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Peril on the road: The killer U-turn

2014-12-31 11:20

RISKY MOVE: Making an illegal u-turn is a dangerous move for drivers anywhere in the world. Above a barrier is put up on a highway to prevent u-turns. Image: Shutterstock

The U-Turn remains one of the most dangerous driving manoeuvres worldwide, says Arrive Alive. Paramedics respond daily to severe injuries from crashes that would not have happened had the hasty decision to U-turn not been made.

We all know U-turns are illegal most of the time - drivers who do so are putting their and other road users' lives at serious risk. here Arrive Alive focuses on the U-turn in an attempt to create awareness that could prevent many further crashes.

Why is the U-turn such a dangerous thing?

  • The consequences of a crash caused by a U-turn are often fatal.
  • It is an unexpected manoeuvre and usually does not allow time for fast traffic to avoid a collision.
  • The U-turn requires a street wide enough for the driver to complete the turn.
  • The U-turn is especially risky because the driver needs to cross lanes of traffic moving on both directions.
  • Crashes in which a car goes under a truck turning across a road are devastating.

What does the law stipulate?

Whether you regard it as safe to make a U-turn at a specific location does not matter if the law stipulates that it is illegal! The first question when considering a driving manoeuvre is to ask – “Is it legal?”.

The rules of the road and traffic legislation governing a U-turn are not the same in all countries. It is important to know the rules of the road where you are driving and to obey the road signs and markings.

Just because there is no sign indicating that a U-turn is illegal, does not mean that U-turns are permitted. Even when there are no signs clearly prohibiting a U-turn you can expect to find it illegal on most roads at the following locations:

  • On a curve where approaching traffic from either direction cannot be seen for at least 150m.
  • Within 30m of a railway crossing.
  • At undivided highways: a U-turn is not legal on a controlled-access highway except through an opening provided for that purpose in the dividing kerb section, separation or line.
  • Within 150m of a bridge, viaduct or tunnel where the view of traffic is limited.
  • U-turns are prohibited in no-passing zones and one-way streets.
  • In front of a fire station.
  • At an intersection where there is a traffic light.
  • The Road Traffic Act in South Africa has specific legislation making it illegal to make a U-turn on a highway.

Regulation 297 Driving on divided public road

(1) Whenever any public road has been divided into two or more roadways by means of an intervening space or by a physical barrier or dividing section so constructed as to impede vehicular traffic, no person shall drive a vehicle on such public road except upon the left roadway, unless directed or permitted by an appropriate road traffic sign or a traffic officer to use another roadway.

(2) No person shall drive a vehicle on, over, across or within any dividing space, barrier or section referred to in sub-regulation (1), except through a constructed intersection. Provided that no person shall so drive through such constructed intersection where such driving is prohibited by an appropriate road traffic sign or by a traffic officer. Provided further that the provisions of this sub-regulation shall not apply to a traffic officer in the performance of his or her duties. 

Road Traffic in South Africa

  • Regulatory road sign R213 prohibits a U-turn where the no U-turn sign is displayed.
  • Crossing certain road markings to make a U-turn is prohibited too.
  • You are also not allowed to make a U-turn where there is a solid white 'no-overtaking' line or a double 'no-crossing' line down the middle of the road, or if you need to drive over a painted traffic island to make a U-turn.

I haven't seen a rule about not making a U-turn on a freeway, although it would be illegal because a freeway normally has a centre solid 'no-crossing' line. So, for all intents and purposes, you are not allowed to make a U-turn on a freeway.

Text and images courtesy of Arrive Arrive.

Read more on:    arrive alive  |  south africa  |  road safety

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