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Is it legal to make a U-turn at an intersection in Ontario?

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."

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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?

Well, Quebec, Manitoba, New Brunswick and PEI allow them at intersections – unless, like Ontario, there's a sign prohibiting them, it's not safe or you're breaking another law.

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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.

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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.

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

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