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Meeting Traffic

Meeting oncoming traffic:

During your driving lifetime you will use this skill on a regular basis and it is one of the necessary skills to master before becoming a safe competent driver.

What does meeting oncoming traffic mean?

When you and another road user both need to use the same road space at the same time.
This type of situation can be stressful if you do not know how to deal with it in the correct way.
You will meet this type of situation most commonly in a residential or built up area and on narrow roads.
When you need to give way to oncoming traffic then knowing where to stop and wait is essential.

When would I have to give way to oncoming traffic?

If there was a stationary vehicle or a hazard on your side of the road then to proceed you would have to change your position and drive out near or over the centre of the road. If there was another road user coming in the opposite direction then you may have to give them the right of way.

You should ideally stop about 6 metres (approx two car lengths) away from the stationary vehicle in front of you.
You should be signalling right so that following traffic will be aware that you are not pulled in or parked but are in fact waiting to overtake or change your position on the road.

Why should I stop two car lengths back?

Two car lengths (approx 20 feet) back makes it a lot easier to see around the stationary vehicle.
It also makes it easier to move around the stationary vehicle safely when the opportunity arises.
It makes it a lot easier to make effective observation into the road ahead than if you were stopped right behind the stationary vehicle.
This helps in your decision if the way ahead is clear and safe to proceed.

Who has the right of way when meeting oncoming traffic?

The priority in these situations is decided by on whose side of the road the hazard is on and if there is enough clearance available to proceed safely (usually a door width on both sides of your car otherwise you must slow down and stop if necessary). You will meet other road users who think that they always have the right of way, when you meet these selfish drivers it is best to let them go for safety's sake.

If you are always prepared to give way when meeting oncoming traffic then you will be a safer driver. By using effective observation when meeting any oncoming traffic then you will see the developing hazard long before it becomes an issue.

By following these steps you should be able to deal with most situations where you will meet oncoming traffic.


Having already used effective observation and identified a developing situation where you will be meeting oncoming traffic then the first thing to do is to check all of your mirrors.

Access the situation.

You will need to decide if you need to stop and if so, where to stop. By using effective observation and with plenty of practice you might be able to spot a developing situation where you will be meeting oncoming traffic, then you will be able to react early and slow down and by doing so you can avoid meeting the oncoming traffic altogether.


Stop if necessary about two car lengths back (approx 20 feet) and apply the handbrake.


Look into the road ahead and decide when it will be safe to move off. Check your mirrors and get your car into first gear ready to go when it is safe.


When it is safe you can pass the stationary vehicle remembering to give yourself a door width clearance ( one to one and a half metres) on both sides of your car if possible otherwise proceed slowly.

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