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2.4 – Seeing Around Your Vehicle

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

2.4.1 – Seeing Ahead

All drivers look ahead, but many do not look far enough ahead.

Importance of Looking 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 important. You need to look well ahead to make sure you have room to make these moves safely.

How Far Ahead to Look. Most good drivers look at least 12 to 15 seconds ahead. That means looking ahead the distance you will travel in 12 to 15 seconds. At lower speeds, it is about one block. At highway speeds, it is about one-quarter of a mile. If you are not looking that far ahead, you may have to stop quickly or make quick lane changes. Looking 12 to 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 Traffic. 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. If a traffic light has been green for a long time, it will probably change before you get there. Start slowing down and be ready to stop.

2.4.2 – 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.

Mirror Adjustment. Mirror adjustment should be checked prior to the start of any trip and can only be checked accurately when the trailer(s) are straight. You should check and adjust each mirror to show some part of the vehicle. This will give you a reference point for judging the position of the other images.

Regular Checks. Make regular checks of your mirrors to be aware of traffic and to check on your vehicle.

Traffic. Check your 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.

Check Your Vehicle. 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.

Special Situations. Special situations require more than regular mirror checks. These are lane changes, turns, merges and tight maneuvers.

Lane Changes. 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.

Turns. In turns, check your mirrors to make sure the rear of your vehicle will not hit anything.

Merges. When merging, use your mirrors to make sure the gap in traffic is large enough for you to enter safely.

Tight Maneuvers. Any time you are driving in close quarters, check your mirrors often. Make sure you have enough clearance.

How to Use Mirrors. Use mirrors correctly by checking them quickly and understanding what you see.

  • When you use your mirrors while driving on the road, check quickly. 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.
  • 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.

Multiple-Choice Questions:

Question #66 (1 of 5)

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How should you use your mirrors while driving on the road?

  • Focus almost exclusively on the road ahead of you and occasionally glance at the mirror on one side only
  • Check quickly. Look back and forth between the mirrors and the road ahead. Do not focus on the mirrors for too long.
  • Use the mirrors only during turns or backing. It's simply too dangerous to take your eyes off the highway in front of you.
  • Focus most of your attention on the mirrors.
When you use your mirrors while driving on the road, check quickly. 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.
You must monitor the traffic and objects on all sides of you. "Keep your head on a swivel" is an expression you'll hear a lot when people describe what they're looking at while driving.
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Why should you check your mirrors during a turn?

  • To see if the traffic behind you is turning
  • To see if you inverted the air lines
  • To make sure the rear of your vehicle will not hit anything
  • To monitor the braking force to the rear of the trailer
In turns, check your mirrors to make sure the rear of your vehicle will not hit anything
There is a lot going on during a turn in a tractor-trailer! You will often have traffic and obstacles on all sides. Take it slow and keep watching those mirrors!
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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 seems larger and closer than it really is
  • These mirrors are useless during a turn
  • Objects will be skewed toward the outside edges of the mirror
  • Everything seems smaller and farther away than it is
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.
Fisheye mirrors are great, but they take some getting used to.
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Special situations require more than regular mirror checks. These include:

  • Lane changes
  • Merges
  • All choices are examples of special situations requiring more frequent mirror checks
  • Turns
Special situations require more than regular mirror checks. These are lane changes, turns, merges, and tight maneuvers.
You will avoid accidents by knowing what is going on around your vehicle, including the space behind your vehicle. Knowing who is alongside you or who may be ready to pass you will help determine the right moves to make in an emergency.
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How far ahead do most drivers look?

  • 12 to 15 seconds
  • 1 to 3 seconds
  • About 5 seconds
  • 30 to 45 seconds

How Far Ahead to Look. Most good drivers look at least 12 to 15 seconds ahead. That means looking ahead the distance you will travel in 12 to 15 seconds. At lower speeds, it is about one block. At highway speeds, it is about one-quarter of a mile. If you are not looking that far ahead, you may have to stop quickly or make quick lane changes. Looking 12 to 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.

The faster you are traveling, the further down the road you should look. This will give you more time to react to anything up ahead.
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