You may have at some point recalled a car garage engineer referring to a vehicles component location as being nearside or offside.
So what does nearside and offside mean?
The nearside offside definition for cars is as follows:
Easily remembered by using the kerb. The passenger side of your vehicle is closest to the kerb whilst driving in the UK. So think of the side nearest the kerb – nearside and the drivers side – offside.
Other than the various nearside and offside vehicle components however, there are other situations when the nearside and offside phrase is used.
When turning right at a crossroads along with the vehicle on the opposite side of the crossroads turning to their right, a decision has to be made whether to turn nearside or offside.
Turning at crossroads
When two vehicles directly opposite are both turning right at a crossroads, there are two options on how to do this. Occasionally a crossroads may provide lanes and directional arrows to assist, but most don’t so it’s down to the drivers to sort it out. The two options available are:
- Nearside to nearside – where vehicles turn in front of each others passenger door to passenger door, or nearside to nearside.
- Offside to offside – where vehicles turn behind each other, driver door to driver door.
Turning nearside to nearside
By far the most common technique for turning right with another vehicle at a crossroads is nearside to nearside. Although this is technically the most unsafe technique due to the other vehicle turning blocking your view of the road ahead of oncoming vehicles, it is widely used.
Drivers tend to prefer to assess passing distances based on the front of their vehicle, making this technique the most frequently used. Ensure you stay on your side of the road until you can safely observe it is clear of oncoming vehicles before proceeding. Certain staggered junctions or crossroads make this technique inappropriate and the offside to offside technique the easier option.
Turning offside to offside
Technically turning using the offside to offside technique is the safest method as stated by the Highway Code. The reason being is that it allows for a clear view of any oncoming vehicles so to assess safely if it is safe to continue or give way.
The issue with this technique however is if there is more than one vehicle turning right from each side of the road, the second vehicle if waiting close behind the first vehicle, will prevent the vehicle on the opposite side of the road from turning as it will be blocking the way. The offside to offside technique is seldom used and if used frequently would cause significantly longer traffic queues on busy roads.
Nearside to nearside or offside to offside
If there are no road markings to assist, then it is a reasonable bet to assume that traffic will be using the nearside to nearside method. However, don’t assume this is the case without assessing the situation. Look at other vehicles turning on the crossroads to establish the technique they are using and follow accordingly. It’s not advised to use the alternative technique than other vehicles as this is likely to cause confusion.
The offside to offside and nearside to nearside rule is often used whilst turning at crossroads. The crossroads tutorial offers a guide along with diagrams on how to best use these junction types safely for the practical driving test.