U-Turns

No U Turn SignI never know what I am going to receive in my e-mail regarding this column. Recently it was a tongue in cheek request to save a marriage by settling the question of U-turns between husband and wife. Neither one of them realized that there are really very few places in British Columbia where a driver can make a U-turn legally.

First of all, if there is any type of line painted down the center of the highway one must not make a U-turn over it. It doesn't matter if it is double solid, single solid, solid and broken or a single broken line. Only the complete absence of a line allows the maneuver, subject to other limitations.

Next, a U-turn must not be made where visibility is limited or it would be unsafe to do so. This would include places like on a curve or at the approach to a hillcrest. U-turns are forbidden in a business district unless the turn is made at an intersection without traffic lights. However, the general prohibition of a U-turn at any intersection with traffic lights doesn't apply if there is a sign posted by the municipality permitting the action.

Finally, we've mentioned municipalities, and they are allowed to regulate U-turns within their boundaries through a bylaw. These bylaws can range from what has been outlined here to a total prohibition. This just adds to the difficulty because bylaws change from municipality to municipality. It's beginning to look like the best way to turn and go in the other direction is by going around the block!

Reference Links:

Comments

U-Turn Collision

Thanks for posting this up, I'm in a situation with ICBC having determined the driver of my car was 50% at fault in a collision and I'm trying to argue againt it. These links are the relevant sections I think, that suggest that a vehicle driving down a narrow street in a business district such as downtown Vancouver cannot legally do a u-turn to get into a car park on the other side of the road.

We were reversing a couple of meters to allow the car in front of us to reverse into a carpark, when another vehicle travelling in the opposite direction tried to do a quick u-turn to get into the same parking spot, colliding with the rear of our vehicle at 90 degrees to the traffic direction.

U-turn rules vary considerably by province

I didn't realize BC rules were so restrictive.  Alberta allows U-turns at unsignalized intersections (but not at alleys) and outside of urban municipalities as long as you don't need to cross a double solid line to do so.

Ontario is far more flexible.  U-turns can be made pretty much anywhere they are not prohibited, as long as you have at least 150 metres of visibility when you are near a hill, curve or a bridge or you are at least 30 metres from a railway crossing (s. 143 Highway Traffic Act).  The lines on the pavement don't affect this; to the best of my knowledge centre lines on Ontario roadways are primarily advisory, e.g. it is not unlawful to pass on a double-solid - only if there are signs prohibiting passing.

I learned to drive in the early 1980s, and in our high school driver education class we were taught how to do U-turns on residential streets - they were called K-turns if the street was too narrow and you had to back up to complete the manuevre.  It never seemed to create a problem for anyone.

This is clearly an area where the law could be relaxed without compromising safety.

Change of Direction

I learned to drive in the early 1980s, and in our high school driver education class we were taught how to do U-turns on residential streets - they were called K-turns if the street was too narrow and you had to back up to complete the manuevre.  It never seemed to create a problem for anyone.

This is clearly an area where the law could be relaxed without compromising safety.

A good Driving School will teach about the various methods of changing direction. Three rights and a left, or three lefts and a right, can achieve it without reversing (always a good idea). If the roadway is of sufficient width, or at the end of a cul-de-sac, drivers can also accomplish their goal without reversing. Meanwhile, for a 2-point turn, if using a driveway, it's always preferable to reverse into one on the right side of the road before then making a left turn. And yet, what's the commonest thing we see? Some fool turning left into a driveway, and then reversing out of it back onto the roadway.

Here in BC, applicants for a Class 5 license (typically Class 7 drivers or experienced drivers from a jurisdiction we don't have a reciprocal agreement with) won't be asked for a parallel park - but they will be asked to change direction mid-block, in a situation that demands a 3-point turn using the road width. It might become a 5-point or 7-point turn if they're in a longer wheelbase car. It allows the Driver Examiner to assess vehicle control skills, observation skills, signalling appropriately, etc. But, they can't do that in every municipality - such as the City of Vancouver, which has its own bylaw prohibiting a U-turn.

Update

I recently learned that the changing direction manuever has been replaced with a hill parking, and/or reversing, maneuver on road tests. Basically because of the bylaw problem in some areas that makes a 3-point turn impracticable. Then again, try to find a hill in Richmond, eh?

I believe that this will apply for Class 4 (both Restricted & Unrestricted) and Class 5 applicants.

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