California Driver Handbook - Vehicle Positioning

Following Distances

Taking Dangers One at a Time

Suppose there is an oncoming vehicle to your left and a child on a bicycle to your right. Instead of driving between the vehicle and the child, take one danger at a time. First, slow down and let the vehicle pass. Then, move to the left to allow plenty of room to pass the child.

Splitting the Difference

Sometimes there will be dangers on both sides of the road at the same time. For example, there will be parked cars to the right and oncoming cars to the left. In this case, the best thing to do is “split the difference.” Steer a middle course between the oncoming cars and the parked cars.

If one danger is greater than the other, give the most room to the most dangerous situation. Suppose there are oncoming cars on your left side and a child on a bike on your right side. The child is more likely to make a sudden move. Therefore, slow down, and if safe, use as much of your lane to the left as possible until you pass the child.

Persons Who Present Dangers to Drivers

Increase your following distance and allow a bigger space cushion for drivers who may be potentially dangerous. Persons who present dangers are:

  • Drivers who cannot see you because their view is blocked by buildings, trees, or other cars.
  • Drivers backing out of driveways or parking spaces.
  • Drivers who pass you when there is a curve or oncoming vehicle(s) ahead.
  • Drivers about to be forced into your lane to avoid a vehicle, a pedestrian, a bicyclist, an obstruction, or because of fewer lanes ahead.
  • Pedestrians with umbrellas in front of their faces or hats pulled down over their eyes.
  • Distracted people, such as:
    • Delivery persons.
    • Construction workers.
    • Distracted pedestrians, such as those on the phone or texting.
    • Children, who often run into the street without looking.
    • Drivers talking on cell phones or speaking to their passengers.
    • Drivers taking care of children, eating, or looking at maps while driving.
  • Confused people, such as:
    • Tourists, often at complicated intersections.
    • Drivers who are looking for a house number or who slow down for no apparent reason.

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