Hazard Perception While Driving – ICBC Test Prep

Welcome to Hazards While Driving – ICBC Road Test Preparation

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Is this one of the hazards while driving?

What is this hazard perception thing about?

“Hazard perception” is an official thing that people get marked on when they go for the ICBC road test. Depending on the road test (class 5 or 7), drivers will do this either when driving or when stopped. It’s a kind of simple test to ensure that a driver is thinking and aware of potential hazards while driving that may be lurking around their vehicle.

Preparing for your ICBC road test? Be sure to check out my epic article: ICBC Road Test Tips For Classes 5 & 7 [Instructor Gets Deep].

Hazard Perception on the ICBC Road Rest

Hazard Perception Question from Taylor: 

Apart from the hazards listed above what else could there be on a residential street? I was sure I listed five that I thought were reasonable, but apparently, I got one right. Are there stock answers that examiners want to hear?

ICBC Hazard Perception On Your Road Test

No stock answers to hazards while driving

I don’t think there are stock answers they are expecting, since every driving environment is different, if even at the same location at a different moment.

Will most hazards while driving be obvious?

That’s kind of the thing. I know that hazard perception can seem not-natural, and people think that most hazards will be obvious and that you will be able to react when necessary. Like you drive down the road, things happen, and you deal with them.

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White Out – Yukon, Canada

However, we need to go beyond that. We need to always be aware of the not-so-obvious hazards as well so that we don’t have to wait until something jumps in front of us and then react. Check out my article on defensive driving to learn more about Active vs. passive driver.

slower traffic keep right
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It is good to be proactive drivers, thinking all the time about possible problems, way before you actually encounter any, even if you’re just driving down the road and there is nothing on the horizon except a rainbow.

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Somewhere in beautiful British Columbia, Canada

Hazard Perception Examples

So, these hazards while driving could include anything, really. Things that you can see such as:

  • The obvious children in a playground zone
  • Pedestrians walking or about to cross in a crosswalk,
  • Things that you can’t see
  • Vision blocked by parked cars, shrubs/bushes/trees, hills, curves
  • A car could be backing out of a driveway surrounded by thick shrubs
  • Weather like slippery conditions, or the bright glare of the sun making it hard for you to see or for those who are facing you (oncoming traffic may be blinded), etc.
ICBC Hazard Perception BC Driving Blog
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Potential hazards around you that you may not be able to see

Even if it seems there’s nothing going on around you, there probably are still potential hazards.

Any intersection, crosswalk, road, lane, driveway, hill, curve, or front lawn, is a place where something exciting could happen at any moment! (I know, I’m a bit dramatic).

This is true even if nothing seems to be going on right now. This moment is only this moment. And personally, I find moments to be somewhat like snowflakes; no two are the same. (I know, I got deep there, eh?)

Hazard Perception Ideas ICBC
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Santa's underwear
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Somewhere in British Columbia. Santa’s underwear?

Hazards while driving are not just on busy roads

Personally, I’ve encountered a lot of things on a very innocent-looking residential street. All kinds of hazards could present themselves. A lot of people wonder about how fast to drive on residential streets, and it’s not really an easy question to answer. To learn more about that, check out my blog Residential Streets & Speed Limit Guide for BC.

  • A kid’s ball could roll into the road with the kid still chasing it
  • People walking around between parked cars
  • Pets like dogs could be running around
  • Parked cars could suddenly move
  • The car door suddenly opens
  • There could be a hidden stop sign
  • Cyclist
  • There could be a small animal like a squirrel or even a raccoon or skunk running into the road

All of the above at the same time, while torrential rain on Halloween at midnight.

Hazard Perception Ideas ICBC Road Test
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Potential Hazards While Driving

It’s not about memorizing potential hazards on the road

Like the rest of driving, it’s not about memorizing things. Rather, just look at what you actually see and identify what could turn into a hazard for you in that moment or a moment coming quickly.

The sky is probably not going to fall, and neither is that house going to implode, but other than that if you look around you will see all kinds of potential problems.

