On the following page are a selection of videos that guide you through some of the more challenging intersections within two test areas, Gosforth and Elswick. Review the videos and also read the notes here to accompany them.

What’s important to bear in mind is that several of the larger, more complex roundabouts are designed primarily to distribute the flow of traffic, and so being ‘user friendly’ is secondary. The first time you encounter this confusion is at roundabouts where the left approach lane is left turn only (eg; the one between Kenton Lane and Etal Lane when approaching from the A1 heading towards City Centre). As you approach you need to be in the second lane from the left, and your instinct is to stay in that central position through the roundabout. Remember that traffic in that left approach lane WON’T accompany you over, meaning that on the roundabout itself YOU are the left-most lane!

Other roundabouts are more counter-intuitive still, where the lanes you’re guided to follow seem to meander from side-to-side as you move through the roundabout, and probably the most confusing one is Holystone roundabout. The guide lanes to lead you to A191 occupy most of the lanes as you navigate through, add to this the fact that even if you’re following the correct route through – are other drivers? This is why it’s important to acquaint yourself not only with the correct flow direction, but also be vigilant in scanning around for others who haven’t!

* See the video on approaching technique (Quantum Driving) *


B&Q Approach from the east

(Elswick area)

Mirror/Signal/Manoeuvre

Lane discipline is probably the biggest failing of inexperienced drivers, so acquainting yourself with standard, accepted routes through challenging intersections will be a great help. Always bear in mind the purpose of signals, where the aim is to give other road users ADVANCED notice of your intentions without misleading them into thinking you’re going somewhere else. So let’s see how this applies to navigating through the B&Q intersection.

 

Approaching Scotswood Roundabout

Although there is a route where you’d stay in the left lane and be taken behind the Metrocentre, which I’ll post a separate video on, if you were taken westward along Scotswood Road the likelihood is you’ll need to move lanes to the right. Remember that you’ll more than likely be following SatNav, so be prepared for a late notice to “take the second exit at the roundabout”. The traffic will be travelling quickly (up to 50 mph or more) so move to the right safely but keep up to speed. When you cross the roundabout you’ll be checking for possible traffic accompanying you across to your left, so be mindful and signal left in good time to let road users know you’re leaving.

 

B&Q Approach

When you have two consecutive lefts or rights the proper procedure is to cancel the first signal and then re-apply it for the second one, otherwise road users following you may misinterpret your actions and think you’ve left it on by mistake. Obviously you’ll need to be aware of this if you’re following Newburn. On fast roads don’t slow down unless you have to! The roads are designed to keep the traffic up to speed and other drivers will be doing just that, so don’t impede the flow, it may not just be inconvenient it could be dangerous. If you’re heading for Benwell then be acutely aware of traffic on your left as you drift towards the centre or left lane at the bottom of the bank on the far side. Don’t drift left too early or you may inhibit traffic heading towards the A1. It may be useful to apply a left signal, but in any event bear in mind that just because you’re following the correct procedure doesn’t mean everyone else is!

Be aware of misleading or incorrect SatNav instructions! If you're following A1 North then using the right hand approach lane to B&Q is correct but you MUST keep up to speed. If however your route requires you to go through to the other side of B&Q but not actually join the A1 then the SatNav will incorrectly instruct you to also follow the right hand lane!

** Although light controlled roundabouts like these ease your progress through them, remember if ever those lights are broken you must treat the priority as you would at a normal roundabout** 

 

A1 North Direction from B&Q Roundabout

(Elswick area)

Unfortunately the vast majority of drivers on the road simply don’t understand the primary purpose of signals, namely giving other road users ADVANCED notice of their intentions. Consequently whether joining or leaving fast roads you have to exercise great caution for careless drivers who’ll simply move towards you without signalling, or just as bad signalling at the same time as they move. We still have to keep up to speed though on the assumption that we’ll be able to join the flow at those faster speeds. Remember that fast roads are designed so that you should be able to check whether or not you need to slow down rather than slow down to check.

