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At a traffic light controlled intersection, who has right of way between a U-turning vehicle and a right-turning vehicle? Consider the following cases, assuming no other applicable signage:

Case 1 - Right on red

Right turn on red

Here, the person U-turning has a green light, while the person right-turning has a red light. I believe in this case, the U-turning person has right of way because the vehicle turning right should come to a full stop before proceeding, but am not sure.

Case 2 - Right green arrow

enter image description here

In this case the U-turning vehicle has advance green light, allowing left, right, and straight directions (don't know about U-turn). The right turning vehicle has a green right arrow.

I am most looking for answers for Ontario, Canada, but would accept answers for other jurisdictions with similar traffic laws (at least where they don't outright ban U-turns at intersections).

Note: The Ontario driver's handbook, and applicable laws don't seem to mention U-turns much. In particular, it's not explicit that U-turns are even allowed at intersections, but they seem to be according to this Reddit discussion, and according to the no U-turn signs present at some intersections.

  • This is why U-turns at traffic lights are not legal in NSW! – Dale M Mar 4 '16 at 0:33
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    In your second case, U-turns should be prohibited for the "advance green light" traffic when those signals are showing, though I don't know whether traffic engineering standards require that explicitly. The advance green light indicates a protected turn, but u-turning traffic does not have a protected turn. – phoog Mar 4 '16 at 1:02
  • I blame both of you for being inattentive drivers. Either one should have spotted the other in plenty of time to avoid the collision. – Joshua Mar 4 '16 at 5:03
  • @Joshua I've been in Case 1 situation many times, but what prompted this question was that I was the right-turner in Case 2 recently for the first time. I haven't yet had any accidents, though that one was closer than I'd have liked. If I had, I would have probably found out the answer to this question in court, rather than having to ask on an online Q&A site. – DPenner1 Mar 4 '16 at 5:18
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U-turns are prohibited in certain circumstances (Highway Traffic Act Paragraph 143). It does not say that U-turns are prohibited at intersections controlled by traffic lights. By the principle of expressio unius est exclusio alterius, U-turns at intersections controlled by traffic lights are generally allowed.

However, in determining fault for insurance purposes in Ontario,

The driver of automobile “A” is 100 per cent at fault and the driver of automobile “B” is not at fault for an incident that occurs, [...] when automobile “A” is making a U-turn [...] (Insurance Act Paragraph 19.)

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    Are there no caveats to that or could anybody plow into a U-turner just for kicks – Dean MacGregor Mar 10 '16 at 16:53
  • You can't use your car as a weapon. That would be Dangerous Driving under the Canadian Criminal Code, which is punishable by up to 5-years in jail and in Ontario, results in a one-year suspension. – user3851 Mar 10 '16 at 17:02
  • remove 'just for kicks' and replace it with 'due to gross negligence'. Surely, I would hope, people making a U-turn aren't automatically at fault for a collision as the excerpt you provided suggests. – Dean MacGregor Mar 10 '16 at 19:40
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    Read Paragraph 4 and Paragraph 15. Blame can be split if the car making the turn disobeys traffic signals. – user3851 Mar 10 '16 at 19:57
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From the Ontario handbook

At any intersection where you want to turn left or right, you must yield the right-of-way. If you are turning left, you must wait for approaching traffic to pass or turn and for pedestrians in or approaching your path to cross. If you are turning right, you must wait for pedestrians to cross if they are in or approaching your path (Diagram 2-20).

The person turning left (the U-turner) must always yield to the person turning right.

  • Sounds reasonable, but I'm a bit uneasy with equating left-turning and U-turning. Especially in Case 1 where according the the handbook, the right turning vehicle must "stop and wait until the way is clear." – DPenner1 Mar 4 '16 at 4:06
  • Sure, but you must always be cognisant of the most important rule of driving - "Don't hit anything". If a collision eventuates then police and insurance companies will fall back on what can be proven - the state of the traffic signals at the time cannot be proven so it falls back on the give way to the left rule. – Dale M Mar 4 '16 at 4:47
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U-Turns are legal in Ontario, but Ontario Highway Traffic Act does not clearly indicate who has the right of way, u-turners or right turn on red.

However, in the Ontario Insurance Act, R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 668: FAULT DETERMINATION RULES, paragraph 19 states

The driver of automobile “A” is 100 per cent at fault and the driver of automobile “B” is not at fault for an incident that occurs,

(a) when automobile “A” is backing up;

(b) when automobile “A” is making a U-turn; or

(c) when the driver of, or a passenger in, automobile “A” opens the automobile door or leaves the door open.

with emphasis added.

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Answers for other jurisdictions were invited, and I found one that explicitly considers this case. Wisconsin law 346.37(c)(3) reads in part:

In making a turn on a red signal vehicular traffic shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians, personal delivery devices, bicyclists, and riders of electric personal assistive mobility devices lawfully within a crosswalk, to operators of vehicles making a lawful U-turn, and to other traffic lawfully using the intersection.

So in Wisconsin, the vehicle making the U-turn would have the right of way. It appears this law was changed in 2009 to read this way. (Previously, Wisconsin law said that making a U-turn at a stoplight was prohibited.)

Interestingly, the public hearing record for the 2009 law states:

U-turning vehicle in the intersection has the right-of-way over a vehicle making a right-turn on red. (That is the law today, right-turn-on-red vehicles must yield to traffic in the intersection.

saying that the U-turn would have the right of way even if it wasn't explicitly stated by this law. If true, it has implications for other jurisdictions that don't explicitly state this.

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unless otherwise posted, U-Turns are legal as long as you can see 150 meters in front of you and behind, not close to a bridge or a tunnel. HOWEVER, U-TURNS are not recommended and not a norm because they cause conflict with vehicles turning right.

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    Not true in all jurisdictions. – BlueDogRanch Oct 24 '17 at 2:51

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