Approaching and Emerging from Junctions

When you are first starting to learn to drive, approaching junctions to turn into and emerging from junctions can seem very daunting, but as with everything, it is much easier when you know how. Dedicating some time to reading up on the theory behind the practical skills is a great idea to give you more confidence for when you first get behind the wheel. In this article we will run through two of the main manoeuvres you will undertake in driving – turning from a major road into a side road, and emerging from a minor road into a major road.

Turning from a Major Road into a Side Road

When turning from a major road into a minor side road you need to always practice the Mirror Signal Manoeuvre (MSM) routine. The technique is slightly different depending on if you are turning left or right so here we run through both scenarios.

Turning Left

  • Mirror: Check your interior and left door mirror to check what is behind you to gauge the distance of the vehicles behind you. You need to be especially aware of cyclists that can speed past on your left-hand side.
  • Signal: Put your left indicator on at the correct time – early enough to warn the drivers behind you but not too early as to confuse them. If there is a left turn before the one you intend to take and you have your indicator on an emerging car may pull out in front of you.
  • Manoeuvre:
  1. Position – stay in your normal driving position and keep this position throughout the turn. If your vehicle is larger you may need to be positioned slightly more to the right.
  2. Speed – brake as you get closer to the turn and avoid putting your clutch down to help you slow down smoothly. As you get closer to the turn, and you have slowed down, you will now need to change gear to reflect the speed and the corner. Second gear is fine for most corners, but if the corner is sharp first gear is better. Make sure your clutch is all the way back up again before you turn the corner (otherwise you will be coasting which reduces your control).
  3. Look – look at the tightness of the corner and decide when you need to start to turn the steering wheel (finding the point of turn). The point of turn is usually as the pavement disappears in the front window. This can be different for every vehicle so ask your driving instructor and make sure you practice this manoeuvre in quieter areas initially. Keep your eyes peeled for hazards at all times as you turn. Once you are around the corner and into the new road you can straighten up, check your mirrors, and continue to drive as normal.

Turning Right

Turning right from a major road into a side road is a little trickier than turning left. Here we run through how to do it correctly using the MSM routine.

  • Mirror: check your interior and right door mirror to check what is behind you to gauge the distance of the vehicles behind you. You need to be especially aware of motorcyclists that can speed past on your right-hand side.
  • Signal: put your right indicator on at the correct time – early enough to warn the drivers behind you but not too early as to confuse them. If there is a right turn before the one you intend to take and you have your indicator on an emerging car may pull out in front of you.
  • Manoeuvre:
  1. Position – take up your position just to the left of the centre markings. Some busier roads may have a specific area for you to wait in.
  2. Speed – slow down as you would when turning left (see above).
  3. Look – the point of turn when you are turning right can be found when the front of your car is level with the middle of the road you are turning into. Use your right door mirror to gauge this and make sure you find the point of turn that is comfortable for the size of your car and the speed at which you can steer. Discuss the point of turn with your driving instructor and make sure you find the place which is comfortable for you when turning right.

Watch out for… when turning right you need to make sure you do not cut the corner as you may be faced with a driver who is emerging from the road. It is equally important not to turn too late as this may result in touching the kerb of the pavement. Have a practice in quieter areas at first so that you can take it slow.

Emerging from a Minor Road into a Major Road

Emerging means driving from a minor side road into a major road. It is not always necessary to stop completely before emerging into the major road, as the major road may be clear. However, it is a good idea to stop every time at first when first trying out emerging.

If there is a STOP sign or solid white line markings at the end of the minor road you do need to stop and apply the handbrake. These are called closed junctions and will have these markings in place as the view of the road is limited on approach.

