Driver Anticipation

As a driver, anticipation is one of the most important key skills to learn. To become proficient, It’s a skill that requires many hours of driving experience and can only be achieved when carried out alongside concentration, observation and awareness.

What is Driver Anticipation?

Driver anticipation is where the driver observes their surroundings and based on what they see, predicts an outcome. Driver anticipation is a key component of defensive driving and requires the driver to predict potential hazards before they become an actual hazard.

Many road accidents occur each year due to a driver not properly reading the road and failing to anticipate a potential hazard. The potential hazard then becomes an actual hazard, by which time it can be too late to react.

Anticipating Road Hazards

Driver anticipation requires actual driving experience to learn and master. Although no tutorial can teach it, we can give you a good idea of what driver anticipation is all about and where to start.

Road Markings and Signs

Triangle road signs provide warnings and certain road markings such as hatched areas also warn drivers. As a learner driver you’ll probably not notice many signs and road markings, but as your observational skills improve, you’ll learn that many of the signs and road markings offer drivers advance warning of hazards.

Rural Roads

In the UK, rural roads represent the most dangerous roads to drive on, with excess speed being the leading cause of accidents. Why are rural roads dangerous? Rural roads are often the national speed limit (60 mph), can often have narrow lanes and sharp corners. For inexperienced drivers, this can be a lethal combination. On rural roads, you should anticipate a slow moving vehicle such as a tractor just around a sharp corner. Cyclists may also appear from nowhere. Misjudged corners with excess speed leads to a loss of control. Always drive at a speed that you’re capable of safely stopping if need be.

Motorcyclists and Cyclists

When stopping in traffic, you should always anticipate that motorcyclists and cyclists may filter past. Always be aware of what’s around you and behind you by checking mirrors before any change in speed or direction.


Buses frequently drop off and pick up passengers. If following, keep your distance and anticipate that they may stop at the side of the road. Equally, when the bus driver wants to move out from a stop, they will indicate their intentions. Be courteous and let the bus out.

Large Vehicles

Many of the roads in towns and cities are not designed for large lorries and buses. If you’re following a large vehicle and approaching a junction, you should anticipate that they may need far more room and may take up space in another lane. Give large vehicles plenty of space to manoeuvre.


As pedestrians, children can be unpredictable, particularly when there’s lots of them. At school starting and day end, anticipate that children may unexpectedly cross the road and make last second dash across pedestrian crossing areas. Smaller children attempting to cross a road can also be easily obscured by parked cars.

Emergency Vehicles

You’re likely to be spending a lot of time driving in towns and cities. These densely populated areas see a lot of emergency vehicles making their way through the congestion. The moment you hear the sirens of an emergency vehicle, check ahead and in your mirrors to try and locate it. Anticipate that you may need to stop to allow the vehicle through. Look ahead for the safest place to stop and signal your intentions if doing so. If at a red light, and the emergency vehicle cannot go round, make all attempts to move to the side rather than going through a red light.

Traffic Lights

Traffic lights are an excellent traffic system for practicing anticipation. If down the road you see traffic lights that have been green for some time, you can anticipate that they are likely to turn red as you arrive. Equally, if you see red lights, slow down a little as they are likely to turn green as you approach. This means you do not have to stop, which helps to save fuel.


When approaching a junction or making a left or right turn, always anticipate that a pedestrian may be, or about to cross the road. Additionally, at light controlled pedestrian crossings, ensure the area is clear of pedestrians before driving on. If approaching a zebra crossing, scan up and down the crossing area to look out for approaching pedestrians.


Junctions represent an area where most accidents occur on our roads and it’s often due to drivers not looking properly. When approaching a junction on your left or right and see waiting traffic, you should anticipate that a vehicle may pull out in front of you, particularity if the road is busy. Additionally, always approach a T-junction at an appropriate speed that allows you plenty of time to observe and stop if necessary. Always look up and down the road at least twice in each direction before moving out into the new road. If in doubt, wait for a safer space.

Two Second Rule

When following another vehicle, always anticipate that the vehicle in front may abruptly reduce speed. To ensure you have enough time to stop, no matter the type of road you’re driving on, always follow the 2 second rule.

Bad Weather

Bad weather makes driving more hazardous. In wet conditions, you should consider that your view of the road ahead may be obscured with raid or road mist and that it’ll take longer to slow down and stop. The 2 second rule should be increased to 4 seconds. In slippery icy conditions, your following distance should be extended further to 10 seconds.

Night Driving

It’s far more difficult to judge traffic distances at night. If driving at night anticipate that you may not see everything as clearly as during the day and that you should allow yourself more time for pulling out of junctions etc.

Urban Driving

You’re likely to spend a lot of time driving around busy towns and cities. There are potential hazards everywhere and if you’re new to driving, it can be a little overwhelming. Anticipating potential hazards and dealing with them before they turn into actual hazards takes time and practice, but the more you work at it, the better you’ll become.

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