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Learning to drive

Approaching a junction

There you are, driving calmly and happily down a road when you see the sign. There’s a junction coming.

Take a deep breath and shelve your panic - by the end of this article you will be completely prepared for any junction the road throws at you.

Keep your eyes open

Like with most things in driving, observation is key. If you’re aware of what’s happening around you then you have more time to react - it’s that simple.

Whether you’re planning on turning at a junction or not, you should always be on the lookout for them. The car in front of you may be planning to turn or other cars may be turning out of junctions and you need to be aware of them.

Remember the hazard perception part of your theory test? This is that but in real life.

Turning at a junction

Building on the usual Mirror - Signal - Manoeuvre procedure, there’s an acronym you should follow when approaching junctions, too: MSM(PSL).
Pro tip: don’t confuse this with PMSL; this is not an online gaming situation.
  1. Mirror

    As always: look in your mirrors to check what’s around you and take a general inventory of what’s happening. Look for pedestrians that might jump out at you when you get to the junction, be a bit nosy about what the cars behind you are doing and keep a good eye out for BOBs (boys on bikes!).

  2. Signal

    You know the drill. If you’re turning, signal with lots of time to spare to give everyone around you - including drivers, joggers in tight pants and cyclists who are always a bit faster than you think - time to react to what you’re doing.

    You should also be looking out for other people’s signals. If the person in front of you is signalling or someone is coming out of a junction without doing THEIR observation properly, that could affect you too.

  3. Manoeuvre

Position:

When you’re approaching a roundabout, you’ll often find a nice highways worker has painted white lines to split the road into two. You get in the left lane for turning left and the right lane for turning right.

When you’re coming up to a junction, picture it the same way. If you’re turning right at a junction, move towards the right side of your lane. Do the opposite for turning left.

This helps the people around you be sure of what you’re doing. Think of it as confirming your indicator.

Speed:

Once during a driving lesson I was feeling cocky and I didn’t slow down to turn left at a junction - I thought I was a rally driver in that insane moment.

My driving instructor screamed “DO YOU WANT TO DIE?!” and I thought that actually, no, I didn’t. So now I always slow down when I’m approaching a junction, and I suggest that you do the same. And maybe change your driving instructor if he shouts at you.

Start slowing your car with your foot brake early and select the right gear. Second gear is normally about right but if you can’t see much of the road you’re turning into, don’t be scared to take it real slow and go down to first.

Better to go slowly and not hit those kids playing football in the road, right?

At a closed junction (where you can’t see approaching traffic because of buildings, parked cars or a bend in the road), you must always stop and then move off again in first gear.

Look:

Get in as much early observation as you can - if you’re not approaching too fast, that should be lots. Are there cars parked in the road you want to turn into? Is there traffic right after the junction, meaning you can’t pull out?

If...

  • No cyclists have snuck up beside you
  • No pedestrians are sprinting out in front of you
  • The road you’re turning into is clear
  • You have enough time to make your move without causing other drivers to Slow down, Swerve, Stop or Swear

...then you can start your turn.

You don’t need to be scared of junctions. Just remember Mirror - Signal - Manoeuvre (Position - Speed - Look) and emerging at junctions will soon feel easy-peasy. No more junction nightmares for you!

You've nailed the approach - now it's time for a turn. Try turning left at a junction first.


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Honor joined ingenie in 2014 and is in charge of words on the Young Driver's Guide and blog. Her first car is a Peugeot 206 cabriolet, which is a very sensible choice for the British climate. Follow her on .