Anticipation & Planning

To always be aware of what is going on around you, whilst also planning for what you need to do in response.
To know and understand the importance of anticipation and planning to enable you to plan ahead and respond safely to others actions.
  • To know the importance of anticipation and planning whilst driving
  • To recognise situations where planning and anticipation may be more difficult
  • To anticipate possible situations involving other road users
  • To be aware of the possible risks involved with other road users and plan for them
Anticipation in driving means planning well ahead and being prepared to take necessary action. To anticipate and plan for others actions you should be constantly checking what is happening all around you. It may be helpful to consider the following:

  • What are other road users likely to do next?
  • Should I speed up or slow down?
  • Do I need to stop?

Planning ahead and anticipating the actions others may take, can allow you too:

  • Avoid the need for you to make a sudden reaction
  • Maintain a safe stopping distance between you and other vehicles
  • Prevent some hazards from happening
  • Take early action if a hazard does occur

When driving always leave enough space and time to plan and react to what is ahead.

Approaching a hazard:
approaching a hazard MSM

Always follow the Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre routine. This is the process of taking and giving information. The mirrors will let you know what is happening behind you. This along with your general looking should give you a very good idea of what is happening all around you. The signals are you telling others around you what you want to do.

The manoeuvre breaks down into Position, Speed, Look. This routine will put you in the right place at the right time so you can have a proper look to know if it’s safe.

These are the routines that you should use when you are approaching any hazard.

Difficult conditions/situations:
In some situations it may be more difficult to plan and anticipate what will happen. These more difficult conditions include:

  • In bad weather, particularly heavy rain and snow
  • In heavy traffic
  • If the road is poorly lit and during dawn and dusk
  • If the route is unfamiliar to you
  • On a dual carriageway or motorway
  • In built up areas where traffic conditions change rapidly
  • On roads with parked cars along them
  • Near schools or entrances to businesses
Anticipate actions of other road users:
Other road users may display differing actions to what you would expect. To anticipate the possible actions of others you need to be aware of the risks associated with them.


Hazard MSM routine

  • Always plan for the possibility of a cyclist passing you on the left hand side as well as the right.
  • Take extra care when you need to cross over a cycle lane in case cyclists do not stop or signal


motorcyclist accident

  • Always look out for motorcycles, especially at junctions or if they are moving through slow moving traffic
  • Allow motorcyclists additional room if there are strong winds on the road, due to the risk of them being blown into your path.


child chasing ball

  • Always drive slowly in areas where pedestrians are likely to be on or near the road
  • Be aware of the possibility of pedestrians suddenly stepping out into the road
  • Take extra care when near schools

Animals (such as horses).

cow on the road

  • Always give horses as much room as possible on the road and slow down before passing them
  • If you are driving in an area known to have wild deer, look out for deer warning signs and keep your speed down

Emergency services.

fire engine

  • Do not panic
  • Check in which direction they are coming from and if necessary pull to the side of the road/safely stop
  • Make sure you don’t block the road

Buses and Coaches.

bus picking up passenger

  • Be aware of people getting off the bus and stepping out into the road
  • Also plan for buses and coaches pulling away from the bus stop
  • Take care with an overseas bus or coach that people don’t step directly into the road
Visual warnings and clues of possible hazards:
Road sign affecting driving

Sometimes there may be clues of possible hazards on the road ahead. These may be obvious and include road signs, overhead warning signs on motorways and upcoming junctions. Other possible clues are:

  • Traffic ahead breaking
  • Traffic slowing on a normally busy road
  • Flashing lights ahead – blue for the emergency services and orange for roadworks or breakdown services
  • Other vehicles suddenly changing lanes
  • Poor weather conditions
Anticipation and planning are vital parts of driving safely. If you can plan and anticipate the possible actions of other road users, then you will be ready to react if a situation does occur.

Remember to constantly check what is happening directly in front of your car, on the road ahead and in your mirrors.

Remember that some weather or driving conditions can make anticipation and planning more difficult, in these conditions you may need to slow your car down to allow you time to plan and react if necessary.

Always consider other road users and what they may do next.

You should be able to:

  • Know what to look for and where to look
  • Be able to deal with it safely using MSM and PSL
Further Reading:
The Highway Code Rule(s): 146, 160-161, 204-225

Driving The Essential Skills: Section(s) 7, 8 and 10


What’s in the driving syllabus?

Click on a topic below to get started.
Please note this syllabus should be used with a professional driving instructor.


Cockpit Drill

Safety Checks

Controls and Instruments
Moving Away and Stopping
Safe Position
Mirrors Vision and Use
Anticipation and Planning
Use of Speed
Other Traffic
Dual Carriageway
Motorway Driving
Country Roads
Pedestrian Crossings
Turning the Vehicle Around
Emergency Stop
Independent Drive
Fuel-Efficient Driving
Passengers and Loads