Anticipation and Planning

Whilst learning to drive, after you have grasped the basics of how to control the car and to use its controls to a reasonable level of proficiency, anticipation and planning is one of the major next steps in not only learning to drive, but to maintain safe driving throughout your life. “Anticipation and planning” provides you with the ability to:

  • anticipate – to predict something may happen such as a potential hazard ahead whilst driving
  • plan – to take appropriate action before the situation has occurred

“Anticipation and planning” is a skill that takes time to master and is not expected to be mastered immediately. To effectively anticipate a potential hazard requires that you must be constantly aware of your surroundings.

This includes around the immediate 360 degree vicinity by making use of mirrors and blind spots and continuing up the road as far as you can see. Once you have anticipated a potential hazard, to then plan the appropriate action for the given situation. Your driving instructor will help develop these essential skills until you are proficient.

Anticipation and planning example

Anticipation will have similar scenarios to those found in the theory test. Spotting them on a TV screen is relatively easy, dealing with them in real life, however, is more challenging.

Imagine you are driving in the red car as suggested in the image and you see a cyclist heading towards the junction line. Some cyclists stop to give way whilst others may continue round into your road without even as much as a glance. Whether the cyclist stops or not, you will need to anticipate that they will not stop and plan for such a hazard. What action you take will depend on how far from the hazard (cyclist) you are, what is going on around you and the width of the road.

Initially as with all potential hazards you will need to check your rear view mirror to see if any vehicles are behind you and how close they are in case you need to brake. If a vehicle is close, you should gently slow down sooner rather than later to give them time to react to your slowing. If the road is wide however and there are no other hazards in your immediate vicinity, you may have enough room to simply and safely manoeuvre round the cyclist with a check of the right mirror and possibly the right blind spot beforehand.

Of course, that is just one example of many. When anticipating and planning, look not only directly in front, but well ahead, keep constant check of all mirrors. Here are some typical areas that make frequent use of anticipation and planning:

Cyclist Emerging from a Junction
Cyclist Emerging from a Junction

Anticipation and Planning Tips for the Driving Test

  • Pedestrian crossings – traffic light controlled pedestrian crossings that have pedestrians waiting as you approach are likely to change. Keep a look out for waiting pedestrians well ahead of your position, as you get closer, you may also see the ‘wait’ light illuminated on the crossing control board which will give you another clue that it may change.
  • Parked cars – anticipate having to give way to oncoming vehicles if the parked cars are on your side of the road. If parked cars are on other side of the road, anticipate having to slow down or stop to allow an oncoming vehicle to manoeuvre into a space between cars.
  • Cyclists – cyclists can be unpredictable, especially near junctions. Anticipate a cyclist changing direction with little or no warning to other vehicles and provide them with as much room as possible.
  • Emergency vehicles – you may hear the sirens of an emergency vehicle but it can be difficult to know where they are coming from. Continuously check ahead and in mirrors and be prepared to pull over to allow a clear path.
  • Pedestrians – watch out for pedestrians near junctions and crossroads where they intend on crossing the road. They can be unpredictable so be prepared for them crossing in front of you. Stop and give way to them if necessary. Be especially cautious of the very young and old. Youngsters can often be prepared to take unnecessary risks and the old may simple not see you.
  • Eye contact – try to maintain eye contact with other drivers. For example a driver who is waiting to turn in front of you, if they are looking elsewhere and not at you, they may not be aware of you and could possibly make that turn regardless of your presence.
  • Vehicles moving off – look for signs that a vehicle could intend on moving off from a parked position into your path. This could be a vehicle indicating, slowly moving forward and/or turning their wheels into the road.
  • Roundabouts – when approaching a closed roundabout (one that is difficult to see traffic approaching or going round it from a distance), always anticipate and assume you will need to give way to a vehicle on the right. Plan by slowing down in plenty of time and to be at an approach speed slow enough to stop safely.
  • Motorcyclists – motorcyclists have a tendency to move past you, especially in slow moving traffic. Frequent mirror checks will help you spot motorcyclists approaching from the rear. Either move over slightly to allow the motorcyclist more room if safe to do so or remain in your current road position.

Is anticipation and planning important?

It is essential to learn and understand anticipation and planning in order to pass the driving test. More importantly however, the constant and correct use of anticipation and planning whilst driving is one of the most important methods of avoiding incidents on the road. It is used significantly in advanced driving and defensive driving training courses as these techniques will help to keep you, your passengers and other road users incident free.

3 thoughts on “Anticipation and Planning”

  1. Alice stokes

    Very good at helping about forward planning

  2. Would be nice if you could also add bus and big wagons mainly as they are slow moving and need more space. Buses change their signals very quickly from left to right, as I am learning the more I drive behind them.
    You have very comprehensive tips in your website and I like coming back to them after every driving lesson to reinforce the things learnt. Thank you.

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