A three-point turn is a manoeuvre you may be asked to complete during your practical driving test. During a three-point turn you will be assessed on your ability to position your vehicle legally, safely and accurately. This manoeuvre is quite complex and it is expected to happen at a slow pace, so you shouldn’t feel rushed when completing the turn.
A three-point turn will be asked of you in a location relatively free of parked cars, and narrow enough that a normal range of cars could readily complete the manoeuvre in three to five direction changes. The request is also likely to occur in a low traffic area to minimise the chance that you will encounter vehicles as you try to complete the turn.
There are a number of steps you must take to successfully complete a three-point turn. You should practice these steps so you are able to complete this manoeuvre seamlessly in the practical test.
During the test the testing officer will let you know that you will be required to do a three-point turn. They will always notify you with sufficient time and space to consider and complete the manoeuvre. They will say something like:
“We will be doing a Three-Point Turn. Please pull over to the kerb and stop.”
At this point you should safely pull over to a location you can legally stop. You should indicate and complete observation checks as you normally would when pulling over (see the kerbside stop post for further details).
When stopped, the testing officer will provide further instruction:
“When, you are ready, please make a Three-Point Turn without using any driveways. Then continue driving down the street.”
(Do not use driveways during the turn. Although this will not result in an immediate fail it will be recorded as a positioning error. Should you repeatedly make errors throughout the other parts of the test this could contribute to a fail and should therefore be avoided.)
At this point you should execute the steps required to complete a three-point turn.
Before you begin you should check how many direction changes you will require. Although you are allowed five direction changes (making it a five point turn), if the turn can be comfortably completed using three direction changes, this will be the expectation. As such, you should only use five direction changes if absolutely necessary (e.g. in a large vehicle). To help make sure you can complete the turn in three direction changes you should seek to get as much as you can from each change without touching the kerb on either side of the road.
When stopped, you should indicate for at least 5 seconds before you leave the kerb to begin the turn. You only need to use the indicator to pull into the kerb initially (to the left) and then when you move away from the kerb to begin the turn (to the right). You do not need to indicate for any other direction changes during the three-point turn. While indicating you should complete observation checks to ensure you can safely complete the turn. You should check your mirrors and head check to the right looking for other road users.
When you have a sufficient gap in both directions, begin the manoeuvre by turning the steering wheel as far to the right as you can and slowly driving across the road. Just before you get to the other side of the street you should turn the steering wheel back the left to prepare for the next direction change. Make sure you stop before you hit the kerb!
In this stationary position you can apply the handbrake if necessary. You should change gears to Reverse, turn the steering wheel as far to the left as you can and complete your observation checks (all mirrors, head check both sides and look through the back window).
You should then slowly reverse back across the street without rolling forward or stalling. You should be looking out of the back window in the direction of travel when reversing. Just before you get to the other side of the street you should turn the steering wheel back to the right to prepare for the next direction change. Make sure you stop before you hit the kerb!
In this stationary position you can apply the handbrake if necessary. You should change gears to First or Drive and complete your observation checks (all mirrors and head check both sides).
If your vehicle’s turning circle will not allow you to rejoin traffic from this position you should repeat the steps above. This will result in a five-point turn which is the maximum allowed for the practical test. If you’ve completed the turn safely, you will not fail for making the extra direction changes.
When you are in a position to rejoin traffic, you should move off without rolling back or stalling. The three-point turn is deemed complete when your vehicle has rejoined traffic and is travelling in the opposite direction to when you began. Your test will continue as required.
The video below provides a great summary of the steps required to complete a three-point turn. Although recorded in New Zealand and designed for audiences there, it is a great visualisation of the process and requirements.
Practicing this manoeuvre regularly before your test will ensure you can capably complete the turn and are able to effectively manage the required controls (gears, clutch, brake, accelerator and indicator).
Three-point turn observation checks
Throughout the turn you will be expected to complete observation checks regularly. You can fail if you miss observation checks too often. As such, a sound piece of advice is to double check. It doesn’t take much time and makes it less likely you’ll miss a check and get marked down. A three-point turn is a complex manoeuvre that requires you to block traffic and reverse across the road, so safety (and therefore every observation check) is a focus.
Other vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians may approach while you are completing this manoeuvre. This is why the observation checks throughout the manoeuvre are so vital. If you see another road user approaching, stop the vehicle. You should observe them to see how they will proceed. If the road user tries to pass you remain stationary until they are clear. If they stop to allow you to complete the manoeuvre, continue as normal. Don’t worry that someone is waiting, just proceed as if they’re not there – continuing your observation checks and focusing on safely completing the three-point turn.