Question of the Week 1


Why is undertaking (on a dual-carriageway) dangerous?


(My thoughts.)
Firstly it might be worth clarifying the term - in the UK undertaking is normally used to describe overtaking on the left 'inappropriately'. In some countries it is used as a legitimate term to describe passing in a designated lane, for example to turn left.

I thought I would Google for info and overtaking on the left and was surprised to find little or none.  What I did find were lots of quotes from the Highway Code coupled with 'overtaking on the left is dangerous' messages.
Overtaking on the left is not illegal (unless you use a motorway hard shoulder) - however, it is contrary to the advice given in the Highway Code and many police officers might consider it to constitute dangerous or careless driving. having said this, it depends on the conditions at the time - see Highway Code rule 268.

Statistics compiled by Nottingham University suggests that 14% of overtaking accidents involve cars passing on the left, also that older people figure highly in these accidents.
So why might it be dangerous?

Overtaking on the left has a social stigma which in itself can create road-rage and danger. This is commonly seen on motorways when a vehicle passes another on the left; the driver being overtaken will often speed up in retaliation creating danger for both of the drivers and others around them.

Drivers do not normally expect cars to pass on the left, therefore they might not see them coming - even if they look (we tend only to see what we expect or are looking for).

Left blind spot danger - while the right blind spot can be quickly checked, the left takes potentially more head movement (especially for those wearing spectacles) and has more to obstruct the vision (head restraints, door pillar, passengers, loads); this means the 'undertaker' might not be seen (or do I mean the driver will soon be seeing an undertaker?).

Overtaking near junctions is always dangerous, however, on a dual-carriageway this might present even more danger - drivers entering from the left might well assume that vehicles in the right hand lane are the fastest and emerge into the path of an undertaking car as a result. Likewise an undertaking driver will have restricted view of gaps in the central reservation where vehicles could be emerging, especially if passing a queue of cars.

On three lane roads leaving lane three to undertake could create danger if a vehicle is moving out from lane one to overtake at the same time - either because of blind spots or simply not expecting the lane three driver to move across.

Passing large vehicle on the left or right is fraught with danger on fast roads - however the driver of the 'heavy' will generally have more problem spotting a car that is passing on the left.
We've probably all seen drivers in the right-hand lane manoeuvre late to take an exit slip - do you fancy passing them on the left?


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Question of the Week 2


Is it wise to signal every time one pulls up on the side of the road, considering whether something is behind the car or not?
By making the observation checks as normal you will know what is happening all around the car; you now need to decide whether to signal your intentions... You can not make this decision before checking your mirrors because you need to know who needs the signal and who will be affected by it.


You will only signal to move off when it will be of help or use to another road user. Do not signal as an automatic response simply because you are moving off.


If there is no one to benefit from a signal, it will be a waste of time. Habitual unnecessary signals can also cause problems. By signalling automatically, you run the risk of (eventually) forgetting the necessary observation checks.

You might need to signal for pedestrians, cyclists, opposing drivers, drivers emerging ahead or traffic behind ... In fact, for anyone who will benefit!


Signal warning!


Be careful not to mislead others with signals, for example, sitting with your signal on while several cars pass you could be confusing for other drivers.

Mistimed signals can also be dangerous, for example, putting on your signal just as a cyclist or motorcyclist is about to ride past could startle them into braking hard or swerving.


Safe driving tip...


As an inexperienced driver, there will be times when you are uncertain whether or not to signal. 

If you have checked all around and are unsure about whether you should signal or not, the chances are that a signal will not do any harm even if it is not strictly necessary.

Question of the Week 3


Someone who has six points on their licence - are they eligible to take a test or do they have to wait two years under the 'new drivers act?
My answer.
The New Driver's Act (1995) states that if someone accumulates six or more points within two years of passing the driving test they have to revert to provisional driver status until another test (and theory test) is passed - a court might also impose a driving ban in addition to this.
The act only applies once - points gained after a re-test under the act do not lead to a second reversion to provisional status. (However, they could still lose their licence under the 12 point rule*).

Of course, it's not necessary to hold a full licence to get points - a driver could accumulate six or more points on a provisional licence. Points usually stay on the licence for a minimum of three years (depending on the offence). Because of this when the driving test is passed they will already be up 'to the limit' - this means that any further points will put the driver over the six point limit and the act will come into force.



Question of the Week 4


This week's question concerns examiner's decisions, and what happens if/when they get it wrong... 


An instructor came across the following situation on an L test recently:
During the independent drive element of the driving test the candidate was asked to "Follow the signs for Workington".

At two roundabouts this exit falls after 12 o'clock'. The road signs clearly identify this as the road ahead, (it's the only road the same   width as the road at the 6 o'clock position, all other exits are numbered different to the road we are approaching on.) 

The driver approached the roundabouts in the left lane, with no indicator and maintained the correct lane discipline throughout the roundabout itself. He also indicated to leave at the correct time prior to leaving the roundabout.

On the first roundabout all following traffic followed the driver lead with road position and signalling. On the second two vehicles took the opportunity to overtake on the roundabout. The driver correctly anticipated this and maintained a safe speed to allow the cars to pass comfortably.

On return to the test centre the examiner the examiner broke the news to the drive that he had been unsuccessful because of his positioning on the roundabouts. Which the examiner described as "confusing to other road users"
The 12 o'clock rule was then quoted as the "way things should be done!"

For the record, I would have approached and executed the roundabouts as "Workington" being "Road Ahead" (i.e., no deviation from the road I'm already on) and negotiated the roundabouts as the driver on test had. The instructor in question did ask for clarification about this and was again referred to the "12 o'clock rule"

I've advised the instructor to contact the sector manager to discuss the situation, but would appreciate your thoughts / comments. 

For me, from the way this is described it would seem to be a major error on the part of the examiner.


First let's look at what the Highway Code says (Rule 186)...


  • When taking an exit to the right or going full circle, unless signs or markings indicate otherwise

  • signal right and approach in the right-hand lane

  • keep to the right on the roundabout until you need to change lanes to exit the roundabout

  • signal left after you have passed the exit before the one you want

  • When taking any intermediate exit, unless signs or markings indicate otherwise

  • select the appropriate lane on approach to the roundabout 

  • you should not normally need to signal on approach

  • stay in this lane until you need to alter course to exit the roundabout

  • signal left after you have passed the exit before the one you want



'An exit to the right' is undefined, however, 'to the right' would seen to suggest a significant deviation from straight ahead. In this case the direction signs showed the exit to be straight ahead. This is covered by the second set of bullets above.


Next - what about the 12 o'clock rule?


The 12 o'clock rule doesn't exist! There is no 'rule'.

The clock analogy is simply a useful guide that serves as a good starting point for decision making. However, on many roundabouts, especially those with two lanes on approach and exit, the major route is offset to the right (beyond 12 o'clock) - to change lanes and follow the 'right turn signal' advice from the Highway Code on these roads wold certainly be misleading and possibly dangerous!

Finally the examiner's decision...


From the information provided the examiner was unable to 'justify' his decision on this issue - simply quoting 'the 12 o'clock rule' (a rule that is not a rule!) does not answer the question "What happened and what was the consequence/potential consequence". It seems that other drivers were not misled - indeed they followed exactly the same course of action!




The test result cannot be overturned, nor is there any evidence of the test not being carried out in accordance with the regulations, however, a test fail seems to be a very unfair outcome following what would s appear to be a situation in which the driver used commonsense and dealt safely with the prevailing conditions...


This issue is being raised with the DSA in terms of 'grounds for appeal' - I'll keep you in touch...