Even with properly adjusted mirrors every driver has blind spots, areas where their view is restricted and if not sufficiently checked with a look over-the-shoulder, they can easily lead to a serious incident.
When using your mirrors you need to “Glance” at the blind spot “See” if it is clear, but do not “Stare”.
A blind spot refers to the area that cannot be seen when looking in your mirrors. It’s easy to forget to check over your shoulder when changing lanes or manoeuvring, particularly when in a rush. However, failing to check this area could and often does lead to a serious incident, which could have easily been avoided.
Blind spots have been a particularly major factor in many incidents involving trucks. For truck drivers the blind spot area is often bigger, meaning cyclists and pedestrians can be missed more easily. According to the European Commission, in-depth crash investigations have shown that restricted driver vision to see pedestrians and cyclists, is a factor in many truck incidents involving these vulnerable road users.
The risk associated with this reduced vision is heightened when trucks are manoeuvring or reversing. It is estimated that this causes 500 deaths annually on EU roads. However it is important to remember that blind spots are not just a hazard for truck drivers, but all vehicle drivers.
Reducing blind spots
To help combat this risk and avoid incidents, some vehicles may have blind-spot mirrors installed to give drivers a wider field of vision than conventional mirrors. In fact, EU law requires trucks over 3.5 tons to be fitted with these mirrors with the aim of reducing the number of incidents.
A number of other measures have also been introduced to improve drivers’ visibility such as onboard indirect vision aids, roadside mirrors, sensors and warnings, with the aim of reducing road incidents.
However, even with the help of these extra devices, it is still essential that you always check the appropriate blind spot before changing lanes or direction.
When to check your blind spot?
Always check before you change lanes or overtake, particularly on dual carriageways and motorways. Blind spots also need to be checked more frequently in busy towns and cities where cyclists are present. For instance, if you are making a right turn (for those in right-driving countries, left for left-driving countries) you will need to check your mirrors before making the turn. Cyclists will often cycle past you on the kerb side – checking your kerb-side blind spot in these situations is therefore very important.
When overtaking others
Think – can that driver see me? Am I in their blind spot? You can never be certain that other drivers will remember to check their blind spot so be cautious and make sure you do not remain in their blind spot area. In most cases, the safest way to remove yourself from another’s blind spot is to gently apply your brakes for a short time and allow the car to slow down.
Safe Driving Tips
- Don’t cover your windows with any material which restricts your view.
- Do not obstruct windows as this is likely to increase the size of your blind area.
- Check your mirrors and adjust them to determine if it reduces the blind spot. Make sure you know your car and where the blind spots are.
- Check blind spots by looking over your shoulder before changing lanes, reversing, turning or before opening your door when parked next to moving traffic.
- Use indicators before taking action to make other drivers aware of your intentions.
- Look out for motorcyclists and cyclists, especially during low light conditions. These vehicles are small and fast and therefore can be easy to miss during a shoulder check.
- Remember, the aim of the over-shoulder look is purely to ensure the blind spot is clear. Looking in this direction for more than a quick glance may expose you to other hazards or dangers. Be mindful not to pull the steering wheel in the direction you are looking i.e. turning your head.
- Avoid being in other drivers’ blind spots, particularly heavy good vehicles. Move forward, or drop back, as soon as you notice this situation.
- Use your headlights to increase your visibility to other road users.
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