How to make a safe U-turn

A U-turn involves making a 180-degree turn in the road, so you end up facing the opposite way. Here's how to make the manoeuvre safely.

No U-turns except cycles

A driver was fined last month after making an illegal U-turn on the M4 motorway near Slough. This followed a collision in Cornwall, when a U-turn resulted in two drivers suffering ‘severe’ injuries.

Releasing a statement about the incident, Devon and Cornwall Police said: ‘Two vehicles were involved with both drivers sustaining severe injuries. It would appear that one of the vehicles was trying to perform a U-turn.

‘We would also like to take the opportunity to remind all road users that the ‘No U-turn’ signs have been placed on the carriageway for serious safety reasons.

‘It is a very dangerous manoeuvre which has caused a number of fatalities over the years.’

But what is a U-turn and why is it considered to be such a dangerous manoeuvre?

What is a U-turn?

As the name suggests, a U-turn involves making a 180-degree turn in the road. In one complete manoeuvre, the car ends up facing in the opposite direction. A U-turn is not to be confused with a three-point turn, which involves reversing.

Although it is legal to make a U-turn in the UK, there are situations in which the manoeuvre is prohibited. Get it wrong, and you risk three points on your driving licence and a fine. Even worse, you could endanger the lives of other road users.

When is a U-turn illegal?

No U-turn sign in London

The most obvious indication that U-turns are prohibited is the ‘No U-turns’ sign. This is a red outer circle surrounding a black ‘U’ with a line through it. However, as this page on the Transport for London website explains, you should also pay attention to signs showing you the direction you must take.

A U-turn is also considered illegal if one of the following happens:

  • You cross a kerb
  • You cross double white lines in the centre of the road
  • You are driving on a one-way street

How to make a U-turn

A U-turn should be a last resort, especially in busy urban areas. U-turns are often performed when a driver misses a turn, so they tend to be the result of a rushed decision, with less thought for road safety.

If in doubt, pull up on the side of the road, consider your options, then make an informed decision. Alternatively, turn left or right at the next junction and obey the traffic laws before entering the road.

Consider the following:

  • Is it safe and legal to make a U-turn?
  • Will I endanger or inconvenience other road users?
  • Is the road wide enough to complete the manoeuvre in one turn?
  • Do you have clear visibility of the road?

If you must perform a U-turn, pull up on the left-hand side of the road. A U-turn will take a few seconds to complete, so make sure the oncoming traffic is clear before starting the manoeuvre.

When it’s safe to do so, check your mirrors, indicate right, check your mirrors again (including any blind spots), then make the turn. Cancel the indicator and check the rear-view mirror when the manoeuvre is complete.

Keep an eye open for motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians, as they might not be visible in your mirrors. There’s also a chance that they won’t be aware that you’re making a U-turn.

If you’re making a U-turn on a road with a designated filter lane on the right-hand side, turn on your indicator and wait for the oncoming traffic to clear. Don’t rush it – make sure you have enough space to complete manoeuvre without stopping or having to reverse. Pay attention to the traffic lights – the filter lane might not work in tandem with the lanes on your left.

Click here to read the Highway Code.


What is Automated Lane Keeping System (ALKS)?

When is the official UK ban on new petrol, diesel and hybrid car sales?

Car dashboard warning lights: what do they mean?

Related Articles

Gavin Braithwaite-Smith
Writer with a penchant for #FrenchTat. Also doing a passable impression of Cousin Eddie in an Italian-German beige motorhome.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Electric cars get top marks in Green NCAP tests

The Renault Zoe and Hyundai Kona Electric were awarded five stars in the latest Green NCAP tests. A total of 24 cars have been tested.

Brexit and International Driving Permits: what you need to know

International Driving Permits may be required for some EU countries after 1 January 2021. We explain the rules – and how to apply.

How a dirty car could cost you £1,000

Keeping your car's number plates and lights clean is essential for safety – and to avoid a substantial fine.

Petrol station drive-offs: what does the law say?

Although Making Off Without Payment is an offence under the Theft Act 1978, the police may not investigate a petrol station drive-off.

Find a Car Review