Tips from the examiners: sharing the road

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A driving examiner encourages us to consider all road users, and understand the challenges they face on the road. Doing so, he argues, will make all our journeys easier and safer.

A young woman once said to me that because she’d been a waitress and understood the problems associated with that job, she would always be nice to waiters. A kind gesture on the face of it, but does that mean that, because she’s never been a postman, she will not show the postman any understanding? And what about the window cleaner? Because she’s never been a window cleaner or experienced the issues that window cleaners face, does that mean she will not see things from their point of view?

People often take the same attitude on the road. I remember a 17-year-old telling me that, because he did a lot of cycling, he understood the dangers facing cyclists and would, therefore, always give them plenty of room. What about lorry drivers, then? Just because he’s never been a lorry driver, should he assume they have an easy life and do not deserve courtesy or understanding? What about horse riders? Lollipop men and women?

Having personal experience as a particular road user and understanding the problems they face on the road should not blind you to the fact that everyone faces their own challenges and has their own perspective. We’re all just trying to get there safely, so we should show some tolerance.

Being a pedestrian is something we’ve all experienced. We’ve all had to walk alongside and across busy roads. We’ve probably all taken risks and crossed the road when it was not 100% safe. I know that I’ve made some mistakes as a pedestrian, and I’m thankful to the drivers who gave me space and time on those occasions.

Learner drivers are another case. If you’re not actually learning at the moment, you were probably a learner driver at some point. Remember what that was like? They’re sometimes slow and they get in your way, but didn’t you do just that too? Have a heart, because we’ve all been there.

And how a road user behaves may not be specific to their journey. People have personal and professional matters on their mind, even while they’re driving, riding or walking.

The driver of the car in front may have just lost his job.

The pedestrian crossing the road may have just been diagnosed with a serious illness.

The driver of the lorry going around the roundabout may have only just passed her lorry test and may be extremely nervous.

Who can judge? The fact that you have not actually experienced that road user’s situation does not mean they’re not worthy of respect and understanding.

Harper Lee, the author of 'To Kill a Mockingbird', wrote

‘You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.’

You may never get to ‘climb into the skin and walk around’ as a lorry driver, a horse rider, a cyclist or a motorcyclist, but you’ve been a pedestrian and probably a learner driver. The next time you’re in your car, think about what other road users’ challenges may be, and how you can make their journey that bit easier and safer.

Remember

  • Every road user has a reason and a right to be there.
  • Every road user has something to deal with that may not be immediately obvious.
  • Every road user makes mistakes.
  • Every road user has an off day.

Read more about sharing the road with other road users, and what we call ‘defensive driving’, in The Official DVSA Guide to Driving – the essential skills.


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