Explaining the rules about making u-turns on B.C. roads

Straight talk on u-turns

I 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 a question about U-turns between husband and wife. Neither realized there are really very few places in British Columbia where a driver can legally make a U-turn.

Section 168 of the Motor Vehicle Act (MVA) regulates making U-turns, also known as a “reverse turn.”

First of all, if there is any type of line painted down the centre 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.

Section 155 of the MVA regulates crossing lines painted on the road and, in general, only allows crossing them to pass another vehicle or in some cases to avoid an obstruction.

Next, a U-turn must not be made where visibility is limited or it would be unsafe to do so. That includes places like (road) curves or at the approach to the crest of a hill.

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.

Page 52 of the Learn to Drive Smart guide defines a “business district” as the territory contiguous to a portion of a highway having a length of 200 metre, 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.

Finally, as we've mentioned municipalities, they are allowed to regulate U-turns within their boundaries through bylaws. 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.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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