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How Can You Identify A One-Way Street?

How do you know if you're approaching a one-way or two-way street? Whether you're a new driver just learning the rules of the road or an experienced driver in a new city, it's normal to feel a little confused.

How Can You Tell a One-Way Street from a Two-Way Street?

There are a few simple signs you can look for to determine whether you're looking at a one-way street or not.

Look for a Warning Sign

One-way streets are usually signposted, but they are not always easy to spot. If you're flustered because you're in a strange city, you may overlook these signs.

Typically, one-way street signs will either say "One-Way" or "Do Not Enter".

A "One-Way" sign includes an arrow and tells you which way to go. A "Do Not Enter" sign indicates which side of the street is out of bounds.

In addition, there may be signs such as "No Right Turn".

Pay Attention to the Street Lines

White and yellow markings on the road indicate whether it's a one-way street or two-way street.

If there are white lane markings on either side and no yellow lines, it's a one-way street. Of course, these lines won't tell you whether you're facing the right or wrong direction and just whether it's a one-way street or not.

If there are yellow lines, it indicates that there is passing traffic and usually suggests a two-way road.

Look for Parked Cars

Parked cars are one of the easiest ways to determine whether you're looking down a two-way street or a one-way street. Parked cars indicate the flow of traffic. If they are flanked on either side of the road and facing opposing directions, you know you're looking at a two-way street.

Conversely, if the parked cars are all facing in the same direction on both sides of the street, it's probably a one-way street.

Of course, if there are no parked cars, this method is completely useless and you'll need to use one of the others discussed in this guide.

Look for Traffic Signs or Traffic Lights

Look down the street for traffic lights. If you can only see the back of signal lights, it's a one-way street and you're facing the wrong way. If you can see traffic control lights, it's a two-way street.

Prepare in Advance

As a new driver, and a driver in unknown city areas, you should always check a map and plan your journey in advance.

Look for streets with two arrows, as these are two-way roads. If there is a street with no arrows, it could be a one-way street.

A GPS navigation device will also help you, but these devices are not perfect. If the software hasn't been updated in a while and the city has undergone some major changes, you could find yourself heading the wrong way down a one-way street.

Use the GPS device to give you a general idea of where you need to go, but don't ignore road signs and other warning signs.

What Should I Do If a Car is Coming Toward Me on a One-Way Street?

If a driver has taken a wrong turn and is heading in the opposite direction down a one-way street, do everything you can to get their attention.

Slow down. Flash your headlights. Honk your horn. If they don't stop or move out of the way, try to squeeze aside, and let them pass.

What Should I Do If I'm Heading the Wrong Way Down a One-Way Street?

It's surprisingly common to see vehicles heading the wrong way down one-way streets. If this happens to you, it's important not to panic.

First, you should turn on your headlights to warn other drivers. Secondly, you'll need to get out of the way of traffic flow.

After you have pulled over, simply wait for a break in traffic and perform a U-turn when it’s safe to do so.

Summary: Identifying One-Way Streets

If you pull up to a street and aren't sure whether it's a two-way or one-way street, remember the following:

  • Pay attention to traffic flow and parked cars. If there are other cars on the road, they are usually a good indicator.
  • Look for a traffic sign.
  • Learn how to read the road markings.
  • Check the traffic lights.

If you encounter a car coming in the opposite direction, whether you're going the right way or the wrong way, make yourself seen and heard and get out of the way.

If you're going the right way, wait for the other driver to pass. If you're going the wrong way, pull over, wait for traffic to die down, and perform a U-turn.

One-way streets can be confusing and even scary for new drivers and unconfident drivers, but as with everything else, once you have driven down a few, you'll get some experience and your confidence will grow.