Road positioning is a key area of the driving test where examiners tend to be rather harsh. This is necessary due to safety reasons and many driving test are failed due to improper road positioning.
Road positioning isn’t just keeping in between the lines, it’s keeping a safe and appropriate road position in relation to circumstances at any given time.
This tutorial explains the key areas where driving tests are failed due to improper road positioning, plus tips to establishing correct road positioning for learner drivers and the driving test.
Driving reference points
As you start learning to drive, it can be difficult to understand where the car is in relation to the road. On a clear road with no obstacles, we ideally want to keep to the centre of the left hand side of the road. Some learner drivers find this easy, whilst other struggle.
If you struggle, it simply takes a little practice and before you know it, you will have the correct road position without giving it a second thought. It’s always good to use reference points to help a learner get started. A driving reference point may help you gain that ideal road position.
Whilst driving on a straight road without and obstacles such as parked cars, ask the person sitting next to you to tell you when you have an excellent road position in the centre of your lane.
Then make a mental note of where the left side kerb (or curb as it’s also known) or road line as it comes through the windscreen and onto the car dashboard. If it’s difficult to make a mental note of the reference point, you can use some form of marker such as a small piece of coloured tape for instance.
You may find it beneficial to stop the car once you have found the ideal road position, if so, ensure it is found on a quiet road where you will not impede other road users. These reference points should be used only as a guide for a normal driving position and temporarily until you become confident.
As road widths vary, this reference point should be used as an estimation only if you are struggling to find the correct road position. In general driving, try to remain in the centre of your side of the road. Driving too close to the kerb can result in a tyre puncture as there is often stones and debris close to the kerb. You may also risk hitting the kerb which may lose control of the vehicle, damage wheels and cause a puncture.
Tyres and tarmac rule
The tyres and tarmac rule refers to the stopping distance behind another vehicle when you have come to a stop in traffic. (See stopping distances for further information for braking and stopping distances at various speed limits). The examiner will be checking you do not stop too close to the vehicle in front because if their vehicle roll back, it may collide with the front of your car. Stopping too far behind another vehicle is dangerous as a vehicle behind you is unlikely to be expecting you to stop that far back and will not be prepared to stop.
Stop so that you can see all of the tyres of the vehicle in front and around a metre of road tarmac. This may vary slightly due to the height of the driver, although it provides a an effective guide to go by.
Correct road positioning
Bad or inappropriate road positioning can come in various forms. It all however stems from a lack of forward planning, anticipation and observation. By the time you have reached your driving test, you should be in the position to:
- forward plan your driving – know the correct procedure and driving routine in good time and well before you have reached a given situation.
- anticipation – to predict any possible hazards on a turn, roundabout or junction etc. These could be parked cars, cyclists, pedestrians etc.
- observation – constant observation primarily just in front of you and as far up the road as you can see and also frequently into all mirrors.
If you have mastered these, then it is unlikely you will find yourself in a bad road position. Below are typical driving test mistakes due to bad road positioning that can lead to minors or serious / dangerous test failures.
Road positioning on the driving test
Below provides some typical examples of where road positioning can become an issue during the driving test.
- Passing parked cars
A frequent problem on driving tests is learner drivers passing too closely to parked cars. Try to allow 1 metre gap from door to door when passing parked cars in case any open. If this is not possible due to road widths, a reduction in speed is essential. See passing parked cars for further information.
- Passing cyclists
Again, passing a cyclist too closely can easily fail a driving test. Allow at least a 1 metre gap if they are not in a cycle lane. Follow a very simple rule when passing cyclists, if you are in doubt if it is safe for you or the cyclist to pass them, hold back behind them until you are confident. See cyclists and cycle lanes for further help.
- Turning left
If your car is positioned too close to the left side of the road before making a left turn, it can result in hitting the kerb or even mounting the pavement whilst turning. Ensure you remain in the centre of the road before turning. See left and right turns for help.
- Turning right
Making a right turn safely depends on the road position of your car before taking it. A bad road position can result in hitting the kerb as you turn too wide or cutting off the junction corner. Either are likely to result in a test failure. Ensure you position the car correctly (left of centre line) and use the point of turn. See turning right for further information.
These include T-junctions, roundabouts and crossroads. Stopping too soon before a junction line reduces your visibility of approaching traffic and stopping too far over the junction line puts you in danger of being hit by another vehicle. See types of junctions for help on this.
Road positioning tips
When passing rows of parked vehicles, remain on a straight and steady course by not weaving in and out of the vehicles. Be prepared to give way to oncoming vehicles however.
Stationary road positioning tips
When stopping and moving in traffic, avoid stopping opposite parked car if there isn’t enough room for other vehicles or buses to pass. Avoid stopping opposite a bus stop if there isn’t enough room for traffic to continue if a bus pulls up.
Guides and tutorials related to road positioning
Below you’ll find some helpful tutorials in keeping an accurate position for your car during the driving test.