answering all the unanswered questions to help as many people as possible.