**** J is for Junctions ****
A junction is where two or more roads meet, usually with a minor road joining a major road. There are many types of junction - including;
Junction on a bend
How to identify a junction?
The most common road markings surrounding a typical junction would be a give way line, or a stop line. The centre line may also change to a hazard line. This is where the centre line becomes longer, and warns you of a hazard ahead, such as a junction, slip road, roundabout, sharp corner, etc.
You may also find different signs surrounding junctions. These could be give way signs, STOP signs, warning signs (warning you of the type of junction coming up) etc. Some signs have a 'thicker' line - this indicates the main road and therefore who has priority.
Road signs & markings help us identify a junction. We may also look for gaps in houses, gaps in rows of parked cars, and other cars pulling in/out of the junction.
How to deal with a typical junction:
A closed/blind junction means we're unable to see clearly what is on the main road that we're trying to emerge onto. It could be that the angle of the junction makes it difficult to see, or that houses, trees, or other 'street furniture' is getting in our way. This may mean we have to take extra precautions and creep out carefully at the junction, to get the best view of the road before emerging fully onto the main road.
Where a junction is open - meaning we can see clearly what is coming both ways as we approach the junction - we may not have to stop (unless there is a STOP sign). We could look nice and early, plan ahead, bring our speed down, choose an appropriate gear, and drive out of the junction safely.
MSPSL (Mirrors, Signal, Position, Speed, Look)
I teach the MSPSL routine to help students understand what we need to do on the approach to a junction, and how to deal with junctions safely. The MSPSL routine works for approaching any junction, roundabout or hazard. It's a good routine to remember, but it's important to understand why we're doing each step, and why it's important.
We would check our middle mirror to tell us what's behind us, then our left door mirror if we are turning left, or the right door mirror if we are turning right. It is best practice to check our mirrors in pairs.
Our middle mirror gives us a 'true' picture of what is behind us. Our side mirrors are slightly curved (convex), therefore gives us a wider view, however makes everything look further away - so we need to take that into account when making decisions as to when to pull out, overtake, turn, etc.
It's also important to think about what you're going to do if, for example, a car is following you closely, or there is a car next to you when you're trying to change lanes.
As you progress in your driving, you will learn the skills of anticipation and judgement - they take time and experience, and your instructor can support you with this.
Typically we would indicate left or right. Sometimes if we're following the road ahead, we may not indicate. It's important that our signals don't confuse other road users - and this is why it's important that we check our mirrors first, to see who's around.
It's also important to understand what a signal actually is - it could be a number of things.
A signal is something that shows others our intentions, here are a few examples;
- Indicators - shows where we're going
- Road positioning - shows where we're going
- Brake lights - shows we're slowing down
- Reverse lights - shows we're reversing
- Headlights - warns road users of our presence
- Speed - indicates whether we're likely to turn into a junction (for example, if we see a car approaching really fast with it's indicator on, it's unlikely they're actually going to turn, so we should be cautious of trusting an indicator alone).
Our position can tell other road users a lot about where we're going. If there is more than one lane, we can choose the correct lane appropriate for where we're going. We can use road markings and arrows on the road to help us, and also by looking at road signs which may show which lane to choose for different directions.
Even if there is only one lane, our positioning can still be a powerful signal. If we 'hug' the kerb to the left and follow that kerb round, it would show other road users that we are going to turn left. If we stay to the right hand side of our lane, it would show other road users that we are going to turn right.
Speed is important - firstly, it can be a signal to other road users as to where we're going or what we're planning to do, but having our speed under control will really help us control the car when we're making a turn at a junction or roundabout etc. Bringing our speed down not only gives us more control over the car, but also allows us to plan ahead better, and gives us more time to deal with the junction and our surroundings.
Speed and gears are also closely linked together - if we bring our speed down, but fail to change down a gear, we still wouldn't have as much control over the car. So it's important to bring our speed down to a suitable speed for the turn that we're making, and then choose an appropriate gear for the speed that we're doing.
How much we bring our speed down would depend on a number of factors, including how wide or narrow the turn is, how many lanes there are, how sharp the turn is, whether it's a blind/closed junction, whether it's a give way or stop line, other traffic, road conditions, weather conditions, and even your own skill and ability etc.
Last but not least, it's important to look!
We need to look out of the junction if we're emerging, to make sure it's safe to turn - this would include looking left and right at a typical T junction for example. Even if we were turning left, it's still important to check to the left - what if there was a vehicle overtaking another vehicle, and was in your lane on the main road?
If we were turning into a junction, it would still be important to look around - if you're turning right we need to ensure there are no oncoming vehicles who we need to give priority to, and whenever we turn into a junction it's important to check the road is clear first! Imagine if there was a pedestrian walking across the new road, or there was a queue of traffic in the new road?
It's important to take in your surroundings, look out for hazards, plan ahead, have good car control, have good judgement, and good decision making skills.
*Sections reproduced with the kind permission of Mercury Driving School