Iowa State Patrol warns drivers about dangers of illegal U-turns

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JOHNSON COUNTY, Iowa (KCRG) - Within the last two weeks, two separate crashes resulting from illegal U-turns on the interstate have killed three children and injured more people.

On April 25, five people were hurt in an early morning crash on Interstate 80 near the exit for Tiffin.

On Sunday, three children died when the car they were riding in was broadsided by a semi-truck on I-80 near Oxford in Johnson County.

In both those crashes, the Iowa State Patrol said the drivers were making illegal U-turns in the crossover lane on the interstate.

State troopers said these turns are illegal because they’re so dangerous. Only law enforcement and emergency vehicles are permitted to use them because they have specific training on how to merge back on to the road.

“You’ve made a complete stop, and even though that car may look like it’s a long ways away, you go to pull out in front of it, a lot of people don’t get the concept of how fast someone’s going,” said Trooper Bob Conrad.

Many times, drivers say they made the illegal turn because they missed their exit or realized they forgot something and needed to turn around, according to Conrad. But if that happens, he said drivers should take the time to get to the next exit so they can safely turn around.

Conrad said troopers will not hesitate to write a ticket for anyone caught making an illegal U-turn on the interstate because they’re so dangerous. In 2017, they wrote 267 of these tickets, and in 2018, they wrote 275 of them. Each of those tickets costs drivers $195.

Trooper Conrad said it can be difficult to enforce illegal U-turns, especially since there aren’t cameras in the crossover areas.

“A lot of people can go through those and get away with it,” he said.

But if they don’t, a resulting crash could leave drivers needing a new car, or it could take away something they’ll never get back.

“We just want to save lives,” Conrad said. “That’s the reason we have those crossover signs, so people don’t go through them.”