In Summary

If you want to become a better driver, one of the best things you can focus on is improving your turns. This is simply because you’ll likely make many right and left hand turns while you’re driving.

One evening as Allan Aijuka drove from Bugolobi to the city centre, he received a call from one of his friends reminding him about a scheduled appointment at Shoprite Lugogo. This was at Jinja road traffic lights near the Electoral Commission offices during rush hour traffic jam that had built up. Instead of proceeding to the Oasis Mall roundabout to turn around and drive back to join Jinja road, he made a sudden turn after the traffic officer had released vehicles that headed to Yusuf Lule road.

“I had just driven past the Airtel Roundabout on Jinja road when I noticed a traffic police motorcycle following me. When it overtook me, the officer signaled that I stop. I parked by the roadside and he explained to me that I made a wrong turn. Even after apologising, I was handed a penalty receipt of Shs100,000 that I paid after a week,” Aijuka recalls.

What the law says
Dr Steven Kasiima, the director of traffic and road safety in Uganda, says when it comes to making turns on the road, motorists such as Aijuka must consider a number of things. There is a difference between a U-turn, left turn and right turn. Kasiima says a U-turn for every motorist is an unacceptable traffic offence. In most cases, a sign of no U-turn is signalised by letter “U” with a cross or line running across the letter.

“In Uganda, major highways do not have U-turns because it is dangerous. Some vehicles are big and need a lot of unavailable space to turn. If a big vehicle is to turn, it involves a lot of reversing and moving forward and back and forth to make a successful turn. This means that traffic from the outgoing and oncoming sides will be blocked. This creates high chances of being crashed on the road,” Kasiima explains.

“Where it is safe for motorists to turn, there is always enough space and a road sign that will allow you turn but if it there is no space and no sign post, do not risk it,” Kasiima warns.

For example, on Entebbe Road, Kasiima notes that you are not allowed to make a U-turn at the Stella stage junction. Initially, there was a sign post that emphasised that there is no U-turn but that the sign post was knocked off the road and it has since become a spot where motorists make illegal U-turns.

When it comes to left turns, a sign post will give you a go ahead on whether to make a left turn or not. If you are not allowed to make a left turn, there will be an arrow pointing to the left but with a line crossing through the arrow from one corner of the sign post to another that does not allow you to make a left turn. Similarly, when you are not allowed to make a right turn on any road, you will see a sign post on the road pointing to the right but with a line crossing through the arrow that does not allow you to make a right turn.

Where to turn
Along major roads, there are places where you are allowed to make a turn. For example, on Jinja road as you drive towards Shoprite, you can make a right turn at the end of the island that leads to New Vision offices. Similarly, motorists driving from Nakawa can make a right turn at the end of the island that is positioned just in front of Nissan Motorcare showroom. An island on the road is a fairly raised rock separating traffic flow from the oncoming and outgoing directions.

Why motorists make illegal turns
The biggest cause of making wrong turns, be it left, right or U-turns, Kasiima cites, is due to impatience. It is why some motorists have indiscipline on the road.

For example, he says, in Dubai, UAE, even if a motorist is driving on one side of the road and the hotel they are going to is visibly seen on the opposite side, even if there is space for them to turn, they cannot because there are gazetted areas to turn from.
“When you make a turn where there is no signpost that allows you to turn, it is disregard of road signs and traffic regulations,” he adds.

Sign posts versus traffic officers
It is a common debate between motorists as to what or who they should follow between sign posts and traffic officers. One of them is Ian Kasozi. He observes that most times when he is driving on Jinja Road, when he approaches traffic lights at Kitgum House, many times traffic lights signal green yet the traffic police officers at the junction use their hands to control traffic flow.

“What annoys me is that traffic officers sometimes allow more moving traffic time to vehicles coming from Jinja road and less to those going out of the city centre. It becomes annoying yet I leave town early to avoid traffic jam,” Kasozi explains.

In the case of Kasozi where traffic lights indicate “go” and the traffic officers signal otherwise, Dr Steven Kasiima, the director of traffic and road safety in Uganda, says the 2008 traffic rules and regulations allow a traffic officer’s hand to take precedence over a sign post or traffic lights.

“When a signpost or traffic lights signal green and a traffic officer signals that you should not drive, you follow what the officer says regardless of who you are. Motorists who push away traffic officers doing their work of guiding traffic are indiscipline and must stop. Once caught, you will be penalised,” Dr Kasiima clarifies.