A few times a week I make a left hand turn out of a side-street into a divided road. Frequently there is someone in the divided road doing a U-turn against me. And an alarming amount of the time, they fail to give way. I’ve got deliberately cautious now, it happens so much, seemingly particularly when that other vehicle is a 4WD.

The rule is clear. If you’re doing a U-turn, you give way to everybody. EVERYBODY. Even little-ol’-me, who is facing a stop sign.

The other day, ironically, it was someone with a personalised licence plate: SMARTY. Not very Smarty if you have a prang failing to give way.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

12 replies on “U-turns”

serious? so even if they’re on the main road & continuing on the main road (albeit in the opposite direction to which they were heading), they have to give way to side road traffic?

i could be understanding this wrong, though. maybe i need a diagram. lol!! :-D

That rule has not been around very long. Before 2000, the rule was that drivers facing a Give Way sign must give way to all traffic. That made things easy for everyone because those facing a sign just waited until the coast was clear. And it meant that drivers making a U-turn did not need to give way to drivers making left turns onto the same road; they just had to give way to oncoming drivers on their road.

When the rule changed in 2000, it was not advertised and I’d say the vast majority of drivers would be unaware of the change, although it’s probably true that few drivers knew the previous rule anyway.

I have had to consider this in great detail over several years in my profession, and my conclusion has been that the old rule made sense and was intuitive, but the new rule does not and is not. It does not make sense for a driver facing a Give Way sign to be required to give way to some vehicles with which it could collide, but not others with which it could collide.

The rule is also unworkable when the driver in the side street is making a right turn onto the divided road. In that instance, the U-turner is required by law to give way to the right-turner. But, the right-turner from the side street is required to give way to any vehicles turning right from the divided road into the side street. And as far as the side street driver knows, that car with its right indicator flashing could be turning right, or could be making a U-turn. Their intention will often be unclear until they begin to move. This creates confusion and is a safety hazard, particularly if drivers begin to move and then hesitate, putting themselves in the path of oncoming vehicles.

On roads with at least three lanes in each direction it is not a problem; there is room for a U-turner to operate in one or two of the lanes (depending on median width) and the left turners can operate in the left lane (unless they are lazy and drift across to the middle or right lane). But on roads with only two lanes in each direction or with narrow medians, this rule is hazardous and difficult to apply, and should never have been introduced.

I long for the day when we can have lights in our back screen which will light up with specific messages in circumstances like yours – such as “You are a dickhead” or “Sorry I didn’t risk life and limb just so you could get somewhere two seconds quicker, you moron!” Kind of like having instant messaging but on a larger scale! lol

It’s pretty much the PTUA’s fault anyway. If they did their job properly, we would have a better public transport service and less cars on the road doing U-turns.

Until the PTUA has some effective leadership, that champions the real issues rather than whines about u-turns, you can forget better road behavior.


Philip: I seem to recall my driving instructor telling me to give way to absolutely everything when making a U-turn. That was back in 1997… unless he was preparing me of the rules to come, of course. I thought there was some advertising about the alignment of rules between states when it happened?

YLPM: yes thank you Mr Troll.

Clay: We only have them to terrify the visitors.

A lot of the Australian Road Rules were matching up rules between states, but not the U-turn one. U-turns are not allowed at intersections in some (all?) other states, but they still are in Victoria. This rule is odd and if it was being taught in 1997 then the instructor didn’t understand all of the rules.

Not as bad as the 4WDer coming up against me going the wrong way into a right hand turn lane on Springvale Rd the other day. I.e. they were trying to turn right into a side street where right turns weren’t available and just thought they could sneak across.

Comments are closed.