The Hexham route is simply joining a fast road from a slip road as you would anywhere else, the only difference is it’s just around a bend rather than on a long, straight stretch. For the City West route there are localised issues involving complicated regulations for road markings which essentially mean that the lanes are more confusing than helpful, and it’s a matter I take great issue with. However the best way to treat the markings at this roundabout is to assume they’re marked as – Left lane: ahead and right Right lane: right only. Your default option for multiple choice lanes that head in the same general direction is always to the left, which is why we keep left on approach. Always check traffic that could be potentially merging with you incorrectly where lanes bend and change, so as you drift left – check left!

Redheugh Bridge North and South

(Elswick area)

The biggest reason for failure on test is incorrect road positioning, whether it be dangerous, unnecessary or without sufficient checks and signals. When negotiating busy intersections the correct procedures are therefore stringently observed by the examiner, and because inexperienced drivers are often distracted, it helps to become familiar with these intersections to help you in being able to demonstrate your driving ability without being taken by surprise. Don’t allow yourself to slow unnecessarily to check whilst on fast roads, it could be inconvenient to others or even dangerous!

On the outbound part of test you may be taken onto the bridge towards Gateshead by firstly going underneath the bridge itself and past Jury’s Inn. It’s simply a case of keeping to the left all the way around until you reach the bridge. Because you have no dedicated lights when coming from this direction you need to pay strict attention to the traffic flowing onto it. Occasionally you may be taken towards the Teams area once over the bridge at Gateshead, and then behind the Metrocentre to Scotswood Bridge. A separate video will be available for this at some point.


Elswick South Tyne

(Elswick area)

At one time the department used to publish its pre-set test routes, albeit with a disclaimer that they held the right to take you elsewhere at their own discretion, but it only takes a minor variance from the prescribed route for a candidate to find themselves out of their familiar territory. So although these two routes aren’t the norm it is possible you might find yourself on them. A common feature of both of them is keeping up to speed while still readjusting and maintaining your correct position on the road. Remember that your default is to the left unless you’ve a good reason not to take it, and dashed white lines indicate the left edge of the carriageway to help guide you correctly, and always signal in good time. On roundabouts don’t forget they’re basically a one-way street going in a circular path, so consider how traffic in other lanes off to the sides of you will navigate around too. Don’t forget, just because you’re doing the right thing doesn’t mean everyone else is! ...MSM.

 On the A1 North route you’ll find that even though on some stretches the maximum speed is 50 mph other drivers may drive in excess of that. It isn’t our responsibility to police their driving so whenever you find you need to use the right hand lane don’t drift so early that you impede them for long periods. Faster roads are designed so that you should be able to check whether or not you need to slow, and not slow in order to check, and for this reason knowing where your correct lane is will allow you to show the examiner how you can drive and not be hampered by having to solve advanced positioning tasks. So familiarise yourself with the various intersections on both of these routes whether or not you take the time to work out the logic of it, and hopefully if you find yourself on them it’ll help ease any potential troubles.


Kingston Park from Gosforth

(Gosforth area)

Bear in mind that fast roads are longer and designed to keep the flow going rapidly, so rather than slow to check, you check to see if you need to slow down. Where lanes wrap, twist and merge at complex intersections try to be aware of not crossing lane lines either side of you, and be wary of others who might! Multiple lane approaches can often confuse learners, particularly when the left lane is left only. For example if there are three lanes –left only – ahead – right only, then you’ll be approaching in the centre lane to go ahead. Your instinct will be to maintain that central position as you enter the intersection, but bear in mind that left lane traffic won’t be on the intersection they should’ve left, so now you’ll be the far left lane as you enter (usually a roundabout).

Beware ...most drivers either don’t signal at all, or just as bad the vast majority signal AS THEY MOVE! I really don’t know why this is, but it causes chaos throughout your journey and makes you mistrust anyone’s intentions. Unfortunately barring a public awareness campaign I don’t know the solution other than to warn you to be careful. For our own safety we should always let every road user know our intentions as far in advance as we can, without confusing them into thinking we’re turning off earlier. This is significantly important on this particular roundabout where you’ll want to let everyone know you want to leave shortly after emerging, but don’t mislead them into thinking you’re turning off before you actually are.

