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Country lanes: :

Driving along a country lane means dealing with many types of bend, some fast, and some slow. With practice you will get used to deciding how fast to approach, how much to slow down, and how much to steer to get around them.

Whenever you approach a bend you should use the "slow in, fast out" technique. This means that you must slow down on the approach, enough to do all your braking before you start to turn the steering.

Many people find it difficult get the entrance speed right, especially after a long straight. It is often the gear change, whilst slowing that confuses. Just remember that if you are going too fast - Stay on the brake!  If necessary, change gear, AND bring the clutch up, while you are still braking. If you're going too fast - Stay on the brake!  

When changing down you can use: 3rd gear at 30mph, or 2nd gear at 20mph. When you are pulling away you can't get the biting point while you are on the brake - while you are slowing down you can!

Always be able to stop within the distance you can see to clear!  Your speed must be slow enough so that you can be sure that you can steer precisely around the bend, without swinging wide. Once the bend begins to open up towards the exit, then you can accelerate away.

The piece of string method: When you are steering around bends, your steering should be always balanced against either your braking or acceleration. It can be difficult to learn how to do this. One way is to imagine that:

  • Your steering wheel is attached by a piece of string to your brake pedal. As you approach the bend, you must ease off the brake as you begin to turn the steering wheel in. The imaginary piece of string is pulling up the brake pedal as you begin to turn.
  • Your steering wheel is attached by a piece of string to your accelerator (gas) pedal. As you exit the bend, you must ease off the steering as you begin to squeeze the accelerator. The imaginary piece of string is pulling the steering wheel back to the straight ahead as you push down the gas.

Reading the road: You will get better at driving around bends as you practice country lane driving. Part of this process is learning to "read the bend": What you learn to do over time is to subconsciously assess the limit-point. By understanding this concept, you will learn to "read" bends much more quickly. The main things to consider are:

  • The distance between the beginning of the curve and the limit-point show you how tight the bend is.
  • The speed at which the limit-point moves away from you shows you how tight the bend is, and if the radius is changing
  • In the bend you should match your speed to the speed that the limit-point moves away from you.
  • Always be able to stop, on your side of the road, within the distance between you and the limit-point

The following photographs show what you should look at as you approach a bend, and how to assess the curvature and the limit-point:

 

Looking across the bend

 

If possible look across the bend to see if there is any other traffic approaching, especially large vehicles. Look for the limit-point - This is simply the furthest point that you can see, where the two sides of the road meet (photo above).

 

Limit points on tight and larger bend

 

Assess the radius of the bend by looking at: The curvature of the left-hand, and right-hand edges of the road, and the distance between the beginning of the curve, and the limit-point (photo above)

 

Look at the signpost

 

Look at the roadsign. This warns you of the bend ahead, and sometimes will have a "max speed" plate attached (this is a warning speed and NOT a speed limit). It will however give you a guideline speed for the bend.

Re-assess the limit-point, which for a tight bend will remain fairly static as you approach. The speed at which the limit-point moves away from you shows you how tight the bend is. Make sure that the limit-point is further away than your minimum stopping distance (photo above). Re-check across the bend for traffic.

 

Limit point on a tight bend

 

Your speed should now be decreasing, braking hard if necessary. Aiming to do all your braking in a straight line - braking as you enter the bend will de-stabilise the car, and may cause your front wheels to skid sideways. Re-assess the limit-point - To emphasise - the speed at which the limit-point moves away from you shows you how tight the bend is. Make sure that it is further away than your minimum stopping distance (photo above).

 

Limit point on a large bend

 

At this stage you should have done all your braking. In the bend you should match your speed to the speed that the limit-point moves away from you. Your stopping distance, on your side of the road, should match, or be less than, the distance to the limit-point. For a constant radius bend your speed should be steady: This may mean being on the gas slightly to maintain it (photo above).

For decreasing radius bends, you may need to continue slowing down. These are the most dangerous type of bends because they curve gradually initially, encouraging a fast entry speed, then tighten up. On decreasing radius bends you often find a series of sharp deviation signs, rather than just the usual one sign.

 

Limit point opening into the distance

 

As you can see the bend open up ahead of you, and the limit-point races off into the distance, you can begin to straighten the steering and accelerate. The police phrase this "chasing the limit-point" (photo above).


Enhanced positioning: Moving out to the right on the approach to some slight, or double-bends can increase your view significantly through the bend and into the distance. This only applies generally if the obstruction caused by the curve of the bend is less than the width of the road.

On more right-angled bends it is best not to, because even though moving out to the right increases your view around the bend, giving you more time to stop if you see an obstruction ahead. It also puts you much closer to oncoming traffic, which may be travelling very fast.