The term “Hazards” implies a sense of danger and this may well be true in some cases. The Highway Code, however, defines a hazard quite simply as anything that will make you alter your speed, position or direction.
Some hazards are fixed or permanent. Junctions, bends in the roads, traffic lights etc. are permanent fixtures and local knowledge can assist with planning these hazards. Some hazards are temporary, however (parked cars, cyclists, road works), and no amount of local knowledge can prepare you for what is around a blind corner. Only by having a planned approach will you safely deal with these situations.
Hazard Drill (M-S-P-S-G-L)
Each time you are presented with a potential or actual hazard on the road (i.e. anything that may require you to have to change speed, position or direction) you should go through the following hazard drill one or more times. While each step of the drill needs to be considered it need not necessarily be acted upon.
Use your interior mirror and wing (side) mirrors early. Mirrors should always be checked in pairs to provide a complete picture of what is happening to the rear and side of you. Glance into your right and left blind spots as appropriate.
Make sure that you give the correct signal, in good time and so as not to mislead others. People should be able to see your signal, understand it and be able to respond to it.
Determine the best position/course to negotiate the hazard. Think before you change position; be careful not to mislead others. When moving to the right ensure that you will not unnecessarily block the path of oncoming vehicles.
Adjust your speed so that you can negotiate the hazard ahead and stop within the distance you can see to be clear.
Select the gear to match the speed and power you need. Make sure that the gear is selected before the hazard is negotiated and the clutch is raised to avoid coasting. Coasting is particularly dangerous as, because there is no connection between the engine, gears and road wheels when the clutch is pressed, you do not have full control of the vehicle by way of engine-braking or acceleration. The vehicle is also likely to pick up speed when coasting.
Continue to look ahead, assessing the hazard. Although this step is the final stage of the routine you should actually be looking and assessing the situation at all times.
Please note, it is not always possible to carry out the routine in the exact order shown (for instance, when going downhill it may make more sense to adjust speed before giving a signal), but the mirrors should always be checked first.
Assessing – what are your options?
Deciding – depending on what you can see.
Acting – either continue with the manoeuvre or wait.