When can you legally make a U-turn? We use GPS a lot, and it's constantly saying to make a U-turn. I thought they were illegal at intersections, but my fiancé says they're legal everywhere. – Jenn, Toronto
As it turns out, the U-turn rules in Ontario are pretty straightforward. Unless you're on a railway crossing or somewhere where oncoming traffic can't see you, you can usually make them anywhere there's not a sign banning them.
"At an intersection, it might say, 'No U-turns,'" said Sgt. Kerry Schmidt, with the Ontario Provincial Police Highway Safety Division. "But otherwise, as long as it's safe – as long as it's not on a blind corner, a crest of a hill of in front of a railway crossing – you can do them."
Section 143 of Ontario's Highway Traffic Act (HTA) provides the specific restrictions; violations result in a $110 fine, including fees, plus two demerit points. In 2015, there were 119 violations in Ontario, the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) said in an e-mail.
Otherwise, you can make U-turns at intersections or in between intersections, as long as you signal and make them safely.
"You can't interfere with any traffic that may be approaching – if you do you may be charged with other offences, although not necessarily the U-turn offence," said Const. Clint Stibbe, with Toronto Police Traffic Services.
Two other sections of the HTA – section 141 and 142 – "stress the responsibility of all drivers to ensure that they make safe driving decisions when making turns," the MTO said.
Rules vary by province
So where did the idea that U-turns aren't allowed at intersections come from?
But other provinces, including British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, ban them at intersections with traffic signals. And page 32 of Newfoundland's driver's handbook says U-turns aren't allowed at any intersection.
U-turns effectively banned?
And in British Columbia and Alberta, it's confusing even when you're not at an intersection. In British Columbia, section 168 of the BC Motor Vehicle Act bans U-turns at intersections with lights or a stop sign, and, if you're in a business district, anywhere except at an intersection that doesn't have lights or a stop sign.
So, generally, if you're on a street with stores or businesses in British Columbia, you could get a $121 fine and two demerit points if you make a U-turn in the middle of the street.
But B.C. cities have their own rules, too. In Vancouver, bylaw 2849 bans U-turns on any through street, at an intersection where a stop sign is erected, where it's unsafe to back up, on any street between intersecting streets or at a lane intersection. In other words, they're banned pretty much everywhere there. It's a $100 fine.
"[A] U-turn in the City of Vancouver, unless posted otherwise, is against the Vancouver city bylaw," said Staff Sgt. Randy Fincham, Vancouver police spokesman.
In Alberta, you can't make a U-turn at an intersection with traffic lights or in the middle of a road or alley between intersections, Calgary police said. But you can make one at a stop sign or at a break in a median on a boulevard – as long as there isn't a sign against it.
"It's a $155 fine and two demerits," said Calgary police Const. Paul Ludlow in an e-mail.
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