Holystone Roundabout

(Gosforth area)

This section of the potential test route challenges two vital skills (1) Joining fast flows of traffic, and (2) Awareness and road positioning.

In order to keep the flow going avoid unnecessary gradual approaches. So if you’re approaching a turn or stationary traffic use block changes (5th to 3rd or 4th to 2nd) rather than laboriously slow down in stages too far in advance. Fast roads are constructed so that you should be able to check whether or not you need to slow down, rather than slow down and check. Keep your speed going when joining and leaving fast roads, using the chevrons as a rough guide as to when you may want to come off the gas. Obviously if the flow has slowed then you have to adapt accordingly, but as a general rule wait until you’ve passed those chevrons and use maybe one minute of turn to gently guide the vehicle into the lane once it’s safe. Driving slowly on fast roads may not just be inconvenient it could be dangerous!

Roundabouts like Holystone are primarily designed to distribute the flow of traffic, and so might often be confusing even to experienced drivers who may routinely follow a different route or haven’t encountered this intersection before *** see the second paragraph of the yellow introduction. The route suggested should keep you away from traffic heading in other directions, but remember that even if you’re following a safe path others might not be (the first attempt at shooting this video had be abandoned as a van cut in from the left as we entered the roundabout!). It’s therefore vital that any changes of road position, however inconsequential you might feel they are, follow rigorous checks and signals at a safe speed in order to avoid collisions. The clip was shot at a time when roadworks blocked the inner/left lane when exiting the roundabout which have since been removed, if you feel it's safe once you're approaching the last bend then check and drift left. The route shown can still be followed and will actually keep you away from potential wandering drivers, but now if you've left in the right option then once you leave you need to move back to the left that's now clear again once it's safe. The new layout also means that once you approach the roundabout further along leading onto Great Lime Road you need to move to the right lane in good time if you're following the road ahead (left lane eventually becomes left only).

The planning department are aware of the complexity of this intersection and have published an animation, and I’ll put the link underneath.

https://my.northtyneside.gov.uk/category/759/a19a191-holystone-interchange


B&Q Return to DTC

(Elswick area)

Always exercise extreme caution when joining and leaving fast roads, most drivers will either not signal or signal as they move, as a considerate driver we’ll always signal in good time. This is particularly significant when leaving the A1 to approach B&Q roundabout, or if you’ve joined nearer this approach you may already be on the slip road and watching for joining traffic from the A1 drifting closer from your right.

Where there is congestion at busy intersections, not only might other drivers drift into the wrong lane, they may also pull out quickly at the last moment to go around blockages. For this reason the examiner will be paying particular attention to your diligence in observations all around so that you’re always as aware as you can be of the developing situations. Don’t forget that occasionally the lights controlling these roundabouts may be broken, or they may have ‘part time’ lights that are only in operation during rush hours. In either instance treat them as you would a normal roundabout without lights.

Importantly bear in mind that if ever you find yourself in the right hand lane, maybe to avoid a bus lane, road works etc, as soon as the obstruction has cleared ask yourself if you should still be there? When you come back along Scotswood Road towards the test centre you’re led from Scotswood roundabout into the right hand lane. Keep building your speed in the right hand lane initially (it’s a 50 mph road) but you must return back to the left hand lane as your default once it’s safe.


Gosforth A1 North and South

(Gosforth area)

The primary function of larger, more complex roundabouts is the efficient distribution of traffic flow, which can allow for a variety of alternative routes through them. Sometimes these intersections can be challenging for the uninitiated driver, but as your experience grows over the years you’ll become familiar with things like turning right even though you’re in the left hand lane, or having to merge lanes whilst on the roundabout itself. We all want to get to our destinations as efficiently and promptly as possible and trust me the roundabout is a perfect solution for this, but for now until your familiarity develops just take these routes as a standard path to follow through them.   

