At the start of these lessons we mentioned how important effective use of mirrors is to safe driving; an once you start venturing into traffic you’ll find out just how true this is.
All modern cars have an internal main mirror and two external door mirrors. The door mirrors sometimes have a curved surface which increases the area they cover, but the downside of this is that they make other vehicles appear to be further away than they actually are, and this is something you need to make allowances for.
You need to use mirrors regularly while you’re driving along (as well as when you’re stationary in traffic), so that you’re always aware of what’s around you. This is particularly important before giving signals, changing speed, and changing direction.
Mirrors before Signalling
You should be comfortable with the mirror-signal-manoeuvre routine by now, by why do we always need to check our mirrors before giving a signal?
Firstly you need be aware of anyone around you who might be affected by your actions. You need to decide if it’s actually safe to carry out what you want to do. You then need to decide when to signal; if someone is well back they won’t need so much warning, but if they’re closer to you then you’ll need to signal earlier to give them more time to react.
You’ve been using your mirrors before pulling up on the left during the moving off and stopping exercises, but out in traffic there’s a little more to it than that.
Think about this situation. You’ve signalled to pull up on the left but then realise that there’s nowhere safe to stop. What do you do – start to pick up speed again to look for somewhere further on? What if someone has started to overtake you? You need to let them get past before you accelerate again so that mirror check before changing speed here is very important.
Also when approaching hazards which cause you to slow down, your approach should be influenced by what is behind you. The closer another vehicle is to your rear, the sooner you’ll have to reduce speed to give them more time to react… you may be blocking their view of that same hazard and they may be relying on your brake lights as a warning!
Mirrors before Changing Direction
Before you make a lane change in traffic, you need to ask yourself several questions:
- Is the other lane clear?
- If there’s someone in the other lane can I move over without affecting them?
- Are they gaining on me or is their speed steady?
- Do I need to signal to warn them?
Many serious incidents occur when drivers are changing lanes. These usually occur because of people not using their mirrors early enough. You can see that there may be a lot of decision making before you change lanes, and the only way to accomplish this safely is by looking well ahead. You then need to judge when you need to change lanes in good time; and use your mirrors early enough to provide the time to make the correct decision. For more information on effective use of mirrors before changing, get hold of a copy of The Learner Driver’s Manual.
Remember: Effective use of mirrors is not just a case of looking. You must look soon enough, judge what may happen, and act safely on what you see!
With careful timing of signals and adjustment of speed, you should always be able to change lanes safely. In busy traffic, it may be wise on occasion to have a quick glance to the side to cover any blind spots, but NEVER under any circumstances start turning round to look behind the car! If something changes in front of you, you may not react, and there is always a risk that you may pull the wheel with you when you twist around.
Complicated isn’t it? With practise and experience the decision making process becomes much more natural and much quicker. During your early stages as a driver however this may not come so easy. This is why I stress the importance of looking well ahead and planning any change of position in good time. The heavier the traffic, the earlier these decisions have to be made.