Q&A - U-Turn Ticket

Q&A ImageI received a traffic ticket for making a U turn on Pacific Avenue at Davie Street. The traffic violation sites Motor Vehicle Act 168(b)(iv) as the violation, but if I'm to understand the law it seems that according to the same Act 168 section(a) that as long as I was able to do so without interfering with other traffic it was okay. Am I wrong? Please help me understand Motor Vehicle Act 168.



Here's the spot where this occurred:

It is an urban intersection controlled by traffic signals with no signs posted that control U-turns.

Here are the applicable laws, first from the BC Motor Vehicle Act:

Reverse turn

168 Except as provided by the bylaws of a municipality or the laws of a treaty first nation, a driver must not turn a vehicle so as to proceed in the opposite direction

(a) unless the driver can do so without interfering with other traffic, or,

(b) when he or she is driving

(i) on a curve,

(ii) on an approach to or near the crest of a grade where the vehicle cannot be seen by the driver of another vehicle approaching from either direction within 150 m,

(iii) at a place where a sign prohibits making a U-turn,

(iv) at an intersection where a traffic control signal has been erected, or

(v) in a business district, except at an intersection where no traffic control signal has been erected.

"business district" means the territory contiguous to a portion of a highway having a length of 200 m along which there are buildings used for business, industrial or public purposes occupying

(a) at least 100 m of frontage on one side of that portion, or

(b) at least 100 m collectively on both sides of that portion, and includes that portion of the highway;

and from the City of Vancouver Street and Traffic Bylaw 2849:


38. (1) No driver of any vehicle shall turn such vehicle so as to proceed in the opposite direction:

(a) On any through street.

(b) Within an intersection at any corner of which a "Stop" sign has been placed, or where a traffic - control signal has been installed.

(c) At any other intersection unless such movement can be made in safety, without backing, and without interfering with other traffic.

(d) On any street between intersecting streets.

(e) At any lane intersection.

(2) The provisions of this section shall not apply to the driver of any bus at a terminus of any route, or at any other location approved by the Council, but such driver in making any "U" turn shall first ascertain whether such movem ent can be made in safety.

The bylaw does not modify the meaning of the Motor Vehicle Act section in this case, so the ticket is for "turning a vehicle so as to proceed in the opposite direction at an intersection where a traffic control signal has been erected." You have to deal with each case set out in section 168. First of all it says that you can't make a u-turn if you are going to interfere with other traffic. It then goes on to say that you cannot make a u-turn in the following circumstances, one of which is at an intersection with traffic signals, which is the case at Pacific and Davie as we can see in the street view. Even though you may not have interfered with other traffic, you still cannot make a u turn here.

Submitted by E-mail

I just hate that I got a ticket for something like a u turn where it doesn't say you can't and the law seems like it has a part that says its okay if you're not interfering with traffic :-/

Driving Knowledge

In order to drive with compliance, a driver does need a reasonable knowledge of the rules and cannot rely on a sign to tell them what to do in all cases.

It is unfortunate, but after we get our driver's licence for the first time, our knowledge of what we can do and can't do probably deteriorates from there. Few of us take the time to refer to driver training materials (u-turns are dealt with on Page 52 of Learn to Drive Smart) after that point in our lives and there is often significant mis-information to gain by asking a friend. Ditto for watching what other drivers are doing around you every day.

I would encourage you to make the time to read Learn to Drive Smart and the companion Tuning Up for Drivers to avoid situations like this in the future.

If you would like to learn in small weekly bites, you could also subscribe to my newsletter. The sign up form is in the left hand column of this page.

Difference between Canada and the USA

In the USA, there is rarely any restriction in terms of U turns. Drivers, legally make U turns at intersections once the light turns green. This certainly helps clear up congestion and  driver frustration. Is it any wonder why Vancouver has the most traffic congestion in North America?  Thank the law makers, again. 

City of Vancouver

Each city has different by-laws as well (which is also time-consuming to have to look up that info). But for future reference, City of Vancouver has very strict restrictions on U-Turns that it is pretty much illigal to do a U-Turn anywhere in the City of Vancouver. When driving downtown probably the best way to turn around is to simply drive around the block. There are so may one-way streets that using a lane (which have a lot of commercial vehicle only restrictions) isn't always the best option. 

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