The Hazard Routine (MSMpsl)



The MSM/PSL – routine is fundamental to safe driving. It should be used every time you intend to change your speed or position. You must start the routine sufficiently in advance of your planned manoeuvre to allow yourself plenty of time to act on what you see in your mirrors.

MSM stands for Mirror-Signal-Manoeuvre.

  • Mirrors – check your mirrors to assess the speed and position of traffic behind you.
  • Signal – signal to warn other road users what you intend doing, giving the correct signal. *if you are moving off from a parked stationary position, it is only necessary to signal if someone (Pedestrian/Cyclist/Motorist) would be affected by it.
  • Manoeuvre – a manoeuvre is any change in speed or direction.

The Manoeuvre element is broken down into:

  • Position – take up the correct position for the manoeuvre you are about to undertake.
  • Speed – select the suitable gear and speed for the manoeuvre you are about to undertake.
  • Look – look to see if it is safe to continue.

The Look element is further broken down into:

  • Looking – what can you see?
  • Assessing – what are your options?
  • Deciding – depending on what you can see.
  • Acting – either continue with the manoeuvre or wait.

The MSM/PSL routine should always be used when:

  • Moving off  *Signal only when necesssary
  • Changing direction
  • Turning left or right
  • Overtaking
  • Changing lanes
  • Slowing down or stopping.

The MSM/PSL (Hazard) routine when emerging from a junction:

MSPSL roadboard.jpg


MSM/PSL some times called ‘The Hazard Routine’

Hazard sign
What is a Hazard?

A hazard is anything that may cause you to manoeuvre – that is, to change your speed or direction. So, whenever you identify a potential or an actual hazard, you must be prepared to use the MSM/PSL routine

mspsl - mMirrors

As soon as you become aware of any hazard ahead, check your mirrors.

  • Centre (Rear View) mirror – shows you if a vehicle behind is travelling too close to you, if so you will have to signal earlier so that it has time to drop back before you slow down. Think! what are they doing? Are they paying attention to the road ahead?
  • Right (Wing / Offside) mirror – shows you if anything is trying to overtake you. If you plan to move right you must check it is safe before you signal.
  • Left (Wing / Nearside) mirror – in slower moving traffic it may be that a cyclists is about to pass you on your left, so if you plan to move left you must check your left mirror before signalling.

mspsl - sSignal

You signal in order to tell other road users of your intentions. When you are moving off, If no other road users or pedestrians are present then no signal is necessary. If other road users do need to be warned of your intentions, then now you must signal. 

  • Indicators – use when changing direction
  • Brake lights – By gently touching the brake pedal, you can light the brake lights without slowing down too much. This can give a driver who is following you too closely behind enough time to brake and drop back before you brake properly.
  • Road position – this can also be seen as a signal and is particularly useful when overtaking a parked car or other stationary hazard on the side of the road. If you pull out smoothly, well before you need to pass the hazard, you allow any following driver to see the hazard for themselves. As the driver will expect you to go around the hazard you have effectively signalled your intentions.

Remember signal in good time – whatever the signal you give, you must do so in good time, so that other road users have time to make their own changes to speed or direction smoothly, safely and under control. – a Late signal is as bad as no signal!

mspsl - mManoeuvre

Divided into three more phases.

  • mspsl - pPosition – position your car properly in the road. The position you take up will be specific to the manoeuvre you wish to perform. If you plan to turn left, maintain your normal road position, about 1m from the kerb or left-hand side of the road. If you plan to turn right, position your car as close to the centre line as is safe.
  • mspsl - sSpeed – adjust your speed so that it is appropriate for the manoeuvre and select a suitable gear. Always brake to the speed that you want before changing into the appropriate gear for that speed.
  • mspsl - lLook – check your mirrors and look where you intend to go. Then, LookAssessDecideAct:


On Your Driving Test

Your test examiner will check to see that you use the MSM/PSL routine in good time, every time you need to make a driving manoeuvre that calls for the routine to be used, such as changing lanes, making a turn, or overtaking.

Failure to use the routine correctly will score you at least one minor fault.

If by incorrectly using the routine, it causes a dangerous or potentially dangerous situation, for example if you change lanes without checking your mirrors or signalling causing danger to traffic behind, the driving test examiner will score you a dangerous/serious fault and you will fail your driving test.