ESSENTIALS SKILLS: Meeting Traffic

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The term ‘meeting traffic’ is a situation where the gap you are approaching isn’t wide enough for two vehicles to fit through safely and where one driver has to give way. Meeting situations could be as a result of road works, parked cars or other obstructions, which make the road space to be reduced, so there is only room for one vehicle to pass, and one of you has to give way. Forward planning and anticipation make all the difference when dealing with this sort of situation. You need to anticipate, and adjust your speed and position well in advance to deal with meeting situations. Meeting approaching traffic centres on avoiding conflict with other road users and your understanding of meeting situations would improve your ability for dealing with hazards in a systematic and safe way and you should be able to decide to either continue or to wait to allow approaching or oncoming vehicle through.

 Priority: who gives way?

As you approach a ‘meeting traffic’ situation, decide who has priority. Generally, if the obstruction is on your side of the road, you will be the one to give way to approaching or oncoming vehicle. Any time that you continue with obstructions on your side, you must not cause oncoming vehicles to change speed or direction. Be prepared to sacrifice priority when you are not sure if oncoming drivers are going to let you through (where the obstruction is on their side of the road). If there are obstructions on both sides you must slow down and be prepared to give way, as neither vehicle will have priority and the situation must be dealt with on its merit, and the most important thing is to aim to always put you in a safe position. Usually the driver who arrives at the gap first will go through first but there are no hard and fast rules. As soon as you see an obstruction ahead (on either side), you need to begin your hazard routine.

 Where you have obstructions on a narrow road, be prepared to “hang back”

If you need to stop, aim to keep a reasonable clearance from the obstruction to help maintain a good view of the road ahead, this is referred to as a “hold back” position. When giving way or holding back, leave plenty of space between yourself and the obstruction, this will maximise your forward vision and make it easier to move off when the road is clear, doing this will also help cars behind to realise that you are waiting to give way and not pulling in to park.

 Wait, go or don’t know

Normally in meeting traffic situations the decision to wait and give way, or proceed if the road is clear will be fairly straightforward and easy to make. However, there will be occasions when the situation is not quite so clear-cut. This is when you make a point of applying the ‘Don’t Know’ rule. If you don’t know, then give way or wait/stop.

 Less space, Less speed

When driving, remember the simple phrase ‘Less space less speed’. You should expect to encounter  problems, especially around parked cars, where doors can open, pedestrians may walk out between vehicles, cars may move off without signalling, so you must make sure that you are going slow enough to stop safely as there may be no other way to avoid the problem when vehicles are approaching. 

Dealing with complex situations

When dealing with more complex situations, before deciding on what course of action to take, consider the following: Is the available road width sufficient for both cars to pass side by side safely? If yes, then consider driving at slow speed, looking for gaps in the parked cars to hold back where and when necessary. Use the mirror-signal-manoeuvre routine and be prepared to slow down or stop. Always reduce your speed to a safe speed for the condition of the road.

We come across these meet situations very often on our congested roads, so it is essential that you do not rush into a meet situation assuming that we have priority but instead always approach with your speed well under control and be prepared to give way where necessary.

  …To be continued

Stephen K. Dieseruvwe

Director General, Delta State Traffic Management Authority (DESTMA)

**Driver Trainer and Road Safety Consultant

**Email: sdieseruvwe@gmail.com

**Tel: +2348167814928