Skip to main content
Welcome to
super saver spring
offer ends april 20
save over $140
save over 85%
$0.99
per week for 24 weeks
Welcome to
super saver spring
$0.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

I live in Winnipeg and I can’t believe that U-turns are allowed here, regardless of speed limits. Where I learned to drive, elsewhere in Canada, U-turns weren’t done except maybe on a quiet country road and away from witnesses. It’s an unexpected manoeuvre to encounter. Unbelievably, there are 80 km/h intersections here where one has to brake when approaching a wide-swinging U-turner. Even they’re legal, are they safe? – Shawn

Here’s some straight talk about U-turns. Even if they’re legal where you live, you’re probably not in the right mind to make them safely.

“You usually make U-turns when you’re lost, you’ve missed your turn or you realize you’re going in the wrong direction,” said Mark Andrews, a traffic consultant and former Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) traffic inspector. “The psychology of U-turns is about panic: Your head is not in the game.”

Story continues below advertisement

If you’re frazzled because your GPS is droning at you to turn around or a not-so-helpful passenger is yelling that you missed the turn-off to the airport, you might not be clear-headed enough to make sure it’s safe to make a U-turn.

“You can make a U-turn and you can make it very safely, but you have to take a moment to ask whether a U-turn is the safest thing to do in that situation, regardless of what your GPS is telling you,” Andrews said. “Maybe there’s too much traffic – so, instead, you go around the block or turn around in a driveway.”

Also, even in places where U-turns are legal, a lot of drivers still think they’re illegal. That means some drivers make U-turns too quickly and speed away like they’re fleeing a crime scene “with a bag of cash in the back seat,” Andrews said.

Where they’re legal

So, what are the rules for U-turns? It depends where you live.

In Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and PEI, the rules are fairly straightforward – you can make a U-turn at any intersection, as long as you can make it safely and there’s no sign banning them.

There are some additional exceptions.

In Manitoba, for instance, you can’t make a U-turn on a curve or the crest of a hill. That’s also true in Ontario, where Section 143 of the Highway Traffic Act also bans U-turns at railway crossings, and within 150 metres of a bridge, tunnel or road.

Story continues below advertisement

“The signs usually make it pretty clear where you can’t do them,” Andrews says.

In Ontario in 2019, there were 96 convictions for illegal U-turns – those came with a $110-150 fine and two demerits.

In other provinces, the rules get trickier. For instance, British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan ban U-turns at intersections with traffic lights unless there’s a sign saying they’re allowed.

Cities also have their own rules. In Vancouver, for example, city bylaws ban U-turns almost everywhere.

Make sure it’s clear

Several provinces, including Manitoba, don’t specifically track whether U-turns are the cause of crashes.

But in Ontario, they’re responsible for about one per cent of all reported crashes, Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation (MTO) said. It didn’t give specific numbers – but in 2017, there were more than 209,000 total crashes in Ontario. That works out to more than 2,000 crashes involving U-turns.

Story continues below advertisement

“In OPP jurisdiction in Ontario, 250 people have been injured and six people have been killed in U-turn crashes in the last five years,” Andrews said. “About 20 years ago, a colleague of mine on the OPP had a [speeder] come through his radar, so he did a U-turn in front of a transport truck and it killed him.”

Does that mean you should be avoiding U-turns entirely? Not if they’re safe, police say.

“There’s no reason to advise not to [make U-turns], provided they are completed safely and do not obstruct traffic,” said Inspector Gord Spano, with Winnipeg police traffic division.

If you do make a U-turn, make sure you can see who’s coming in both directions, said Angelo DiCicco, a road safety consultant in Toronto.

“U-turns are best done when you have really clear visibility from front and behind and you’re cognizant of the turning radius of your vehicle,” DiCicco said.

If you’re not at an intersection, it might be easier to see if you pull over to the right and come to a complete stop before turning around, DiCicco said.

Story continues below advertisement

Stay in your lane

If you’re at an intersection and have a left-turning light, it’s safe to make a U-turn as long as you turn into the innermost lane.

“A lot of people make U-turns like they’re driving an 18-wheeler,” Andrews said. “Their turn is shaped like a light bulb and they drift into the other lane.”

The bottom line? If U-turns are allowed where you live, signal, take your time and don’t turn too wide.

“Everyone should go practice a U-turn at a large intersection to get that skill in your tool box,” DiCicco said. “Because at some point, you’re going to need to make a U-turn and you don’t want it to feel uncomfortable”

Have a driving question? Send it to globedrive@globeandmail.com. Canada’s a big place, so let us know where you are so we can find the answer for your city and province.

Stay on top of all our Drive stories. We have a Drive newsletter covering car reviews, innovative new cars and the ups and downs of everyday driving. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies