Car backing out of driveway
A very good Question: I just failed my N test because someone was backing out of their driveway and I stopped. The examiner said I should have honked and kept going. What are the rules for this?
Cars backing should yield
Hi, Sorry to hear. Hmm well technically a car going backwards out of the driveway is supposed to yield to other cars that are just driving down the road (like you were). However, there is no law that says you can’t stop and allow the car out of their driveway if you want and if it’s safe to stop.
Personally whenever I’ve stopped in my life and let a car back out of their driveway, it has been at a place where I can tell that it’s extremely difficult for the driver to see the traffic, or difficult to back out (taking a lot of time, or bad visibility) and there has been no traffic whatsoever behind me… Or, there has been so much traffic (like in a traffic jam) that the traffic behind won’t really notice if I let the car out of the driveway because it’s going to be basically stopped the whole time anyway. Otherwise I don’t normally stop and let them out.
Traffic behind you
If there is traffic behind you and you stop, they may be annoyed or surprised because it’s a bit unusual to stop and let the car out. Also it might not be safe to stop and let the car come out because the traffic behind you probably isn’t expecting you to stop, as most people don’t. So there is a risk that you might be rear-ended by the car behind you. Of course, people are supposed to be having appropriate following distances so that they will never rear-end another car, but it’s still good not to surprise people if you don’t have to. Most people expect that the car in front of them will stop at stop signs and red lights, but they don’t generally expect you to stop and let every car back out of their driveway. (Even though that would seem like the kind thing to do! So props to you for being a kind driver!!)
Car going forwards out of driveway?
What if the car had been going forwards out of the driveway? What would you have done then? It’s pretty much the same situation except in your situation the car happened to be going backwards. Cars going forwards out of driveways also are legally required to be stopping and/or yielding to you and letting you go first. (And since we’re on the subject… Cars going sideways, and diagonal, and criss-cross or upside down out of driveways are also required to yield to you.. )
Normally we wouldn’t stop to let a car out of their driveway if they were going forwards; that car should stop and yield to us. So if someone is going forwards and exiting their driveway, usually they have a better view (Thus why we often recommend people back into the driveway whenever possible), so usually they don’t try to drive into you without knowing you’re there simply because they can see you easily (not like the backwards car).
When the car is going backwards out of the driveway it’s a lot more difficult for the driver to see you. So if it looks like they aren’t stopping and yielding to you, and you honk the horn, you’re just saying that there’s a car coming and he should stop and wait for you to go past. You aren’t getting mad, you’re just saying “Hey you, there’s a car here. Just hang on a sec.” Honking works wonders this way. Trust me, when you honk in that situation, people get alerted that there might be a danger (at least a reason why someone is honking) and they usually stop right away because they usually know that they are the one that has to yield. Then you can keep going safely.
Cars emerging from other places
Similarly… if you’re driving and a car suddenly comes out of a driveway going forward, or if that car is coming from another road where that car is required to yield to you, like facing a stop sign, and say the driver isn’t paying attention and it looks like they might keep going and run into you.. It would be an appropriate time to honk the horn and tell the car to stop. If you don’t, then he might actually keep going… Which would be dangerous not only because you might be rear ended by the traffic behind you if you stopped when you might not have really had to if you’d honked, but if that car keeps going across the road when it shouldn’t, keep in mind there’s often another direction of travel… so you could be putting other cars at risk who can’t see that there’s a car there doing something it shouldn’t. So usually when we see a car doing something it shouldn’t, it’s good to honk because it’s safer for all road users, not just you. It tells other people that something weird might be happening and they should maybe check it out. Does that all make sense?
The examiner’s perspective
So basically it might look to the examiner like 1) You are confused about the right-of-way rules because you yielded to a car that should have been yielding to you; and/or 2) You are not sure about the appropriate way to deal with a situation in which a car that is supposed to be yielding to you doesn’t.
I would recommend practicing honking the horn sometime when it won’t bother anyone just to get a feel for what it feels like and what it sounds like; as there are a lot of different types of horns and honks actually! Some cars you can tap the edge of the horn and it makes a nice light soft and friendly honk. Other cars you press it and it’s quite loud and sounds like you’re mad. Some horn buttons are easy to press and some you have to press it harder. Some have little buttons and most you just press the middle of the steering wheel. Most people think that if you honk the horn for a long time that you’re mad (which I admit can be true at times). If you honk it quickly then it’s a simple friendly alert. Some people can do a thing with 2 quick honks that seems to sound friendlier to some people. Keep in mind this is all just for safety. Do not be afraid to honk the horn!! The horn is your friend!! Most people would happily hear the horn honk and then stop their vehicle rather than not hearing anything and then unintentionally running into another vehicle that they didn’t know was there.. Honking can prevent collisions and even save lives. Have you ever honked your horn before?? It doesn’t mean you’re getting mad. A lot of new drivers seem to think that the horn has to do with anger! The horn is simply a safety tool, in fact it is illegal if your car doesn’t have a horn because it is so important to be able to alert others. You’re just alerting people of your presence. If they acted more like they knew of your presence, then you really wouldn’t need to honk. But in reality we do need to honk from time to time.
Hope that helps.