What is the Law and Penalties for Performing a U-Turn?

By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.

 

The U-turn stands as one of the most dangerous driver manoeuvres on roads worldwide.

Indeed, each day, paramedics respond to cases of severe suffering from crashes that could have been prevented had it not been for a hasty, uninformed decision to make a hurried U-turn in the midst of heavy traffic.

For most drivers in NSW, other than being aware that U-turns are illegal most of the time, the road rule remains one of the most misunderstood, while few realise that it is in effect an unexpected manoeuvre that usually doesn’t allow enough time for the faster moving vehicle to change course in order to avoid an accident.

In fact, last month, a police officer – someone who enforces these very road rules – was caught making a dangerous U-turn in front of an almost 40-tonne truck.

The officer was slammed for the act, the close call sparking outrage after the dash cam footage of the potentially fatal move went viral.

 

Police Car Makes Last-Minute U-turn Putting Truck Driver at Risk of Danger

On 30 May 2019, truck driver Jason Kemp was at the wheel of his 19-metre truck on Weakleys Drive in Maitland, in NSW’s Lower Hunter Valley, when a police car decided to make a last-minute U-turn in his path.

Mr Kemp, was driving a 38.9-tonne truck as the police officer made his risky move in his small vehicle and whipped into his lane.

Fortunately, the 44-year-old was travelling 10km/h less than the road’s speed limit of 60km/h, so was able to pull up just in time to dodge crashing into the sedan.

 

Truck Driver with 20 Years of Heavy-Vehicle Driving Experience says Risky Move Should Never Have Been Performed

Speaking to Yahoo News Australia, Mr Kemp, who has 20 years’ experience in heavy-vehicle driving, said the manoeuvre was one that should never have been performed.

“That was something that should never have been done. If I was going the speed limit, I would have got him big time,” Mr Kemp said.

The heavy-vehicle driving instructor credits his proficiency as a professional driver for his ability to pull up in time to avoid colliding with the significantly smaller vehicle.

“If I wasn’t watching what was going on, I would have definitely hit him,” he said.

Mr Kemp suggested the police car could have easily used the roundabout that was 300 metres further down the road to change his direction.

 

Social Media Users Take Issue with Police Officer’s Dangerous U-turn Decision

It wasn’t long before Mr Kemp posted the video of the police officer performing the dangerous U-turn on a local Facebook page, also handing the footage over to NSW Police.

The video was quick to go viral and spark outrage, with many taking issue with the police officer’s decision.

“Think this cop had a death wish,” one person wrote underneath Mr Kemp’s post.

Another Facebook user asserted the police car driver was “imposing dangerous situations and endangering lives”.

Meanwhile, another online user said, “Lucky he didn’t get mowed over. Would have been the truck’s fault no doubt”.

Speaking to Yahoo News Australia, a spokesperson from NSW Police confirmed awareness of the incident and are currently “reviewing the matter”.

 

Why the U-turn can be such a Dangerous Driving Move

Conducting illegal U-turns on the road are one of the most unsafe calls you can make behind the wheel – the consequences of an accident caused by doing so often behind fatal.

U-turns require a street wide enough for the driver to complete the manoeuvre, the risk being that the driver needs to cross lanes of traffic in order to complete the move.

In many cases, for fellow drivers on the road, performing a U-turn does not allow sufficient time for the faster moving vehicle to change course. This in turn can result in a collision.

As the NRMA advises on the misunderstood U-turn road rule, when making a U-turn, it is essential for the driver to have a clear view of any approaching traffic and give way to all oncoming vehicles and pedestrians.

Similarly, drivers are not permitted to make a U-turn across:

  • A single continuous dividing line
  • A single continuous dividing line to the left of a broken line
  • Two parallel continuous dividing lines

A driver must not make a U-turn at traffic lights unless there is a “U-turn permitted” sign displayed.

The Law on Performing a U-turn in NSW

You may regard it as safe to perform a U-turn at a specific location on the road, however, this certainly does not mean that it is allowed by law.

In NSW, the Roads and Maritime Services and Road Rules 2014 (NSW) makes clear U-turns cannot be made:

  • When there is a no U-turn sign at an intersection without traffic lights (Rule 41 Road Rules 2014 (NSW)).
  • At an intersection with traffic lights, unless the intersection has a U-turn permitted sign (Rule 40).
  • At a break in a dividing strip on a road where there is a no U-turn sign at the break in the dividing strip (Rule 39(1)).
  • On a length of road where a no U-turn sign applies (Rule 39(2)).
  • On motorways
  • Across an unbroken (continuous) line, double centre unbroken (continuous) lines, unless the line closest to you is broken.

Further to this, you must start your U-turn from the marked lane nearest to the centre of the road or, if there are no lane markings, the left of the centre of the road. (Rule 42 Road Rules 2014 (NSW)).

In addition, when performing a U-turn, the driver is required to have a clear view of any approaching traffic and ensure it is safe to perform the manoeuvre without unreasonably obstructing the free movement of traffic (Rule 37).

Breaching any of the above rules carries an on-the-spot fine of $263 and 2 demerit points.

A motorist when performing a U-turn is required to give way to all vehicles and pedestrians (Rule 38). Breaching this rule carries an on-the-spot fine of $337 and 3 demerit points.

In NSW, Rule 132(2A) Road Rules 2014 (NSW) also outlines the law on performing a U-turn. This rule prohibits a driver from performing a U-turn across a road with a single continuous dividing line, a single continuous dividing line to the left of a broken dividing line or 2 parallel continuous dividing lines.

Breaching this rule attracts a penalty of up to $2,200 in court (if it ends up being heard in court).

However, this normally attracts an on-the-spot fine of $337 with 3 demerit points.

 

How to be Safe if You Must Perform a U-turn

To make the roads safe for all users, it is important to obey the road signs and markings, especially when it comes to risky moves such as U-turns.

Just because there is no sign indicating that a U-turn is illegal, does not mean that U-turns are permitted.

So, if you must carry out a U-turn, do so where signs permit the manoeuvre.

Furthermore, remember:

  • have a clear view of approaching traffic
  • complete the turn without blocking the free movement of traffic
  • give way to all vehicles and pedestrians.

Do you have a traffic law question? Our leading Sydney traffic lawyers appear in all courts and provide a free first appointment. Call our team 24/7 on (02) 8606 2218.

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