Urban Driving
Driving in The City

Urban Driving Strategies: Dealing With Congestion & Hazards in The City

Updated Aug. 14, 2020

New drivers often do not realize what a challenge city driving can pose. You may not be traveling at high speeds when driving around a busy, metropolitan area, but you will nonetheless be afforded very little time to spot and react to hazardous situations. It is very easy to become distracted and make dangerous mistakes while driving alongside so many other motorists, pedestrians, buses, delivery vans and cyclists, in such close quarters. In this section of the course, we discuss the unique challenges that city driving presents and the tactics you must employ to manage these risks.

City driving hazards

The two biggest problems you face when driving in a city are limited space and a whole lot of distractions impeding your reaction time. Not to mention the fact that the speed limit and driving rules you must adhere to can change dramatically from one street to another. Safe city driving demands that you can identify and respond to hazards in the face of excessive noise, boisterous drivers, ever-changing traffic signs, signal lights and hundreds of other road users. The hazards of city driving are fully explored during the first module of this section.

City driving strategies

With the right city driving strategies, you can protect yourself and other road users from harm. Most problems can be avoided by moderating your speed and knowing how to position your vehicle correctly. While maintaining a safe distance from other vehicles, drivers must maximize their view of the road ahead and avoid taking any action that disrupts the movement of traffic. Our “city driving strategies” section deals with these issues, alongside scanning for hazards, choosing the safest routes and covering the brake to cut-back your reaction time.

Dealing with congestion

During morning and afternoon rush hours, congestion will limit the flow of traffic and make it difficult to maintain enough space around your vehicle. You must know how to drive safely in slow-moving, tightly-packed traffic. There are also some driving behaviors that must be avoided in this situation, as they can worsen congestion or cause an accident. These issues are explored in our “dealing with congestion” section. We also discuss how to manage city intersections while avoiding gridlock, dealing with aggressive drivers, and the advantage of choosing side streets rather than main thoroughfares during periods of heavy congestion.

Dealing with construction

Detours and construction zones are common in metropolitan areas, as city streets are subject to a great deal of wear and therefore require frequent maintenance. Closed stretches of road are usually marked with signs, signals and traffic cones – so they should be easy to spot. Nevertheless, drivers must exercise additional caution around construction zones and other maintenance sites, as there are often pedestrian road workers occupying the street. When you see a closed lane up ahead, be sure to merge into an appropriate lane at the earliest, safe opportunity. Learn more about dealing with city construction zones in our full exploration of this topic.

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City Driving Hazards
Urban Driving 2 of 5

City Driving Hazards

There are few driving environments more challenging than busy, urban areas. When driving in the city, you must safely share the road with all kinds of traffic and pedestrians. In addition, you will be dealing with a wide variety of obstacles and traffic control devices. There is so much information to process while driving in the city, hazards are often overlooked.

Urban Driving Strategies
Urban Driving 3 of 5

City Driving Strategies

With so many other road users and hazards to contend with, driving in the city can be stressful and dangerous. Safe city driving relies on your ability to spot hazards and react to them appropriately. With appropriate training, you can make sure you always have time to avoid an accident.

Dealing with Traffic Jams
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Dealing with Congested Traffic

City traffic is at its worst during early morning and late afternoon rush hours. Maintaining a safe space around your vehicle is practically impossible during these high-congestion periods. In this situation, you can expect traffic to be moving extremely slowly and stopping often. Vigilance is the key to preventing gridlock.

Trucks, Buses and Emergency Vehicles 3 of 4

Sharing the Road with Emergency Vehicles

Motorists must exercise caution around emergency vehicle operators, as they are exempt from adhering to standard road rules when their sirens and lights are activated. This makes them incredibly unpredictable.

Trucks, Buses and Emergency Vehicles 4 of 4

Sharing the Road with Slow Moving Vehicles

Slow-moving vehicles are those designed to operate at a speed of 25 mph or less, such as farm vehicles, animal-drawn vehicles, road maintenance vehicles motorized construction equipment. By law, slow-moving vehicles must display an orange triangular emblem at their rear to warn road users approaching from behind of their low speed.

Trains & Railroad Crossings 1 of 2

Sharing the Road with Trains

Vehicle-train collisions are often catastrophic. Drivers must know the tremendous risk they subject themselves to when trying to beat a train to a crossing or drive around protective gates. Understand the risks and avoid injury at railway crossings.

Trains & Railroad Crossings 2 of 2

Railroad Crossing Safety Rules

Crossing railway lines is incredibly dangerous, as the sheer size and weight of trains means that motorists will always come off worse in a vehicle-train collision. Do not take chances or engage in risky behavior around railway-highway intersections. In these situations, impatience or poor concentration could cost you your life – not to mention the lives of your passengers.

Driving In Different Environments 1 of 2

Driving in Different Environments

Mastering vehicle control is not the only battle you will face while learning to drive. Student drivers must learn to adjust their driving behavior and new-found vehicle control skills to suit different driving environments and mitigate the risks which accompany them. The type and level of danger you are exposed to while driving can change dozens of times over in a single, short journey.

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Risk in Driving Environments

The challenges you face when driving depend heavily on the type of road you are using and whether that road is in an urban or rural environment. As part of your driver's training, you must learn to identify the risks linked to each driving environment and act preemptively to avoid danger. Different driving environments fall into one of four graded risk classifications: controlled, low, moderate and complex.