Behind The Wheel: Tackling Traffic Lights

behind the wheel

Most learner drivers develop a fear of traffic lights, simply because other drivers and road users can get tetchy and competitive if you don’t get into gear and off the mark as soon as the lights turn green again.

Many drivers now move off on amber and expect other road users to get out of their way – not only is this illegal and dangerous, the sight of vehicles roaring off and pedestrians scattering to safety can be extremely nerve wracking for the novice driver.

behind the wheel

Traffic lights can also be extremely confrontational – if you have been cut up by another driver while approaching, being stationery in heavy traffic can be a nerve-wracking experience.

Being a careful and considerate driver is what the Highway Code is all about – but other road users can easily forget everything they were taught once they hit the road without an instructor.

Keep cool at the traffic lights with some tips on avoiding skirmishes once the lights change again.

  • Don’t feel pressurized by other drivers – pedestrians are often the targeted by drivers revving their engines to make them hurry up as they cross the road, but don’t be tempted to join in or move off too soon, as road accidents can occur. Some pedestrians may not be able to move fast or may have misjudged the time it takes to cross, so don’t badger pedestrians or try to frighten them by revving your engine.
  • Wait until the road ahead is clear before you move off – some drivers will always try and cross on red. This is their decision and eventually they will get caught – hopefully before they cause an accident. Take your time as the lights change and let more impatient drivers get out of your way first, if possible – a racing situation is not want you want to be in at a junction.
  • Plan well ahead when approaching junctions and do not speed up to them – pedestrians will be anticipating the change of lights and may dart out, making it difficult for you to stop in time, so slow down at traffic lights well in advance.
  • Make sure you are in the correct lane for your planned route – crossing lanes at traffic lights is a major cause of shunts, so don’t leave it till the last minute before getting into lane and expect other road users to let you nip in.
  • Don’t be an “amber gambler” – some drivers cannot resist trying to cross on amber, but don’t even think about it, as this is the danger zone for accidents, with pedestrians getting primed to cross and other road users preparing to pull out.
  • Don’t tailgate at traffic lights – and leave plenty of space between HGVs and buses in case they roll back unexpectedly. HGVs rolling back can crush your car and shunt it into the vehicle behind, leaving you trapped inside, so get out asap if an HGV starts rolling back, taking care to avoid traffic like motorbikes coming up on your inside.
  • Watch out for motorbikes and cyclists when the lights change and you pull out at junctions – road users on two wheels can be hard to spot and some cyclists or bikers may themselves try to shoot lights, so keep your eyes peeled.
  • Don’t use time spent at traffic lights for recreational activities or business calls – you need to keep your wits about you, not text your friends or set up business meetings.

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and is not intended as an instruction manual or as safety advice. All drivers should obtain professional tuition and pass a driving test before driving cars and other vehicles and should follow the advice of their instructor and in line with the Highway Code. The publishers and authors of this article accept no liability for any accidents or incidents which occur as a result of not obtaining professional driving instruction or any incident which occurs as a result of following the advice in this article, as other circumstances may also contribute to any accidents or incidents which do occur. Always practice driving in a safe open location away from other road users and pedestrians, under professional supervision.

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