The truth about hazards while driving

Cars are moving things of varying mechanical conditions, going places on varying, challenging surfaces with varying lighting and weather conditions, including slippery ones; and are driven, invented, and maintained by naturally imperfect humans of varying skill levels – who are sometimes driving even when they shouldn’t be. (I know, my brain just exploded). And, we are not alone. There are always animals somewhere.

truck driving into the sun
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Keep your eyes moving all the time

Just look around (your eyes should always be moving anyways, right? Check out my blog on scanning intersections to learn why you should always scan from left to right) and imagine what other types of things may be potentially moving toward the same space, at the same time as you, and what state they might be in.

Judge other road users

Everyone nowadays seems to be moving towards this thing about not judging one another. That’s nice. But in driving, we have to. Judge everything. I give you permission. It’s really simple, really, a crucial skill to have, actually, and humans are naturally good at it, so that’s a bonus.

Are they focused? Drunk or impaired? Elderly or very young? Distracted? Asleep? Crying? Yelling? Looking for an address? Checking their email? Looking into the back seat at their child? Checking out an interesting pedestrian instead of watching the road? Brushing their teeth? Just robbed a bank? (see below) …

ICBC Hazard perception words and phrases
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Dempster Highway, Canada. A road made from shale and gravel could be one of the potential hazards while driving.

ICBC Hazard Perception Example Words & Phrases

Here are some common words you may need to use to describe hazards while driving. These are just a few examples. Keep reading to the bottom for the more unique and crazier ones.

hazards when driving
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Driving Hazards List ICBC

  • Car / Cars / Van / Minivan
  • Bus / Truck / Ambulance
  • Too close / Not Enough Space
  • Pedestrians / People / Humans
  • Speed Bump / Speed Hump
  • Can’t see / Vision Blocked
  • Bicyclist / Bike / Biker
  • Children / Kids
  • Animal / Dog / Cat / Squirrel / Duck / Chicken / Turkey *My sister lived in the Yukon for many years, and always told me about these small, brown rodents that used to always run in front of her vehicle on the highway. She called them “running poos”
  • Construction
  • Truck
  • Wet road / Snow / Ice / Dew
  • The curve in the Road
  • Warning sign / Yellow Road Sign
  • Dangerous driver / Car Speeding
  • Rough pavement / Bumpy Road
  • Turning right / Turning Left / U-Turn
  • Hills
  • Pulling out
  • Ice / Black Ice Possibility
  • Blind Spot / Blind Zone / Blind Area
  • Motorcyclist / Skateboarder / E-Bike
  • Snow
  • Turning left

For The Road Test – Hazard Perception While Stopped Or Driving

For the Class 7 Road Test (to get your N): You’ll be required to do this hazard perception while stopped/parked. Make sure to put your car into the park (or gear) and use the parking brake for any kind of pulling over or stopping like this.

For the Class 5 road test (to get your full license): You’ll be required to do this hazard perception while driving. I suppose that means you’re supposed to be able to think, drive, and talk, all at the same time, by then. To learn more, check out my article on ICBC Road Test Class 5 vs 7 [Prepare and Conquer].

Driving Hazard Perception & Awareness For Real Life

In real life, you’ll be required to do this hazard perception while driving at all times… I know, it’s just madness.

Hazards while driving in my personal experience

Personally, I’ve seen all kinds of crazy hazards over the years I’ve been driving, including…

