Whilst learning to drive you will or perhaps already have been in many situations where you are driving on busy congested roads. Constantly stopping and starting in traffic.
Driving in busy towns and cities also constantly requires stopping and starting due to many traffic systems, notably traffic lights. Stopping in traffic may sound simple enough and on the whole, it generally is.
There is however a right and wrong way of doing it all of which the examiner will be keeping a keen eye on during your driving test. Let’s take a look at the correct way of stopping in traffic and the common mistakes made during a driving test.
The correct method for stopping in traffic starts well before you stop with anticipation and planning. This along with where you stop is a basic form of defensive driving. Defensive driving offers the driver the ability to have complete awareness of their surroundings, providing better control of their vehicle which significantly reduces the possibility of an accident. Although generally associated with advanced driving, you can call it defensive driving light if you like.
Anticipation for an example can be that you are driving along a town road and well ahead you see what appears a junction controlled by traffic lights. Upon initial acknowledgement of the light they are green and as you get closer they still have not changed. You can then anticipate them changing to green.
Another example is as you are driving, further down the road you can see a pedestrian crossing with a person waiting at them. Chances are, by the time you reach the crossing, the lights will change. Anticipation is what makes driving a whole lot easier. When you can predict a situation then it no longer becomes a surprise and surprises are not pleasant when it comes to driving.
As you have no anticipated a situation, you can now plan for it. This can be to prepare to stop for that pedestrian crossing for example. In plenty of time, take a glance into the rear view mirror, no one driving too close behind you so you can begin to ease off the accelerator in good time and gently brake to a stop.
Anticipation and planning is there for the most important aspect of stopping in traffic. Now for the actual stopping part. It’s important not to stop too close behind another vehicle. There’s little point in providing an actual numerical distance as there is no way of gauging this whilst driving, especially for a learner. So a simple rule can be applied; tyres and tarmac rule.
Tyres and tarmac rule
Very simply, as you are slowing down preparing to stop behind another vehicle, stop your car so you can still see all of the tyres of the vehicle in front, plus a bit of tarmac – roughly around 2 – 3 metres or so. Nothing technical, just that simple. Using the tyres and tarmac rule isn’t by any means accurate, but offers a learner driver a technique to gauge a safe stopping distance behind another vehicle whilst queuing in traffic.
This depends on a few things such as your height, height of your car, types of vehicle you are stopping behind, but generally, it will provide a safe distance.
But does it really matter? The majority of the time no, not really. Reasons of benefit can be a vehicle braking down in front of you. This will allow you enough room to manoeuvre round the vehicle to continue. Sometimes a vehicle in front may roll backwards, especially on a steep slope if they’re not too great at hill starts or on a slight unnoticeable slope they may roll backwards without realising. The tyres and tarmac rule will provide enough distance to take these situations into account.
It may however even save your life in your driving career. Rear collision impacts are all too common and are the result of a driver definitely not anticipating and planning and may have their attention elsewhere such as using a mobile phone.
If you glance into your rear view mirror and notice a vehicle travelling towards your stationary car with little or no intention of slowing or stopping, the last thing you want is to be unable to move out of the way due to being stopped too close to the vehicle in front. It’s highly unlikely you’ll have time to reverse and move off.
So stopping too close to other vehicles not only shuts off any escape routes in the event of an emergency, but is something that done consistently during a driving test could likely result in a failure.
Stopping in traffic and the driving test
During a driving test the examiner isn’t going to get out their tape measure (yes they have one) every time you stop too close to a vehicle in front. They are highly experienced and can gauge what is deemed too close or even too far.
Try to stick to the tyres and tarmac rule and if you get a little close on 1 or 2 occasions you should be fine. Just don’t make a habit of it and if you feel you are too close then make a verbal note of it to the examiner so they are aware that you realise your mistake. Similarly, don’t stop too far back either. This is dangerous as a vehicle behind you may not be expecting you to stop so soon and may force them to brake harshly.