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Is it Ever Legal to Do a U-Turn in Alberta?

Nov 10, 2023 7:37:00 AM

On a sunny Saturday morning last May I was pulled over and issued a ticket for an illegal U-Turn. After I got past the initial embarrassment of being pulled over on a busy road, I asked the police officer, where it actually WAS legal to make a U-turn in Alberta. His response surprised me...

is-it-ever-legal-to-make-a-u-turn-experts-say-not usually

"It is practically never legal to make a U-Turn in Alberta."

This response was surprising to me because, at some intersections there are "No U-Turn" signs clearly posted. But at other intersections there are no signs. Based on this, I've kind of made the assumption that U-Turns are probably OK as long as there's no "No U-Turn" sign posted. I was wrong. 

Here's What Happened

In my situation, I had entered a left turn lane for what I thought was the street I needed to turn on, but as I inched up I realized that I had entered a long line of cars going into an extremely busy Costco parking lot. This was not the turn I was looking for.

"No problem", I thought, I'll just pull a U-Turn and come back around to the correct intersection. After all, there was no sign prohibiting U-Turn's at this intersection.

The light turned green and I waited until there was no oncoming traffic, and made the turn. Immediately I was pulled over by an under cover police car for making an illegal U-Turn. After the conversation I had with the Edmonton Police officer that pulled me over, I had a whole different understanding about U-Turns in Alberta.

When Is It Legal?

So the police officer that pulled me over may have been exaggerating just a little bit, but he wasn't far from the mark. It is sometimes OK to make a U-Turn, but finding a spot there you can do it legally can prove difficult. Here's what Alberta Transportation has to say about it:

Do not do a U-turn unless you can do it safely.

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 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) 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 metres from either direction

These, somewhat confusing, rules surrounding U-Turns, actually do leave you with very few options. Even if you do find a spot where it is legal to make the turn you could be given a ticket if it is deemed that you interfered with traffic in any way during your U-Turn.

The ticket was for $115 ticket and carried a penalty of 2 demerit points on my license. I went in to speak with the judge regarding the demerit points I was issued. He told me that they have the authority to reduce demerit points, but not to zero them out. Since 2 demerit points is the lowest number of demerit points you can be issued on an offense like this, the penalty stood.

I paid my fine and learned my lesson. Only a year and a half until those demerit points come off my license!

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Rob Stevenson

Written by Rob Stevenson


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