In this article
What are crossroads?
Crossroads are a type of junction where traffic could approach from the left, the right and straight ahead. Therefore, you must recognise when you are approaching this type of junction on your driving test and be aware of the hazards you could potentially face.
How can you spot a crossroad?
The key to dealing with crossroads is locating the junction as early as possible. Doing so gives us time to plan ahead and anticipate the intentions of nearby road users. Look as far down the road as you can and look out for any give way signs and road markings.
Another clue you could be approaching a crossroad is traffic cutting across you in the distance. If you spot other road users turning right or left up ahead, that’s often a clue you’re approaching an intersection.
Remain vigilant when driving on quiet residential roads as you could come across an unmarked crossroad, and these can be particularly dangerous.
The crossroad warning sign is a red triangle with a black cross. The vertical line on the cross represents the major road and the line is bolder and thicker than the horizontal line, which represents the minor road. The sign can be paired with a metal plate that tells you how far away you are from the junction. The distance is normally in yards.
What should you do when you spot a crossroad sign?
Ease off the gas when you spot this sign and look out for traffic emerging from either side road. Use the MSM routine if you plan on changing speed or direction, and be prepared to come to a stop if you spot another road user about to emerge from your left or right.
Types of crossroad junctions
There are four types of crossroad junctions, and to stay safe, you need to know who has priority in each situation.
Traffic light controlled crossroads
There are often accidents at busy junctions, so traffic lights control the most advanced crossroads. The traffic lights at this type of junction work in pairs. When your light is green, traffic directly opposite you will also see a green light, and a red light will hold traffic to your left and right.
When the light facing you is red, a red light will also hold traffic directly opposite you, and traffic to your left and right will have priority.
Road signs or markings generally control crossroads in residential areas. On the approach to this type of junction, you’ll see a stop sign, give way sign or road markings.
If the road signs or markings are in front of you, you’ll need to give way to traffic on the major road.
You can also find unmarked crossroads in residential areas with terraced houses. Unmarked or uncontrolled crossroads are dangerous as no one has priority at this type of junction. Traffic from either side could move off without warning, so approach with caution.
Slow down on the approach to the junction, observe all around you and make eye contact with nearby road users to establish their intentions. Always look to give way and make sure the road is clear before progressing,
Crossroads with a yellow box junction
In busy areas with heavy traffic, a combination of traffic lights and yellow box junctions controls the flow of traffic. You can wait in the yellow box junction if you’re turning right. However, you must remain behind the yellow line if your exit is blocked and you plan on turning left or driving straight ahead.
Turning right at a crossroad: Offside vs nearside
If you’re turning right at a crossroad junction, and there’s a vehicle opposite about to do the same thing, you’ll need to decide whether to turn offside to offside or nearside to nearside. Before choosing a method, look for any arrow road markings in the junction informing you of where to position. If there aren’t any road markings, try and make eye contact with the other driver to establish their intentions.
Offside to offside
The driver side of your vehicle is known as the offside. It’s safer for both vehicles to turn offside to offside as you’ll have a clear view of the road ahead. The Highway Code recommends this method on wider roads, but keep in mind, that on narrow junctions, it may not be possible to use this technique.
Nearside to nearside
The left side of your vehicle is known as the nearside even though it’s further away from the driver’s seat. It’s called that because it’s closer to the kerb.
Turning nearside to nearside can be dangerous, as the vehicle in front could restrict your view of the road ahead. This makes it harder to spot oncoming traffic and vulnerable road users, especially when turning in front of a large vehicle.
When using this method, you must turn before reaching the middle of the junction, as this will ensure you finish in the middle of the new lane.
Dealing with crossroads on your driving test
Crossroads are considered ‘accident hotspots’ as vehicles on the minor road can emerge when it’s unsafe. For example, some drivers fail to look in all directions, while others completely miss the give way line. When turning right and left, it can also be difficult to spot vulnerable road users such as cyclists and motorcyclists.
You must understand how priority works at this type of junction as a significant number of serious and dangerous faults occur at crossroads when candidates misinterpret the rules of priority.
What does the driving examiner expect from you?
- Use the MSM routine when driving towards a crossroad.
- Understand who has priority at crossroads.
- Look out for vulnerable road users.
- Look in all directions before pulling out
- Braking harshly on the approach to a give way line.
- Crossing the give way line without checking to see if it is safe first.
- When emerging from a minor road, you fail to spot a vehicle in the road opposite you.
- Failing to spot a vulnerable road user when turning right from the major road onto a minor road.
- Turning left or right when you do not have priority.
- Failing to anticipate the actions of other road users in the road opposite you.
- Poor positioning when turning right
Here are some tips to help you on your driving test.
- Use the MSM routine when dealing with crossroads as you would any other junction.
- If you spot the crossroad ahead warning sign, reduce your speed as you approach the junction and look left and right to check for emerging traffic.
- You can fail your driving test if you drive straight through a crossroad without reducing your speed or looking at the minor roads. You need to show the examiner that you are aware of the junction and its inherent danger.
- The general rule of thumb when emerging onto the major road at a crossroad is give way if you’re crossing the path of another road user.
- If you are emerging from a minor road, and another vehicle is emerging from the minor road opposite you, do not assume the driver will give way to you, even if they’re crossing your path.
- If you are emerging from a minor road, and another vehicle is emerging from the minor road opposite you, do not assume that the other driver has seen you. Many drivers only look left and right, and they forget to look ahead when emerging at a crossroad.
- Look out for vulnerable road users when you’re turning right at a crossroad junction. Oncoming traffic can obscure cyclists and motorcyclists from view, so remain vigilant.
- Other road users can act unpredictably at crossroads, so make eye contact and only proceed when you are sure it’s safe.
- On some crossroads, road markings will dictate how you should position when turning right. Look out for these markings, as you could fail your driving test if you position your vehicle incorrectly.
- If there are no road markings at the intersection, try to make eye contact with the other driver to establish where they intend to position.
- You will fail your driving test if you do not reduce your speed when driving through an unmarked crossroad.