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2.4 Seeing Around Your Vehicle

To be a safe driver you need to know whatʼs going on all around your vehicle. Not looking properly is a major cause of accidents.

Seeing Ahead

All drivers look ahead, but many do not look far enough ahead. Because stopping or changing lanes can take a lot of distance, knowing what the traffic is doing on all sides of you is very important. You need to look well ahead to make sure you have room to make these moves safely.

  • Most good drivers look 12-15 seconds ahead. That means looking ahead the distance you will travel in 12-15 seconds. At lower speeds, thatʼs about one block. At highway speeds itʼs about one-quarter of a mile. If you are not looking that far ahead, you may have to stop too quickly or make quick lane changes. Looking 12-15 seconds ahead does not mean not paying attention to things that are closer. Good drivers shift their attention back and forth, near and far
  • Look for vehicles coming onto the highway, into your lane, or turning. Watch for brake lights from slowing vehicles. By seeing these things far enough ahead, you can change your speed or change lanes if necessary to avoid a problem.
  • Look for hills and curves, anything for which you will have to slow or change lanes. Pay attention to traffic signals and signs. If a light has been green for a long time, it will probably change before you get there. Start slowing down and be ready to stop. Traffic signs may alert you to road conditions where you may have to change speed.

Seeing to The Side and Rear

It is important to know what is going on behind and to the sides. Check your mirrors regularly. Check more often in special situations.

Using/adjusting mirrors:
  • Check and adjust each mirror prior to the start of any trip and during your trip as needed. Special situations require more than regular mirror checks.
  • Mirrors can only be checked accurately when the trailer(s) is straight.
  • In traffic check the mirrors for vehicles on either side and in back of you. In an emergency, you may need to know whether you can make a quick lane change.
  • Use your mirrors to spot overtaking vehicles. There are “blind spots” that your mirrors cannot show you. Check your mirrors regularly to know where other vehicles are around you, and to see if they move into your blind spots.
  • Use the mirrors to keep an eye on your tires. It is one way to spot a tire fire. If you are carrying open cargo, you can use the mirrors to check it. Look for loose straps, ropes or chains. Watch for a flapping or ballooning tarp.
  • Check quickly when driving on the road. Look back and forth between the mirrors and the road ahead. Do not focus on the mirrors for too long. Otherwise, you will travel quite a distance without knowing what is happening ahead.
  • Understand what you see. Many large vehicles have curved (convex, fisheye, spot, bugeye) mirrors that show a wider area than flat mirrors. This is often helpful, but be aware that everything appears smaller in a convex mirror than it would if you were looking at it directly. Things also seem farther away than they really are. It is important to realize this and to allow for it.
  • When changing lanes check your mirrors to make sure no one is alongside you or about to pass you. Check your mirrors:
    • Before you change lanes to make sure there is enough room.
    • After you have signaled to check that no one has moved into your blind spot.
    • Right after you start the lane change to double-check that your path is clear.
    • After you complete the lane change.
  • When turning, check your mirrors to make sure the rear of your vehicle will not hit anything.
  • When merging, use your mirrors to make sure the gap in traffic is large enough for you to enter safely.
  • Any time you are driving in close quarters, check your mirrors often. Make sure you have enough clearance.
There is a high probability you will be asked how far ahead to look on the written exam. You should memorize the following:
  • Look 12 to 15 seconds ahead.
  • At lower speeds, that's about one block.
  • At highway speeds, that's about 1/4 mile.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

Review Questions - Click On The Picture To Begin...

The following are all reasons why you should check your side mirrors frequently, except:
  • All of these are reasons to check side mirrors frequently
  • When pulling a flatbed trailer, it will help determine if cargo is remaining secure
  • Checking mirrors regularly helps to make sure a vehicle doesn't enter a blind spot unobserved
  • It's one way to spot a tire fire

Quote From The CDL Manual:

Use your mirrors to spot overtaking vehicles. There are "blind spots" that your mirrors cannot show you. Check your mirrors regularly to know where other vehicles are around you, and to see if they move into your blind spots.

Use the mirrors to keep an eye on your tires. It is one way to spot a tire fire. If you are carrying open cargo, you can use the mirrors to check it. Look for loose straps, ropes or chains. Watch for a flapping or ballooning tarp.

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How many seconds ahead should you look while driving?
  • 25 to 30 seconds
  • At least 35 seconds
  • 3 to 6 seconds
  • 12 to 15 seconds

Quote From The CDL Manual:

Most good drivers look 12-15 seconds ahead. That means looking ahead the distance you will travel in 12-15 seconds. At lower speeds, that's about one block. At highway speeds it's about one-quarter of a mile. If you are not looking that far ahead, you may have to stop too quickly or make quick lane changes. Looking 12 - 15 seconds ahead does not mean not paying attention to things that are closer. Good drivers shift their attention back and forth, near and far.

TruckingTruth's Advice:

It's important to memorize this. Be sure you understand that 12 to 15 seconds ahead means about one block at lower speeds and about 1/4 mile at highway speeds. You're likely to have a question about this on your written exam.

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