One of the biggest driver faults is not looking. Or at least, looking but not seeing! With the introduction of parking sensors, it seems our lack of observation is being encouraged rather than improved.
Around fifteen years ago I learnt to ride a motorcycle. It was at that point I realised just how little I used my observations as a car driver. Riding a motorbike does make you realise just how vulnerable you are as a two-wheeled road user. This also counts for cyclists. By being put in this position, I started to use much more observation when I was driving as I was looking out for my fellow motorcyclists. I started to use more mirror and blind spot checks. This, of course, was before I became a driving instructor. Now I do nothing but look! I look for myself and I look for my student. This really shouldn’t have become a habit that I had lost though, because my driving instructor taught me how to look properly. It was the reason I passed my test first time. I remember pulling up behind a dustcart but before I could overtake he started to move off again. The next time I stopped I checked my mirrors as I reached for the indicator. When I did, I noticed that the car behind me had started to signal and overtook both me and the dustcart! I then checked again, signalled and succesfully went past the dustcart.
Each time I start to teach a new student, I stress the importance of looking. Not only in your mirrors, but also your blind spots and, well, everywhere really!
The Highway Code includes the following general rules about mirrors:
Before moving off you should
- use all mirrors to check the road is clear
- look round to check the blind spots (the areas you are unable to see in the mirrors)
- signal if necessary before moving out
- look round for a final check
Move off only when it is safe to do so.
Mirrors. All mirrors should be used effectively throughout your journey. You should
- use your mirrors frequently so that you always know what is behind and to each side of you
- use them in good time before you signal or change direction or speed
- be aware that mirrors do not cover all areas and there will be blind spots. You will need to look round and check
Remember: Mirrors – Signal – Manoeuvre
The routine Mirror – Signal – Manoeuvre has been used by Driving Instructors since the dawn of time!
I think that there are a number of things that other road users can do to help drivers. This includes wearing high visibility clothing or at least something reflective (particularly with the nights drawing in), this would apply to pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. They can also be more aware themselves and not take unnecessary risks such as running across the road or assuming cars will stop for you. This, of course, in no way excludes drivers for being responsible in their observations.
Many of my students tell me that they have heard that examiners are obssesed with making sure you use your mirrors. Well, you can do hundreds of mirror checks which may be of no use whatsoever. What they want to see is effective observation. This brings me back to my point of not just looking but seeing!
But of course, it doesn’t just come down to looking in your mirrors. It is important to be defensive when you drive and this includes looking ahead and forward planning for any potential hazards. Our bodies were not built to travel more than around 10mph so you need to scan as far ahead as you can when you are driving and constantly think to yourself ‘what if?’
The other type of looking we can use is our peripheral vision. This can be used in conjunction with forward planning skills to help us see other potential hazards such as people pulling out of side roads.
So, do I think parking sensors have made people lazy? Yes, I do. People think they don’t really need to look behind them anymore. They will let the sensor do the work and therefore are oblivious to the length and size of their car, whether people are walking or pulling out behind them and whether there are any small children playing nearby.
Be safe, be seen but be looking, be seeing!
What are your thoughts and tips on looking and being seen? I’d love it if you included your comments below.
Next week’s Monday Motoring: To coincide with National Teen Driver Safety Week in Amercia, my blog will be about young drivers.
ROAD SAFETY WEEK is 19th – 25th November 2012. Look out for ways to raise awareness in the next couple of weeks.
If you live in the Berkshire/Surrey/Hampshire area and looking for a a Driving Instructor then try me! My website is http://www.madeeasydriving.co.uk