Emerging Left

  • Mirrors: Check your interior and left door mirror to check what is behind you to gauge the distance of the vehicles behind you. You need to be especially aware of cyclists that can speed past on your left-hand side.
  • Signal: Put your left indicator on when it is appropriate to do so – making sure that you only signal left when yours is the next left turn.
  • Manoeuvre: With emerging you also need to go through the Position, Speed, Look procedure.
  1. Position – Keep your normal driving position when emerging left. If the kerb sweeps around to the left on approach to the junction, follow this around before you stop to check if the coast is clear.
  2. Speed – slow down on approach to the junction, if you keep your clutch up initially this will help you to brake smoothly. Engage the clutch as you reach the end of the road to avoid stalling.
  3. Look

To stop at the correct place at the road junction let the road markings disappear under the front of your car and stop at the line. Do not stop too early as this will make it difficult to view the road, and stopping too late can put the vehicle in a dangerous position overhanging the minor road into the major road.

If the road ahead is busy and you are required to stop for a while at the junction you should apply the handbrake. Also, if you are on a hill you should apply the handbrake even if you are only pausing at the end of the road (to stop the car rolling backwards).

Emerging Left – Joining the Traffic Stream

At this point, you have stopped safely at the junction, but now it is time to put the steps in place to emerge safely into the major road. These steps are Prepare Observe Manoeuvre (POM).

  • Prepare: Bring the car to the biting point.
  • Observe:

Start your observations by looking to the left and the right. At first, it can be tricky to gauge the speed and distance of the cars on the major road but this will come with time. The key thing is: if in doubt do not emerge.

Be aware of what other road users are doing – there may be cars turning left into the road you are emerging from and you need to be aware of this.

  • Manoeuvre:

Once you are confident that it is safe to emerge it is now time to manoeuvre.

  • Handbrake off: release all the way to the floor
  • Clutch up slowly: let the car move a little before coming off the clutch fully to avoid stalling
  • Steer to the left: steer to the left so that you emerge safely and on the correct side of the road.
  • Steer right: straighten up the wheels by steering right once you are almost straight on the major road. At this point take up the normal driving position, keeping the vehicle around a metre from the kerb.
  • Accelerate: you will now need to increase your speed to the designated speed limit – but make sure you do not accelerate too quickly.

Emerging Right

  • Mirrors: Check your interior and right door mirror to check what is behind you to gauge the distance of the vehicles behind you. You need to be especially aware of motorcyclists that can speed past on your right-hand side.
  • Signal: Put your right indicator on when it is appropriate to do so – making sure that you only signal right when yours is the next right turn.
  • Manoeuvre: It is now time to go through the Position Speed Look routine.
  1. Position – the correct position when emerging right is to the left of the centre of the road. Keep your steering wheel straight at this point.
  2. Speed – slow down on approach to the junction, if you keep your clutch up initially this will help you to brake smoothly. Engage the clutch as you reach the end of the road to avoid stalling.
  3. Look – stop at the junction line and apply your handbrake if you need to (see more detail on this in the ‘Emerging Left’ section).

Emerging Right – Joining the Traffic Stream

  • Prepare: Bring the car to the biting point.
  • Observe: Look closely at cars coming in both directions – you need to give way to both. Keep an eye out for vehicles that are coming from your left and may be about to turn right into the road you are emerging from. Make sure you are constantly observing whether there are motorcyclists crossing your path.
  • Manoeuvre:

Once you are confident that it is safe to emerge it is now time to manoeuvre.

  • Handbrake off: release all the way to the floor
  • Clutch up slowly: let the car move a little before coming off the clutch fully to avoid stalling
  • Steer right: steer to the right and take your position on the left-hand side of the road. If you are emerging onto a wide road you will be steering later than on a narrower road.
  • Steer left: once you are almost at a straight position in the major road steer to the left so that the wheels straighten. Make sure you are in the normal driving position at this point.
  • Accelerate: you will now need to increase your speed to the designated speed limit – but make sure you do not accelerate too quickly.

Conclusion

There are various routines that you can memorise that will enable you to both turn and emerge safely in your driving practice. Remember to Mirror Signal Manoeuvre when you are turning into a minor road. When emerging practice Mirror Signal Manoeuvre as you approach the junction and then Prepare Observe Manoeuvre to emerge from the junction onto the main road.