You’ve secretly been waiting for this section all along. Forget the thrill of conquering a corner or taking on a snowdrift, let’s talk about rights of passage.
For starters, the majority of car-on-car collisions occur at junctions and for one reason: failure to look properly as a combination of converging speeds and optical illusions conspire to unseat you. Junctions lurk everywhere in all shapes and disguises, from the bog standard T-junction to its more effervescent cousins in the forms of roundabouts and crossing points at major trunk roads.
As you run through town you should become accustomed to looking along the length of the car to the fore and aft using regular scanning and observation. The T-junction throws up plenty of issues, but they are nothing compared to leaving a junction during rush hour.
Sweet old ladies, fresh from rescuing stray cats, whiten their knuckles and stare ahead with grim determination if you dare to pop out and try to join their ill-tempered crawl. They have right of way, and never shall they yield.
The key to defeating the cold shoulder is to point your melon in the direction of other drivers so that they realize you mean business. Humans find it hard to resist looking at another face, regardless how ugly, and, once engaged, you quickly close the deal with an open-palmed salute and a Colgate smile. Then pull out.
However, assume nothing. Make sure you have a reasonably sized gap and delicately ease out while engaging with your fellow protagonists. On reaching the halfway mark, your odds of getting to the far side greatly improve as people realize you have the minerals to join their team.
In lighter traffic you have to be even more careful because speeds and expectations are higher. This is when the ‘look left, look right, look left, whoah, is that Cameron Diaz behind the wheel of that jeep, pull out and crunch into the unnoticed car from the right’ catches drivers out.
The Diaz moment is what psychologists refer to as an ‘elongated fixation’, which is as naughty as it sounds. Something in the scene draws your attention for longer than it should, you lose track of the time that has passed since you scanned each hemisphere and it leaves you vulnerable.
Besides thinking faster and looking more often to keep your information live, there are certain skills that improve your odds. When vision is restricted you can often use reflections in shop windows to see other cars approaching, or look through the windows of parked cars to see what’s behind.
For tricky exits onto more open roads, you can wind down the window and listen for road noise. That noise can even give you an impression of the vehicle’s speed.
When you’re on the main road, it helps to keep an eye out for side roads using telltales such as telegraph poles and street lights that suggest a side entrance, or scanning through open hedgerows for approaching vehicles. Expect people to come out blind from recessed entrances and position the car away towards the road centre for a better view. Again, reflections help, as do shadows from vehicles hidden behind walls.