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Read our useful driving tips provided by Mark Farnworth, Group Vice-President or from other Group members or IAM RoadSmart where stated.

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Indicating just in case

As Advanced Drivers we should only indicate when another road user can benefit from our signal or in anticipation of such a signal being required.

This apparently straight forward piece of advice can actually cause no end of confusion when its applied in practise on our roads. Many Associates like to indicate ‘just in case’ they have not seen some road user or for a road user they can’t actually see but guess may be ahead. I’d like to share my thoughts with you on this potentially thorny issue.

Whether to indicate or not is like all other aspects of Advanced Driving —there has to be a well thought out reason for doing so. Indicating ‘just in case’ ALL THE TIME, removes the ’thinking’ and causes us to drive on ‘autopilot’. Anticipation is good but let it be based upon experience and evidence rather than guesswork.

Consider the following situation. You are in a rural area and are approaching a T-junction 100m ahead. You can see vehicles moving left to right and right to left on the main road ahead. You also note that there are bushes and trees down either side of your road all the way up to the junction. There is no traffic or other road users ahead and you also note that there is no traffic or other road users behind. You intend to turn left at the junction. Do you indicate ‘just in case’? Let’s say that you would. Okay, let’s put that to one side for the moment.

Consider the following situation. You are on a main road and intend to turn right into a side road. As you approach the junction you see a vehicle waiting at the end of the side road with its left indicator flashing. Do you believe this signal? I hear you say ”Not entirely, since he / she may have left the indicator on from a previous manoeuvre”. This is a very good point that you make. The driver was actually giving an ambiguous signal even though from his point of view he was indicating ‘just in case’. I hope you can see the point that I’m making.

Now consider the following situation. You are on a main road and intend to turn right into a side road. As you approach the junction you see a vehicle waiting at the end of the side road with no indicators flashing. However, as soon as you realise there’s no indication, you see the left indicator of his vehicle come on. Do you believe this signal? I would say that you are more likely to believe it than a signal that was already on. Having said this, as Advanced Drivers we should look at speed and position and then look at whether a vehicle is indicating or not. However, the overall point is clear. Indicating ’just in case’ could actually cause a momentary confusion in the minds of other road users as regards your intentions.

Indicating in anticipation of a signal being required is acceptable. Consider the following. You are going to turn right off a main road into a side road. There is no one behind or waiting to exit the side road. Just beyond the junction the main road bends to the left and you can’t see oncoming traffic. In this situation indicate right even though there are no road users visible. The driver of an oncoming vehicle wants to know why you are stationary on the road.

By Mark Farnworth

Disclaimer: Driving is never a black and white activity, but full of grey areas, therefore neither I nor my fellow Observers in the St Helens & District Group of Advanced Motorists are liable for any consequences you may experience as a result of reading our advice. You are the driver. You should be in control of your vehicle at all times.