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The Hazard Perception Test

Safe gaps when crossing intersections

A significant number of provisional driver crashes happen at intersections. Selecting safe gaps when crossing intersections is an important hazard perception skill.

Diagram arrow crossing an intersectio with vehicle on the right 3 seconds away and vehicle on the left 4 seconds

Features of crossing intersections
Crossing intersections can be almost as complicated as making a right turn. You need to look for traffic approaching from the left and right and look out for oncoming traffic that may be turning right. Most of the time you will be facing a Give Way or Stop sign as shown in the next picture. This means that the task can be very demanding, particularly when the road that you are crossing is busy and the traffic is travelling quickly.

From a stationary (stand still) position it takes at least 3 seconds to cross a typical intersection on a 2-way road. This means that you need at least a 3 second gap (about 50 metres in a 60km/hour zone) between your car and vehicles approaching from the right. You will also need a bigger gap, at least 4 seconds (about 70 metres in a 60km/hour zone), for traffic on your left to allow you to cross the intersection in safety and not cause the cross traffic to brake or swerve to avoid your car. These gaps are illustrated in the previous picture.

You may need less time to cross the intersection if your car is already moving. This may be the case when you are approaching a Give Way sign at an intersection and can proceed across without stopping. However, take care. It is difficult to judge your speed and that of other traffic from the left and right. If in doubt, stop and only cross the intersection when you are sure the gap is big enough.

Guidelines, not rules
These are guidelines only, not hard and fast rules. You will need to build your gap selection skills so you know what a safe gap looks like to you when you are crossing an intersection.

Key points summary: Safe gaps when crossing intersections

  • When crossing a typical intersection in a 60km/hour zone, you need gaps of at least the following:
    • 3 seconds to the right (about 50 metres)
    • 4 seconds to the left (about 70 metres)
  • If a gap is not big enough, don't go - wait till it is safe


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