Did You Know?
A three-point turn is officially known as 'turning in the road using forward and reverse gears' in the UK and Ireland, but it is commonly called the former. The official name is due to the fact that the turn may consist of more than three points. It is officially called the 'three-point turn' in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the majority of the USA.
A driver who passes a driving test should be able to do any essential maneuver that he/she may have to perform on the road. A three-point turn is one of the skills a driver has to master, since it is commonly required in many situations, and is thus, one of the most useful driving skills.
The three-point turn allows you to reverse your direction on roads that are too narrow to make a U-turn. Please note that roads wide enough to make U-turns usually have designated spots for it, and three-point turns on roads like highways and Interstates can be very dangerous.
On back roads, such as two-way carriageways, there is often not enough space for a U-turn, which is where the three-point turn comes in handy.
The concept of the maneuver is to pull over at the side you are driving on, then cross into the other side of the road in forward gear, then reverse into the side you were driving on, but with your car now facing the opposite direction, and then move into the opposite lane, with your direction now matching the side of the road you are on.
Here is an easily understandable illustration for drivers driving on either side of the road.
When your driving instructor tells you to make the turn, follow these instructions:
- Turn on the indicator on the side of the road you are driving on. In the U.S., this would mean the right indicator. Let the drivers around you know that you are about to pull over. Apply the brake lightly to activate the break light. This indicates that you are about to stop.
- Once you stop, check for traffic on your as well as the other side of the road. You are about to cross the road, vehicles on both sides will be your concern. When the traffic on either side drops, make your move.
Try not to get stuck in the middle when the traffic on one side is slow, but the other side is busy. Stopping in the middle of the road is obviously dangerous, and other drivers―to understate―don't like it very much. Keep glancing to either side to check the traffic, but focus on the point you want to get to.
- Slowly come to a stop almost perpendicular to the curb on the opposite side. Don't go onto the curb. Don't coast while applying the clutch pedal, and keep your foot on top of the brake pedal so that you can apply it in case of an emergency. If you are driving a car with manual transmission, keep the car in the first gear.
- Engage the reverse gear. Check for traffic in your mirrors. This is particularly important in this step, since the traffic is behind you, and you have no other way of seeing it. It is important to adjust your mirrors so that you can view the maximum with the minimum craning of your neck.
- Reverse the car into the other side until you are almost parallel to the curb. Keep glancing in either direction to check traffic, but focus on the spot you want to get to. You should now be in the side of the road where you started the first step of the maneuver, but facing the direction opposite to the traffic.
- Check your mirrors as well as the traffic now coming towards you. Slowly move into the opposite side, and accelerate to match your speed with the traffic. In a car with manual transmission, this is the only time when you should go beyond the first gear in the whole maneuver.