Tips from Driving Examiners: Are you flashing at me?

This was a situation a candidate recently found herself in on test with me. Have a read and think about what you would have done in the same situation.

Picture the scene: the candidate, whose name is Emily, is driving well and we’re travelling along a winding residential road on a dry day. Vehicles are parked randomly on both sides of the road.

As the main road curves around to the left we approach some parked cars on the left, just before a narrow side road on the left.

A car is waiting to pull out from the side road and the driver’s view of the main road is obscured by the parked cars.

Another car is coming towards us along the main road and signalling to turn right into the side road.

Emily decides (quite rightly) that there’s enough room to drive around the parked cars, as the approaching car slows to position to turn right. Just as she’s about to steer around the parked cars, the right-turning car flashes its headlights. Emily says to me “He’s flashing me through” and continues.

The car that’s waiting to turn right out of the side road appears to react to the flashing headlights at exactly the same time as Emily and suddenly pulls out of the side road directly into her path! Luckily, Emily’s reactions are good and she brakes hard to avoid a collision.

Here are some questions to help you think through this scenario:

  • Why did the driver flash his headlights at all?
  • Was he trying to tell the driver in the side road to emerge to make it easier for him to turn into the narrow side road?
  • If so, could either of them see Emily’s car approaching the parked cars?
  • Was ‘the flasher’ inviting Emily to come through?
  • Would the emerging driver have pulled out anyway?

Highway Code rules 110 and 111 tell you what you need to know about flashing headlights:

  • You should only use them to let other road users know that you are there.
  • You shouldn’t assume someone is inviting you to proceed when they flash their headlights.

On this occasion there was no need for the driver to flash his headlights, and what could have been meant as considerate driving instead caused confusion and nearly ended in a crash.

And Emily? Well, she passed with flying colours!