  • Sideways garbage cans flying in front of my car in a windstorm (like, literally)
  • A full-sized ladder laying in the middle of the Ironworker’s Second Narrows bridge in the middle lane
  • A train crossing in front of me in the dark that had absolutely no lights, no warning lights, or stop sign of any kind
  • Driving through lightning
  • Driving through a white-out
  • Driving on a road where a car had just crashed into a fire hydrant, water shooting up into the air as high as the Eifel Tower, the roadway quickly turning into an Olympic-sized swimming pool but without all the proper and fancy lanes and flags and stuff
  • Cars driving the wrong way down the road coming towards me (two-way streets and also one-way streets, especially in downtown Vancouver, but also on squiggly roads in West Vancouver)
  • Tiny trick-or-treaters running across the road in a dark rainstorm on a full moon on Halloween
  • One time I was driving down the freeway at 100 km/hr and a bird ran into the side of my car. Kind of like how they sometimes run into glass windows when they’re flying. Nothing bad happened to me (can’t speak for the bird) but it freaked me out. A slight distraction
  • A horse crossing a busy street in rush hour in North Vancouver in a crosswalk
  • Three people wearing all black clothing, standing in the middle of the road with no divider (as in, they were standing basically on the yellow line) on the darkest road in the world (no street lights of any kind) and it was a massive rain storm. I drove right past them and saw them when they were standing right beside me. Freakiest thing I’ve ever seen while driving (unless those were ghosts)
  • One time on a driving lesson, my student was turning left at Hastings and Gilmore. It was busy traffic. I quickly realized that the bank on the corner was actively being robbed, and cops were chasing the bad guy out of the parking lot with their vehicles. I was so proud my student still focused on what she needed to do to safely turn left. I almost cried because I was so proud that she had not even noticed the bank robbery and police chase going in the other direction, progress. She completed her left turn as safely as could. It was amazing. Lesson learned: bank robberies can be distracting when you are driving. Focus is always needed.
  • I’ll admit something that I’m not proud of – I once ran over a squirrel. Not on purpose :(. I’m sorry squirrley…

Running over a soccer ball

I also once ran over a soccer ball that came flying out of a field and landed directly in front of my tire with no time to react. The kids looked so lost and hopeless that I had been so evil. They were now ball-less. And that’s just what happens sometimes.

Birds, Squirrels, & Student Drivers

The thing about student drivers and birds and squirrels is that they don’t go together very well. Lots of student drivers want to stop for birds and squirrels and other small animals.

Stopping for ducks ended in fatalities

This is okay maybe if there are no other road users behind you. But what about when there is, or if you don’t know? People have actually lost their lives because of stuff like this. I can remember a story of a woman stopping her car on a highway to help some ducks. And it did not end well for the souls coming next. It turned into charges of criminal negligence and dangerous driving causing death.

Think of the big picture

So we really do need to think about the “big picture” when driving. Is it worth slamming on the brakes for a squirrel when there may be a semi-truck behind you, that I can almost guarantee might be physically unable to stop at the same distance as you?

Stopping for squirrels

We need to think about all these things, and not just from our own, selfish perspective. Stopping for a squirrel can be seen as a self-serving act, one that, when you think about it, avoids the bad feelings of having not stopped for it. Remember that cars have horns, and this can be a much better alternative. Most small animals will run out of your way.

You may have to select one option

We are talking about human lives and the lives of squirrels or other small animals. Unfortunately, there may be a time when you may have to pick one. And it’s good to prepare for these moments ahead of time whenever possible. Sometimes the correct choice in life is the lesser of two evils, and that’s just how it is.


To an experienced driver, this whole hazard perception thing may seem strange. Obviously, we all have eyes and we can all see obvious hazards while we are driving.

Garbage can Hazards while driving
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However, new drivers do need to be taught to be aware of hazards of all kinds; whether it be the ones they can see or the ones that they can not see. This includes ones that we aren’t sure to exist (How do we know anything really exists, though, when you think about it?)

It’s important to get into the habit of actively thinking and looking for potential hazards while driving, rather than simply driving along enjoying the scenery, and then being unprepared when there is a “surprise.” Surprises are largely gifts for passive, lazy drivers.

This hazard perception stuff is all part of being a good ole every day safe and defensive driver… not just some silly random weird thingy that you have to practice and memorize in order to pass an (honestly) silly road test that you are gonna do once or twice in your entire lifetime, and then drive 9 trillion more miles or so (kilometers yeah) on your own. Just saying… / end of a random rant.

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Carmen Cohoe

Carmen became a driving instructor in beautiful North Vancouver at the age of 22 due to some crazy people who agreed to hire her. After that, there was never a dull moment teaching many different folks from many different places how to drive using automatic and standard vehicles and a minivan.

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