Tag Archives | mirrors
Effective mirror checks
A common issue for learners and experienced drivers alike is forgetting to regularly check your mirrors while driving. It is a serious omission which you need to correct for your safety and that of other road users. Fortunately, there are ways to help you remember and the following ‘triggers’ should prompt you to check what’s going on behind you. Always look in your mirrors before moving off, before indicating, every time you change direction including turning, overtaking and changing lanes, and every time you change your speed be it faster or slower. Finally, always look in your mirrors every time you encounter a hazard or potential hazard that may cause you to change speed or direction.
Don’t wing it
Side mirrors, otherwise known as wing mirrors, are crucial to maintaining good visibility around you on the road. Importantly, they inform you of where a cyclist may be in traffic when your rear-view mirror might not have picked them up. Unfortunately, wing mirrors are prone to damage. Should this happen, it may not appear a major priority but legally you need two working mirrors and one must be on the driver’s side. A damaged mirror dramatically reduces your visibility and affects the safety of other road users. Fixing a wing mirror can cost from £15 to £150, so it isn’t worth taking the risk and landing a hefty fine of up to £2,500.
It’s essential to check you’re using your mirrors correctly at all times. This means always using your mirrors: before you move off to check it’s safe to pull out into traffic; before you signal to check you won’t confuse a driver behind you; before any change of direction including turning, overtaking and changing lanes; before any change in your speed to make sure other drivers have time to react; before you do anything that could interfere with what other road users are doing. Remember side mirrors are convex (curved outwards) so things look further away than they actually are. As a general guideline, try to use your mirrors every five seconds. Say to yourself ‘1-2-3-4-5 mirrors check’.
Those mirror checks
It may be one of the first things you learn, but lack of observation and missing an essential mirror check is one of the main causes for minor faults during the practical test. While examiners are trained to look out for you checking your mirrors, sometimes being a bit over the top in your mirror checking won’t do any harm. Move your head when checking your mirrors and your examiner is less likely to give you a minor fault than if you give the mirror just a cursory glance. You could even get into the practice of saying ‘mirrors’ quietly out loud every time you check to make sure your examiner knows you are doing it. It’s all about demonstrating that you are observing the situation properly, and acting on the information received
Mirrors are crucial aids to safer driving and should be checked about four or five times a minute, after all the scene in front of you is constantly changing and so is the scene behind. To help you use your mirrors more, try the following exercise. Every time you see brake lights ahead, say or think the words, ‘Brake lights, mirror’. Whenever a car in front signals, say or think ‘Signals, mirror’. Whenever you pass a road sign again say or think the words, ‘Road sign, mirror’. You can add on plenty more instances en route and by doing this you’ll find that the frequency with which you use your mirrors increases. Eventually you won’t need to use the phrases as you’ll be looking in the mirror anyway.
Don’t be dim
Since February 2011 all newly manufactured cars are fitted with daylight driving lamps as standard. You may already have noticed cars coming towards you with bright LEDs – and if you’ve seen them it proves it works. However, many drivers of older cars still appear reluctant or simply forget to use their dipped headlights during dull daylight and rainy weather.
The typical modern car is quite capable of running its headlights in addition to all other electrical equipment, so if visibility deteriorates for any reason (not just at night) don’t hesitate to put your dipped headlights on. A good rule of thumb is to make a point of turning on your dipped headlights whenever you need to use your windscreen wipers.
You may feel that you can still see well enough, so why bother? But what you can see is not the whole story: you should also aim to be seen. Other road users may not have eyesight as good as yours. And in gloomy conditions, you need to look particularly carefully in your mirrors before changing lanes. It may be that the driver who has not ‘lit up’ is attempting to overtake you.
How often do you think you should check your rear view mirror? The answer is every five to eight seconds – not every five to eight minutes. Checking the mirror has a lot to do with short-term memory. As you glance in the mirror, do you really remember what you saw? For example, the driver you just saw in your mirror in the next lane from yours could be entering your blind spot. Once you check your mirror again, they may no longer be visible. Where did they go? Did they turn off that road, or are they in your blind spot?
Your short-term memory is important to ensure you respond correctly. Remember, always check your mirrors:
- Before setting off
- Before changing speed (on approach to a speed limit change, for example)
- Before and after a manoeuvre
- Every five to eight seconds as part of a regular sequences of glances immediately ahead, far ahead, down to the speedometer and in all your mirrors
We’ve all seen drivers making turns on to busy roads with other drivers approaching quickly from behind. If they had checked their mirrors immediately after turning, they would have responded correctly by speeding up to avoid slowing down the traffic flow. Using the information that is seen through your mirror is equally as important as checking the mirror.
Know your pedestrian crossings
There are six different types of pedestrian crossings, so make sure you’re comfortable with each kind: School crossing, Zebra crossing, Pelican crossing, Puffin crossing, Toucan crossing and Pegasus crossing.
Did you know that the Toucan crossing is named because ‘two can’ cross, meaning both pedestrians and cyclists can use the crossing? The Toucan is almost twice as wide as the Puffin and Pelican crossings, so it should be easy to spot. Like the Puffin crossing, the Toucan has zig-zag markings on the approach, a set of traffic lights and a control panel allowing pedestrians to activate the lights. The panel shows green and red bicycle symbols in addition to the iconic red and green man symbols.
Follow the usual rules for pedestrian crossings when using a Toucan crossing, but pay extra attention for cyclists in your mirrors. Also, keep an eye out for a steady amber light: it means that you have to slow down and prepare to stop on the line.
Always leave a way out
It’s not just the space in front and behind your car that’s important, try to keep space to the sides of your car as well. Wherever possible avoid driving directly alongside another vehicle, especially if it places you in the blind spot of the other driver, for example, a truck. Can the other driver see you? A good indication is whether you can see him in his mirrors. If someone pulls up beside you and matches their speed to yours, adjust your speed slightly to create space next to you. That way, if the need arises for avoidance, you have already created an escape route out of trouble.
Low speed manoeuvring
Among the most common driving faults are low speed collisions while parking and manoeuvring, usually resulting in a frustrating scratch or bumper damage. The solution? Do everything slowly – the fastest thing moving should be your eyes through both mirrors and windscreens, front and rear.