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Observations at junctions

The most common reason for failing a driving test

For many years, the number one reason for failing a driving test has been poor or inadequate obervations at junctions.1

All the most common reasons for failing a driving test - and how to avoid them!

A junction is defined as any place where one road joins another road. Roundabouts, crossroads, filter lanes, slip roads are all examples of junctions.

In this article we'll have a look (sic) at observations at perhaps the most common type of junction - a give way junction. But you should use the same type of obervations at all types of junction.

If you're unsure of what you need to do after reading this article, ask your instructor or get in touch.

How to approach a give way junction

Use the MSPSL routine.

Approach junctions at an appropriate speed. Too fast an approach will probably result in you either a) having to stop to check to see if it's safe to carry on or b) not making sure it's safe and risking your safety and the safety of other road users.

Don't approach too slowly either. Adjust your speed according to what you can see on the road you're joining - your zone of vision.

Observations at junctions - where to look

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One quick glance to the left and right (or, worse, a quick glance in one direction only) is insufficient.

You need to check the near, middle and far distance. Look left and right more than once if it's a T shaped junction or look left, right and straight on (again, more than once) if it's a crossroads type of junction.

If your view is in any way impeded by building, trees, parked cars etc. you're at a closed junction - the 'typical' give way junction. At these junctions, one quick look and you might not see the approaching motorbike or cyclist who is partly hidden behind a parked car. Or the van overtaking a lorry coming towards you on the 'wrong' side of the road - see below.

Why a quick glance is NOT enough

The video below shows the potentially fatal result of only looking one way when emerging.

Observations at junctions - blindspots

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1. Door pillars

Door pillars (or A pillars) can hide a pedestrian or an approaching vehicle. You might have to lean forward slightly so that you are looking around the door pillars. Note that the pillar nearest to you blocks more of your vision (and can hide a bigger vehicle) than the pillar on the passenger side.

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2. Parked cars

If your view is restricted by parked cars you should stop at the line so you can take a really good look before proceeding.

Quick, repeated glances in all directions are required. Try to look along pavements to see if a vehicle is approaching. If you are satisfied it is safe to proceed, do so with care, keeping your observations going. Be ready to stop again.


1 DVSA, Driving test failure reasons data, 29th October, 2020