Let's hear it for the three-point turn

It is the only driving test manoeuvre you could imagine Steve McQueen performing
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The Independent Online

The DVLA is proposing to remove the three-point turn from the driving test, replacing it with more "realistic" manoeuvres, such as reversing out of a parking bay.

The idea that there is something unrealistic about the three-point turn I find completely baffling. I would assure the DVLA that it is all too realistic as performed by myself. I like the three-point turn, partly because I'm good at it. Put it like this, I never failed on it in all the three times I failed my driving test. (On two occasions, I failed for going too fast, my driving instructor having made the fatal remark: "You can fail for going too slow, you know.")

Another reason I like the three-point turn is that it is a very emphatic, iconoclastic manoeuvre, even if the DVLA has long since tried to emasculate it by calling it the "turn in the road". (Where else are you going to be turning, for God's sake?) Aside from the emergency stop, it is the only driving test manoeuvre you could imagine Steve McQueen performing.

Consider: you have to drive into the opposite lane of traffic, making people on the offside kerb think you're going to mount the pavement and kill them; you then reverse into the traffic coming along the original nearside, then you have to speed off to escape that approaching traffic. It's not quite so trenchant a manoeuvre as the U-turn, but it is much better than boringly trundling around a roundabout. Yes, there are lots of crashes at roundabouts, but, as a traffic planner once complacently told me: "They're all low-speed impacts." The three-point turn symbolises the freedom of the road, the ability to correct mistakes, and I actually look forward to performing them. Here's the scenario....

We're driving to some social function. My wife (whom I'm seriously thinking of replacing with a sat-nav) supposedly knows the way. She has twice told me to "fork left" when "turn left" would have been the obvious instruction. She has asked, "Why didn't you indicate?" when she told me about a right turn at exactly the moment we came alongside it. She has then got cross when I treated this as a rhetorical question. I now see a break in the traffic on both sides of the road. I plot the three-point turn and the accompanying three-point speech. Without warning, I veer into the offside lane ("I told you to look at map!"); I reverse rapidly into the original nearside ("But do you listen to me?"); I speed away on the original nearside. ("Well, now we're going to do things my way!")

Whether I know where I'm going in this new direction is irrelevant. The point is: it is a new direction, and the effect is cathartic, even for my wife, who might, after a minute or so, meekly offer me a boiled sweet while remarking: "Scenery's lovely going this way, isn't it?" And so all is harmony and light … until the time comes to make another three-point turn.

Andrew Martin's latest book is 'Belles & Whistles' (Profile)

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