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Anticipation and Planning - Avoiding Road Hazards

Anticipating trouble and planning how to avoid it are fundamental to safe driving

To anticipate, is to take action when you expect something will or might happen, or rather when a road hazard will cause you to slow down, change direction or stop. The way you anticipate what might happen is to make early use of all the information available to you. To do this effectively you need to be constantly aware of what is happening around you. You should constantly be scanning the road ahead and checking your mirrors. Take in as much information as you can. Be aware of what is happening:

  • ahead
  • behind
  • to the side

Keep your eyes moving. Pay attention to the middle and far distance, not just what is happening immediately ahead of you. Try and see the bigger picture, don't allow your eyes to be drawn to just one area. Looking further ahead will enable you to see things earlier and give you more time to deal with any hazard that might be developing.

Always expect the unexpected - not all hazards can be anticipated

Pay attention to:

  • other road users
  • signals given by other road users
  • road signs and markings
  • the type and condition of the road

Times and Places to be extra careful:

  • Rush hour - people take more risks when driving in the rush hour. Drivers may be rushing to work or to pick up the kids. This can lead to bad driving such as drivers pulling out on you.

  • School children - young children aren't good at judging how far away a car is from them, and may run into the road unexpectedly. When near schools you must always be looking out for such hazards.

  • Parked cars - parked cars can hide a multitude of potential hazards.

  • At road works - road workers may be in the road, lanes may be narrowed, priorities altered - normal rules may not apply.

Ask yourself questions based on the road traffic conditions:

  • what are other road users trying to do?
  • do I need to speed up or slow down?
  • do I need to change lanes?

Ask 'what if?' questions:

  • what if the car waiting at the junction hasn't seen me?
  • what if the pedestrian looking to cross the road suddenly steps out?

Pay special attention to the following:

  • cyclists - take extra car when near to cycle lanes and when overtaking a cyclist

  • motorcycles - always look out for them at junctions and in slow-moving traffic

  • pedestrians - take special care with the young, old and those with disabilities

  • animals - give horse riders as much room as is safe to do so and pass them slowly

  • emergency vehicles - keep calm when you hear one approaching. Try to keep out of their way and if necessary pull over to the side of the road.

Improve your view:

  • following too closely behind the vehicle in front can significantly reduce your view. Pull back to allow a clear view ahead.

  • scan left and right as you approach a crossroads or roundabout to see if you can spot vehicles which will arrive there at the same time as you.

  • look at rows of trees or lamp posts along the road ahead to see if they curve to indicate a bend in the road.

  • don't rely on vision alone. In fog or at a blind junction, wind down your windows and listen for the sound of approaching vehicles.

Other factors such as the road you are driving on and the weather conditions will also affect your ability to anticipate what might happen.

On busy roads such as dual-carriageways drivers have more options, they can change lanes and drive at higher speeds for example, so anticipating what might happen is more difficult.

Driving at night or in poor weather will also make anticipation more difficult as visibility will be reduced.

Look Assess Decide

Look well ahead. Continually look out for hazards, especially those that are, or might, move and change. Prioritize which is the most important hazard.

Assess and weigh up the whole traffic situation.

Decide on a means of action. Your decision should be based on

  1. what can be seen
  2. what cannot be seen
  3. what you can reasonably expect other road users to do.

Author Richard Jenkins

Copyright © 2015 Richard Jenkins. All rights reserved.