Stage 3: Two-point, Three-point, and U-Turns – Part 3

In concept, a three-point turn is a fairly straight-forward procedure (albeit with a lot of steps).Here’s a video, courtesy of the folks who made The Rules of the Road DVD, on how to do it:

How to Perform a Three-Point Turn

  • Activate your right turn signal. This will alert other drivers that you intend to “do something”. Assuming that there aren’t any driveways, this should alert the cars behind you that you intend to stop. Because if there was a driveway, you’d just perform a two-point turn.
  • Tap your brakes to further alert drivers that you intend to stop.
  • Pull over as close to the curb as you can (approximately 6-10 inches) and stop.
  • Activate your left turn signal.
  • Check traffic in all directions to make sure that it is clear for at least 15-20 seconds in both directions. It’s going to take you at least that long to perform the next two “points” of the turn. If there are drivers behind you, you can motion to them to go around you.
  • Turn your wheel as far to the left as possible and begin moving forward. Your goal is to end up perpendicular to the curb on the other side of the street. You should be 6-10 inches from the curb.
  • Activate your right turn signal (as this is the direction you’ll be backing).
  • Recheck traffic flow to make sure it is still clear to reverse. Although your car is probably blocking all traffic, that doesn’t mean another car hasn’t pulled up directly behind your vehicle.
  • Turn your wheel as far to the right as possible.
  • Shift into reverse and begin backing.
  • Stop within 6-12 inches of the other curb.
  • Recheck traffic again to make sure it is clear.
  • Put your car into Drive and continue in your new direction.

Practicing tips for the three-point turn

  • Lead by example: Head to a low-traffic residential area and take the wheel. Show your teen exactly how to perform the three-point turn and provide on-going commentary as to what you’re doing. Point out the “crucial” areas of the turn such as proper initial positioning, turning the wheel completely before moving, and proper distance from curbs.
  • Use a stopwatch: No, it’s not a race, but have your teen time you to determine how long it takes to complete a three-point turn. This will be useful for determining a proper gap in traffic before starting the turn.
  • Get out of the car: Have your child get out of the car and watch the procedure from the road. Point out how the car is positioned close to the right side of the street before you begin the maneuver. Also point out how the car is perpendicular to the curb at the second “point”. This will help them get a feel of where the car should be when they begin practicing.
  • Commentary, commentary, commentary: Once your teen is ready to give three-point turns a shot, keep your eyes moving and your mouth flapping. Even on low-traffic streets, you still need to be on the lookout for cars and pedestrians. Also, a three-point turn requires some precision in order to complete successfully. You need to help guide your teen through each part of the turn. Remind them that they can take their time to complete the procedure. Seasoned drivers are able to make the turn look effortless, but it’s actually quite complex and it takes practice to master.
  • There’s no penalty for extra points: Your child may require a few extra “points” in order to complete the turn. New drivers have a tendency to under-turn the wheel and to misjudge their distance from the curb. Typically, they stop several feet (as opposed to 6-12 inches) from the curb. They simply do not have a sophisticated spatial awareness of the car and this makes it much more difficult to complete the turn.

Common Mistakes

Under-turn: Most new drivers do not turn the wheel far enough when performing a three-point turn. Basically, they’ll come to a stop, and begin to move forward as they turn the wheel. The narrowness of the street will then make it impossible for them to complete the turn.

Continue on to Learning Directions and Using a Map

All information and advice contained within this website is to be taken at your own risk. Nothing contained within this website should be misconstrued as professional driving instruction.