Stage 2: Changing directions by reversing on streets

Location: Low-traffic residential neighborhoods
Length of lesson: 45 minutes

Reversing down a street is never a good idea

I have witnessed drivers literally stop in the middle of the road and reverse back down the street because they missed a turn. This is so stupid and dangerous. I believe that the driver knows how idiotic this behavior is, so why do he do it?

It could be fear of having to perform a three-point turn. Or, it could be that some people are really, really stupid. This is, of course, one more reason why you must hammer home defensive driving principles to your teenager. You never know what idiotic thing someone else is going to do.

Use driveways or side streets to reverse your driving direction

Reversing direction is somewhat intimidating for a new driver. Luckily, you’re working on this early with your teen, so hopefully they won’t become one of those drivers that reverses down the highway because they missed their exit (yes, I’ve personally seen this one, too!).

Before practicing these exercises, make sure your teen can visualize what their car is supposed to do. You may have to draw it on a piece of paper.

Practice all of these exercises in low-traffic residential neighborhoods!

  1. The aborted turn: A change of direction does not actually occur.
    • Turn into a side street or driveway on the right side of the road.
    • Reverse into the street by turning the rear end of the car to the right.
    • Continue in the original direction.

  2. Right-side two-point turn:

    • Turn into a side street or driveway on the right side of the road.
    • Reverse into the street by turning the rear end of the car to the left. This requires crossing an entire lane of traffic and coming to a stop in the lane of traffic that is heading in the opposite direction of your original direction.
    • Continue driving in the new direction.
    • Note: This is not the preferred method for making a right-side two-point turn because it requires reversing across a lane of traffic. It’s much safer to back into the driveway or side street and then make a left turn across traffic (driving forward).

  3. Left-side “assisted” three-point turn: By “assisted”, we mean a three-point turn that is aided by the use of a side street or driveway. Textbook three-point turns are usually performed on narrow, two-lane roads without the assistance of a driveway or side street. This is the preferred method for reversing direction because it doesn’t require reversing across traffic. It’s much easier and safer to turn left across a lane of traffic than it is to reverse across one. Note: Some people refer to this as a two-point turn because you may not have to come to a stop before turning left into the driveway or side-street. If that’s the case, then technically, it’s a two-point turn.

    • Turn into a side street or driveway on the left side of the road.
    • Reverse into the street by turning the rear end of the car to the right.
    • Continue driving in the new direction.

Common mistakes:

  1. Reversing straight back into the street. Teach your teen to turn the wheel sharply as soon as their front wheels clear the entrance to the street.
  2. Preferring the right-side three-point turn over the left-side three-point turn. New drivers, when asked to turn around, tend to look for a driveway or side street on the right side of the road. They’re nervous about turning left across traffic. Remind them that reversing across traffic is much more difficult and scary then turning left across traffic.

Don’t forget to practice changing gears

Whenever you’re backing (or driving forward) into traffic, you must be prepared to reverse your action. This requires the following seemingly simple steps:

  1. Brake.
  2. Switch from R to D (or vice versa).
  3. Accelerate.

PRACTICE THIS! If you need to reverse your direction when entering traffic, the situation probably requires quick action. You may have underestimated the speed of an oncoming vehicle. Or, you made an <assumption> about another driver’s intentions and they’ve proven you wrong.

You mustn’t panic. Simply move quickly. Of course, this is easier said than done. Especially when there’s a tractor trailer barreling down upon you. That’s why practicing this sequence of events is so important. Perhaps it also goes without saying that you should do everything in your power to avoid these situations: Don’t make assumptions about other drivers’ behavior and double-check that the road is clear before entering.

Continue on to Stage 2: Checklist

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