Some roads are designed to keep the traffic moving quickly, with long ‘slip’ roads to keep you up to speed while you transfer between flows. It can be not only inconvenient, but also dangerous to interfere with this rapid flow, so think that these roads are designed so that you can check to see if you need to slow down, and not to slow down to check. Use block changes (5th – 3rd or 4th – 2nd) to keep your pace going until nearer your final approach point, and bear in mind that the vast majority of drivers do slow down and also incorrectly signal as they move, so take them into consideration at all times.


 A1 North and South City West

(Elswick area)

Keeping to the correct road position and staying up to speed with fast moving traffic are two daunting disciplines for learners to master. On stretches like these it’s particularly challenging because they both come together simultaneously. Large, busy roundabouts can be very complicated even for experienced drivers, so becoming acquainted with the ones you may face on test is important so that you can spend the test showing how you can drive, rather than solve complex issues with individual intersections. Remember too that most drivers signal as they move! Don’t become one of them.

 

Westerhope Roundabout

It may seem unusual to have me suggest you take the far right hand lane here, as anyone in the lane to your left emerging onto the roundabout should be turning away from you anyway. I always used to advise my pupils to move to the centre lane while checking around as that’s the correct, default path, but after hearing about the way the examiners see it I changed my advice. When approaching any junction where the left lane is left only then obviously any traffic in that lane should turn left, but obviously you have to check for careless drivers who follow the road ahead. The examiner’s opinion on this is that inexperienced drivers haven’t the appropriate skills to be aware and take potential evasive action at this roundabout, and so that accounts for the suggested route that they prefer to see you use.

 

Kingston Park Roundabout

Vigilance is vital on roundabouts like these, as some drivers won’t read the lane markings and simply follow what they feel is the correct flow. This is why that dashed line reinforces the way lanes flow from the emerging slip road onto the roundabout. Similarly traffic may stay in that lane to your right onto the roundabout but with the intention of leaving to the left! I’ve seen it happen before but luckily I was further back and didn’t become involved in it. This is why it’s essential you keep that right signal on to reinforce the fact that you’re continuing round, but also check for careless drivers.

 

A1 South Kingston Park Roundabout

As you approach the roundabout there are lights to control the traffic actually crossing it, as we’re not crossing but going to the left of them they don’t affect us. If those lights are green then the flow of traffic should indicate that no vehicles will be approaching from the right as we attempt to merge, but in any case we need to prepare for the next priority – joining a fast flow. Whichever gear you use make sure you can accelerate quickly, fast traffic won’t and shouldn’t have to slow for you to merge.    


Seghill/A19 Southbound 

(Gosforth area)

Even experienced drivers who use this intersection daily will find it challenging. Firstly you have to ensure that you don’t block the first, smaller roundabout if traffic is queuing on it already. Secondly our lane on the destination road (A19 South) eventually needs to be to the left, but if the left guide lane on the smaller roundabout is congested then we’d be forced to follow the right hand lane of the two over to the lights. The next obstacle is the fast flow from the right on the main roundabout itself, the view of which may be blocked by traffic queuing alongside you to your right, and then you have to be assertive enough to emerge onto it and then be prepared to slow almost straight away for those lights which could likely be red. If you’ve emerged onto the main roundabout in the right guide lane, then once you’re headed through the lights down the A19 you need to plan to come back over to the left again.

 So we have in effect three or potentially four separate stages to progress through and I suggest you treat it that way. In order to progress through the intersection you need to be one or two steps ahead in your planning. (1) Imagine a box junction on the first roundabout so that you don’t commit onto it unnecessarily (2) Decide early whether you can drift to the left guide lane or have to commit to the right (3) Be positive and assertive when emerging onto the roundabout, but be prepared to slow again almost immediately (4) Finally if you’ve had to wait at the lights emerging from the right lane on the smaller roundabout it’s now the centre lane at the lights themselves, and you have to plan to keep your speed up in order to slot back over to the left with a safe gap!