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Lesson Plan 5 - Meeting Traffic

Meeting Approaching Traffic


As a general rule if the obstruction is on your side of the road oncoming vehicles have priority. As well as parked cars you may have road works, traffic calming measures, a skip etc. Any time that you continue with obstructions on your side then to do so you must not cause oncoming vehicles to change speed or direction.

Be prepared to sacrifice priority when you are not sure if oncoming drivers are going to let you through (where the obstruction is on their near side). Try not to leave it too late when deciding on your course of action so that you do not find yourself coming to a sudden stop or proceeding too fast.


CyclistTry to give a car door’s clearance when passing parked cars – you should be able to do this when there are no oncoming vehicles or if the road is wide enough that oncoming traffic is not affected.

Give cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders plenty of room when passing. Give cyclists enough room where possible so that if they fell off you would still avoid them – in particular when:

  • It’s a windy day
  • The cyclist is a young child
  • The cyclist is travelling up a hill


Where you have obstructions on a narrow road

Be prepared to “hang back”

If you need to stop, aim to keep a reasonable clearance from the obstruction to help maintain a good view of the road ahead, this is referred to as a “hang back” or “hold on” position. You do not want to look like you are parking up (if you are too far to the left). Move off safely as soon as clear.

M-S-M routine. Occasionally a blind spot check may be needed and you should consider a signal – applying if you think anyone will benefit.

Cars 2

On approach follow the M-S-M routine

(Example for approaching if you were the yellow car on the diagram)


Check your mirrors well before changing speed or direction. Here you will be doing both – you will need to move over to the right to pass the red car which is parked up and as the obstruction is your side of the road you may need to stop.


Consider a signal and indicate right if you think anyone will benefit. Your road position and speed will also confirm your intentions.


Position – move over to the centre of the road where possible to approach.
Speed – approach slowly enough to allow you to come to a smooth stop if necessary (if you are not sure there is enough room for both you and any oncoming traffic). Here the yellow car would need to give way to the blue car, as the obstruction (red car) is on its side of the road.


Where you have obstructions on a wider road

Cars 3

There is a fine balance between making progress and being too hasty. On more main routes in particular you won’t want to be stopping unnecessarily. Approach slowly enough to enable you to stop smoothly if necessary and be aware of not only car doors opening but pedestrians walking out from behind parked cars or vehicles emerging from side roads.


M-S-M Routine


Any time that you can’t afford to give a car door’s clearance because of oncoming traffic then – the closer you get to the parked cars (obstructions) the slower the speed.

Equal Priority

Slow down and assess the oncoming vehicle’s speed and position to help judge their intentions, be more willing to hold back for oncoming traffic as you will be able to control the situation and not rely on other people. Be more willing to give way to traffic travelling up a hill, especially larger vehicles.

Flashing Lights

Some people may flash their headlights as a sign they are willing for you to proceed. Judge their speed and position to confirm their intentions to let you through. The true meaning of flashing lightsis as “a warning of presence”. So be sure of the other driver’s intentions. The lights may not have been flashed for you or may have been flashed accidentally. To avoid any misunderstanding, and possible accident, do not use flashing lights to beckon people on.


Do not commit too early to pass obstructions on bends in case you have oncoming traffic.

Traffic Calming Measures

To slow the traffic down in housing areas, schools and other built up areas where otherwise traffic may go too fast. They are also located where there is only room for one vehicle to pass at a time i.e. through a narrow tunnel or over a narrow bridge.