John MacNab was a professional driving instructor (Approved Driving Instructor, ADI).
Do You Drive a 6-, 8-, or 12- Blind Spot Car?
Although the following instructions are for the UK, blind spots are blind spots, no matter which side of the road you drive on. Simply convert the instructions to your country’s—and learner’s—point of view.
North American drivers will refer to the handbrake/parking brake as the ‘emergency brake’ because most cars are automatic, and handbrakes are not needed when stopped on a hill (in fact, most drivers will have forgotten the handbrake is there and its purpose).
‘Nearside’ refers to the side of the car nearest the curb and ‘offside’ means the part of the car ‘off’ from the curb; i.e., the driver’s side.
From the Driver's Instruction Manual
The driving instructor's manual begins:
…after driving the learner to an appropriate place and parking on a slight incline in order to explain the handbrake, change places with the learner…
It is important that the learner uses the controls as the instructor explains them.
….after teaching the learner how to use the handbrake, make sure he or she has ensured the doors are closed, show them how to adjust the seat, backrest and head restraint to the optimum position. Explain what should be visible and that all major controls must be usable without the learner’s back coming off the seat – the same thing applies when adjusting the interior mirror. Then begin the Blind Spot explanation…….
The "Blind Spot" Lesson
Instructor to Learner: Looking in the interior mirror, identify the nearest object you can see on the opposite side of the road. Now look over your right shoulder. From that object to where you are sitting is known as the BLIND SPOT. The blind spot will hide anything from a cyclist to a tractor-trailer. If you pulled away from the side of the road and merely looked in your mirrors, you could either run someone down or drive out in front of another vehicle.
Instructor Notes: The easiest way to demonstrate the ‘blind spot’ is to ask the learner to keep looking in the interior mirror as a car approaches from the opposite direction. They will see the vehicle disappearing and re-appearing. If you have parked on a really wide road, you can do this exercise with an oncoming 38-tonner. It is quite dramatic and it certainly gets the message across.
Instructor to Learner: To check the blind spot, the driver must look OVER their right shoulder. Looking out of the side window does not constitute a blind spot check. The very last thing you do, before the car begins to move, is check the blind spot. Under no circumstances do you check over your LEFT shoulder last.
Instructor Notes: Learners love looking over their left shoulder. If they insist on doing so, make sure that they do it first and then look over their right shoulder before they move. On test, looking over their left shoulder last will fail their test (in the UK).
Instructor to Learner:
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- You must also check the blind spot before opening the driver’s door.
- Be aware that every window or door pillar is a blind spot (see photo).
- Your passenger’s head restraint is a blind spot (see photo).
- Your passenger’s head is a blind spot.
- The interior mirror and exterior mirrors are blind spots (see photo).
- When it rains, that part of the windscreen not covered by the sweep of the wiper blades becomes a blind spot. (In Canada the rain would be snow and the result would be a complete blind spot, or a whiteout.)
- Any blind spot can hide a pedestrian or cyclist.
Instructor to Learner: The mirror nearest the edge of the road should be adjusted so that part of your own vehicle is visible in order to give you a reference point. If you have no reference point, you have no way of judging how far away the following vehicle is.
The same principle applies to the mirror on the driver’s side of the car; it should be adjusted so that a part of your own car is visible, and you can see all the way along the road behind you (see photo).
N.B. The interior mirror is manufactured from flat glass, which gives a true image of following vehicles. The exterior mirrors are manufactured from convex glass, which although giving you a wider view, gives you a distorted view. All following vehicles seem to be further away than they really are. This distortion must always be kept in mind.
Instructor Notes: In real life, during the initial ‘move away’ part of the lesson, learners will forget everything you have said and will either stare out of the windscreen all the time or alternatively, be so scared of holding up following traffic, stare in the interior mirror all the time. If they are in the ‘staring in the mirror’ category, simply move the interior mirror so that they can’t see into it, and use your own interior mirror until they are ready for reality.
Assuming that your learner actually uses the exterior mirrors to begin with (you should be so lucky), you will soon know if they have adjusted them correctly. If they have adjusted either exterior mirror incorrectly, they will lean sideways until they can see the side of their own car in that particular mirror, the better to understand what they are looking at.
In later lessons, impress upon your learner that the mirrors will be used in a minimum of pairs, usually starting with the interior mirror. The mirrors are used before signaling, moving in, moving out, changing lanes, slowing down, braking, turning right or left, or even before thinking. The Driving Standards Agency is very rigid in its interpretation of the use of mirrors. The examiner may allow the candidate some leeway on some faults, but every missed mirror check will be marked down as a ‘driver fault.’ Remember that ‘driver faults’ are cumulative. 16 driver faults will fail a driving test.
I hope you have found this article to be helpful. Safe driving!
The trainee manual I quote above was written by an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI); RAC Registered Instructor (RAC.RI); Institute of Advanced Motorists Instructor for Private and Commercial vehicles (IAM Instructor); Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, Class 1 Gold (RoSPA Class1).
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.