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Identifying a potential meeting situation
Meeting situations occur on narrow roads where two vehicles travelling in opposite directions cannot pass one another side-by-side. For example, you can end up nose to nose with another vehicle when driving down a country lane, entering a close, or travelling on a residential road with parked cars. A meeting situation could develop without warning, so planning your route before oncoming traffic arrives is key to staying safe.
What should you do as you approach a potential meeting situation?
There are two things you need to do when you approach a potential meeting situation;
Check your mirrors for following traffic
As soon as you see a potential meeting situation, check each of your mirrors and keep an eye out for following traffic. It’s important to check your mirror first before you change speed or direction.
If you spot another road user behind you, ease off the gas in good time and brake progressively. If you brake at the last minute, you could impede the following road user.
It’s worth remembering that cyclists and motorcyclists can be harder to see, especially in low light and adverse weather, so pay special attention to any nearby riders.
Scan the road ahead for gaps between the obstructions
If you think you could end up meeting traffic, look to the furthest point on the road and scan backwards. As you scan the road, look for oncoming vehicles and gaps between the obstructions, as you can use the space as a potential passing point.
Who has priority in a meeting situation?
This contentious point has led to many accidents as not all road users observe the rules. Generally speaking, you should give way if the obstruction is on your side of the road. So if the obstruction is on the left-hand side, you must hold back and allow oncoming traffic to clear the area before you move off again.
If the obstruction is on the right-hand side of the road, then technically, the oncoming vehicle should give way to you. However, this isn’t always the case. Some drivers do not understand this rule, while others choose to ignore it, resulting in drivers and riders taking priority when they shouldn’t.
It’s always best to approach cautiously and look to give way first, even if the obstruction is on the other side of the road. Only make progress when the road is clear, and you’re sure the other road user has given way.
What should I look out for on a narrow road?
When space is limited, hazards on one side of the road can force traffic to drive on the opposite side. If you’re on a narrow two-way road, look for obstructions such as parked cars, road works, maintenance vehicles, skips and traffic-calming measures. Anything that forces traffic around it could lead to a meeting situation, so keep your eyes peeled as you drive.
Passing an obstruction on your side of the road
Check your centre and right door mirror when you spot an obstruction on your side of the road and look ahead for oncoming traffic. If the road is clear, move out to the right, ease off the gas and pass the obstruction. Once complete, check your centre and left door mirror before moving to the left-hand side.
Adjusting your speed and positioning informs following traffic of your intention to go around the obstruction, so you do not have to signal on the approach.
If you spot a following vehicle or rider overtaking you on the approach to a hazard, delay passing the obstruction until the vehicle or rider behind you has passed. Moving out to your right while being overtaken is dangerous and will most likely lead to an accident or collision. Remember to check your mirrors and act sensibly on what you see.
If you signal right when passing an obstruction, following traffic could assume you are turning right and try and pass you on your left-hand side. If this happens, it could cause a serious accident as you return to your normal driving position.
Giving way to oncoming traffic
You’ll need to give way to oncoming traffic if there’s an obstruction on your side of the road and vehicles travelling in the opposite direction. If you try and race past the obstruction before the other vehicle gets there, it could cause a serious accident. Here are some tips to help you when giving way to oncoming traffic;
Use the rolling holdback technique
The rolling holdback technique allows you to give way to oncoming traffic without coming to a complete stop. The idea here is to keep traffic flowing in both directions by slowing down enough to allow the oncoming vehicle to pass the obstruction without you stopping and holding up following traffic. As well as helping with traffic flow, the technique also prevents bouts of road rage from other road users.
Stopping at each obstruction when unnecessary could frustrate following drivers, and this could encourage them to overtake you when unsafe.
Avoid getting too close to the obstruction
One mistake learner drivers make when giving way to oncoming traffic is getting too close to the obstruction in front. Aim to leave around 2m of space between your vehicle and the obstruction. Any less, and you could find it difficult to move off as your view of the road will be restricted. You’ll need a lot of steering to come out from behind the obstruction, increasing the chances of hitting the vehicle in front.
Avoid getting too close to the kerb
Don’t get too close to the kerb when giving way to oncoming traffic. Following traffic could assume you’re pulling up on and trying to overtake you if you do. This could then lead to an accident when you move off again. Instead, try to leave around half a metre of space between you and the kerb while waiting for oncoming traffic to pass.
Look out for overtaking vehicles and riders
Whilst holding back and waiting for oncoming vehicles to clear the area, it is important to check your mirrors, as cyclists and riders could filter up either side of your vehicle, and following vehicles could also attempt to overtake you while you wait. If you move off without checking your mirrors and a cyclist, rider or following vehicle passes your vehicle at the same time, it could lead to a serious accident.
Driving through narrow gaps
This is an area many learner drivers and experienced licence holders struggle with. Knowing how much clearance to give takes time and practice. Here are some tips to help you when driving through narrow gaps.
Look through the gap
As hard as it might be, it’s important to focus on the gap and not the hazards on either side when passing oncoming traffic in a tight space. If you focus on the hazards you’ll turn the steering in that direction, which could lead to you clipping a nearby vehicle or obstruction. Remember, your hands follow your eyes, so try to look through the gap.
Never rush when driving on a narrow road. Instead, always proceed cautiously and drive in a way that anticipates danger. The chance of an accident increases when you’re close to other vehicles, so keep your wits and expect the unexpected.
If you’re struggling with your steering, our guide on how to steer a car can help.
When driving on a narrow road, it is important to drive cautiously, as oncoming vehicles, pedestrians, and animals can appear without warning. While driving on a narrow road, look out for clues of oncoming vehicles such as the reflection of headlights, reflections in buildings and the sound of nearby engines.
When faced with a meeting situation in a narrow road, you should expect all oncoming vehicles to behave unexpectedly. Do not expect another driver to do the correct thing, be that slow down, give way or obey any rules regarding priority. Drive defensively at all times and be prepared to slow down or come to a stop if the need arises