Driving in built-up areas
When driving in built-up or urban areas there are many potential hazards that the motorist may encounter. Pedestrians, children and cyclists can all be added to the list of things to watch out for along with all the usual traffic related hazards you may come across. Your observational skills and road sense need to be finely tuned to deal with what may be very busy roads with a lot of pedestrians milling around.
Bikes, motorbikes and scooters
In this 'environmentally aware' world that we now live in, we are constantly being encouraged to try and use our cars only if we have to, and to either use public transport or smaller and more economical forms of transport. In inner city areas, two wheeled transport can often be a much easier way to get around especially in heavy traffic. This has led to an increase in two wheeled transport and particularly cyclists in busy urban areas.
You will need to be especially careful to check your mirrors and your blind spots when making any manoeuvres in urban traffic situations. In busy traffic queues motorcyclists and cyclists are quite likely to make full use of their smaller size and may overtake you on either side of your vehicle. When sitting in a queue it often tempting to quickly slip into a faster moving lane, always indicate early and check your mirrors and blind spot just before you move.
Hundreds of accidents occur every year involving cyclists and motorbikes in similar situations to the above, and we must all try to watch out for them.
Pedestrians and children
One of the main reasons we have a 30mph speed limit (and even 20mph in some areas) on our urban roads is because of the danger of fatal injury to pedestrians. If you hit a small child at 30mph it is significantly less likely to be fatal, than if you hit them at 40mph. Unless stated otherwise the speed limit an any urban area that has street lighting is 30mph, so keep to it.
Extra care should always be taken in residential areas and near schools. Children are often blissfully unaware of the dangers of traffic and can take unnecessary risks when crossing roads. Be careful near parked cars where a child could easily run out into the road from between the cars. Even though the speed limit may well be 30mph in such areas, it is a good idea to stay well below it in such areas as it not only reduces the chances causing a fatal injury, it also gives you more time spot a hazard and take action to avoid an accident.
In busy cities or town centres you should always watch out for pedestrians stepping into the road. Sometimes the pavements will be so crowded (especially before Christmas) that people will occasionally step off the pavement, always try to keep a safe distance away from the pavement.
Buses and coaches
Urban areas are likely to have a many buses and coaches on the streets. The key to safe driving around buses and coaches is to be patient and be aware that they could stop at any time. Take care when overtaking a bus or coach as there may be school children on board who could run out from in front or behind the vehicle and into your path.
Buses are usually long vehicles and so you need to make sure that you have sufficient time to overtake without causing a hazard to any oncoming vehicles, if in doubt, stay where you are.
Many large towns or cities will have clearly marked bus lanes which are usually for their exclusive use. There may be times when regular traffic can also use a bus lane and these times will be shown on signs at the side of the road. In some cities such as London for example, the bus lanes (which are marked in red) can also be used by taxis and two wheeled transport such as bicycles or motorbikes to help reduce congestion.
If any vehicle uses these lanes when they are not permitted to they can receive a Fixed Penalty Notice if they are caught on camera. These fines are usually between £60 and £70 but can be as much as £120 in cities such as London.
Driving in built-up areas need not be a problem as long as you keep your speed down and be patient with the traffic. Driving defensively and using your mirrors will often help you spot potential problems long before they become a major issue.
Regular drivers in urban areas can sometimes develop an 'aggressive' driving style which is something you should be prepared for. Just remember that it is always best to take your time, look ahead and not make rash judgments when driving in busy urban traffic, it's better to be slightly late for something than be involved in an accident.
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