Ask yourself the question: “Is there anything ahead which could cause me to change speed or direction” – even easing off the gas, or shifting road position to go past a parked car becomes a “yes” under this question.
If there is anyone close, work out what they will see. If you need to slow, then slight pressure early on the brake will ‘signal’ your intentions to slow. Consider an indicator if it will help anyone, though be careful not to confuse them. This is where things get interesting (hence the question mark on this one!). Imagine you are following a car down a road. He has to pass a parked car, near a road on the right. If he starts to signal right, you are left wondering what he will do? Is he signalling to pass the car? Is he turning right? What does the guy coming towards him in the other lane think? Now consider the same situation when the car in front doesn’t signal – you can be reasonably safe in the assumption that he is going to continue past the parked car – no signal is necessary. However, if you are changing roads, or lanes, or moving off where your actions might affect someone, you will usually need a signal. If in doubt, ask these 2 questions: “Could it help?” and “Could it confuse?”.
Once you know who is around, and have told everyone what you are doing, start to position yourself for the manoeuvre or junction. Remember that people will read your position like a signal, so make sure it fits in with what they expect of you. Make your life easy by positioning early, but try to keep out of everyone else’s way. When turning left, follow the kerb, but keep your door’s width if possible. When turning right, follow the centre lines, and don’t encroach into oncoming traffic. When overtaking, give at least a door’s width where possible, with cyclists this is a minimum, try to give 2 door’s width to them, as they are less steady. Imagine yourself on the bike – how much room would you want to be given?
Most manoeuvres need a speed reduction. You now know who is around, and have started to take your position for the manoeuvre or junction. Planning early will allow you to slow smoothly, braking first (or easing off the gas if that is all that is necessary), then changing into the gear you feel you will need to use through the problem. Be aware that when changing down to a lower gear, you often need to stay on the brake until your clutch is up in the new gear. You won’t stall unless you need to stop, and you can always put the clutch back down again. Bringing the clutch up in a lower gear will regulate your speed, especially if you are travelling down hill, and gives you more control. When choosing gears, don’t change through every intermediate gear. In modern cars this is unnecessary, and making 3 gear changes (say from 5th to 4th to 3rd to 2nd) takes your mind off the road conditions when 1 change will suffice (5th to 2nd).
At all times you should be looking and assessing. This is similar to your hazard perception test, anything which you would’ve clicked on is something which should kick into DECIDE mode, therefore starting the MSMPSL routine. After all, if the hazard doesn’t develop, there is no problem. However, leaving it late to start this routine will mean that you may have to react sharply, causing problems to other road users. Spotting possible problems early, assessing them correctly and reacting to them smoothly is the sign of a good driver. Keep working on it, you will get there sooner than you think!