U-Turns British Columbia & Beyond – Laws and Alternatives

U-Turns British columbia

Is U-Turn Allowed in BC?

U-turns are forbidden while driving in British Columbia if they interfere with other traffic, if they’re on a curve or hill, if they’re at an intersection controlled by a traffic control signal, and anywhere in a business district unless the turn is made at an intersection without traffic lights.

Let’s dive into the details a bit more.

U Turns British Columbia

British Columbia Motor Vehicle Act

In the British Columbia Motor Vehicle Act (the law in BC) section 168 discusses U-turns:

168  Except as provided by the bylaws of a municipality or the laws of a treaty first nation, the Nisg̱a’a Nation or a Nisg̱a’a Village, 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.

British Columbia Motor Vehicle Act Section 168 Opens in a new tab.
U-Turns British columbia

City of Vancouver By-Laws – Drivers Must Not Do a U-turn:

  • On any through street
  • At any intersection where a stop sign has been placed, or where a traffic control signal has been installed (a traffic light intersection)
  • At any intersection where the driver must reverse to complete the U-turn, or where the driver would be interfering with other traffic, or where it is not safe to complete
  • On any street between intersecting street
  • At any lane intersection

U-Turn Tickets at ICBC

If you’re caught doing an unsafe or illegal U-turn, you may receive penalties. Check out ICBC fines & points Opens in a new tab.for more information.

168(a)Unsafe U-turn$1212
168(b)(iii)Prohibited U-turn$1212
168(b)(iv)U-turn – intersection$1672
168(b)(v)U-turn – a business district$1212

RCMP said the initial investigation suggests the driver of the car made a U-turn into the path of the pickup truck.

“These are unfortunate circumstances that had a tragic result, especially considering one of the deceased is an eight-day-old infant. Their life was ended before it began,” said Staff Sgt. Kris Clark.

9-Day-Old Baby Among 3 Dead in Highway Crash Opens in a new tab.

U-Turn Laws Alberta

U-Turn laws Alberta

If you’re driving in Alberta, U-turns are not permitted:

  • At an intersection controlled by a traffic control signal (traffic lights) unless permitted by a traffic control device
  • Where a sign prohibits U-turns

In urban areas in Alberta, U-turns are not permitted:

  • On a roadway between intersections
  • At an alley intersection
  • At an intersection where one or more of the roadways is an access to a public or private parking lot which the public can access

Outside urban areas (rural) in Alberta, U-turns are not permitted:

  • On a curve
  • Approach to or near the crest of a hill where the driver of another vehicle cannot see you that is approaching within 150 meters from either direction

U-Turns in Alberta Opens in a new tab.

U-Turn Laws Washington State

U-Turn laws Washington State

(1) The driver of any vehicle shall not turn such vehicle so as to proceed in the opposite direction unless such movement can be made in safety and without interfering with other traffic.

(2) No vehicle shall be turned so as to proceed in the opposite direction upon any curve, or upon the approach to or near the crest of a grade, where such vehicle cannot be seen by the driver of any other vehicle approaching from either direction within five hundred feet.

Washington State Legislature Opens in a new tab.

Safer U-Turn Alternatives

There are potentially many other methods of changing the direction of your vehicle other than doing a U-turn. U-turns have been the culprit of many traffic collisions, and if you can avoid them altogether, that would be highly recommended. Let’s discuss the other options that may be available, depending on the area you’re driving in of course.

Three right turns and then a left turn

If you’re at a place where there are a lot of intersections close together, such as in a city, then you may be able to do three right turns and then a left turn. This might be the preferable method since right turns are usually quick and not so dangerous compared to U-turns and left turns.

You may be able to also do this by using back lanes or alleys, but these can come with their own challenges such as garbage trucks blocking your path of travel. Check out our epic guide to turning right at a green light.

Safe U-Turn Alternative

Three left turns and then a right turn

While left turns aren’t most people’s favorite thing, they are likely safer than doing a U-turn, especially at a place that has a lot of traffic. If you are in a place like a city that has a lot of intersections, then you may be able to turn left three times and then do a right turn, in order to change your direction of travel. Check out our epic guide to turning left at a traffic light.

Safe U-Turn Alternative

2-point turn using a lane/driveway to your right

If you can find some kind of driveway, lane, or alley to your right, you may be able to use it as a safe U-turn alternative. This is known as a 2-point turn and is sometimes used on driving tests. You basically signal to the right and pull over, and then back into the lane or driveway just enough to be able to then turn left and continue down the road in the opposite direction. Check out our epic guide to basic reversing skills for beginners.

2-point turn driving

2-point turn using a driveway or lane to your left

You might be able to do a 2-point turn by using a driveway or lane to your left, but this isn’t recommended because your visibility might be around zero, and it might even be worse than trying to do a U-turn.

Nevertheless, it’s another method to turn around if you need to drive in the other direction. Try to only do this if you know with 100% certainty that you can back your vehicle behind a parked vehicle. It’s recommended to avoid backing into the flow of traffic because obviously, that is just not safe, especially with no visibility.

2-point turn

Carmen Cohoe

Carmen became a driving instructor at the age of 22 in beautiful North Vancouver, BC, and taught many drivers for almost a decade including brand new drivers, drivers from various countries, and seniors, using automatic & standard vehicles and a minivan. She created BC Driving Blog in 2012.

15 thoughts on “U-Turns British Columbia & Beyond – Laws and Alternatives

  1. Our BC U-Turn laws are ridiculous. Many of the USA States allow for U-Turns at intersections. Yes, accident statistics are even lower in some places. Not allowing us to make turns when there is NO oncoming traffic is clearly an affront to our liberty. What better place to do a U-Turn than at a controlled intersection? I suppose there will be a bunch of ‘what ifs’ spouted. now.

      1. i got a ticket for a u turn at in intersection where i had the left turn signal. cant i say that a) unless the driver can do so without interfering with other traffic. does that contradict the b iv

    1. Yes, as long as you are not “obstructing traffic” and are doing it “safely.” It is illegal to reverse into an intersection and over a crosswalk. If you’re doing a 3-pt turn in a safe location (not on a curve for example) i.e. in the middle of a block with good visibility, then that is fine.

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