Are shoulder checks necessary?

Some driving schools are teaching mirror adjustment techniques to replace shoulder checks...

Is it really necessary to make shoulder checks while driving?

If you expect to pass a driving exam in British Columbia, the answer is a definite yes. However, some driving schools are teaching mirror adjustment techniques to replace shoulder checks.

The shoulder check involves briefly turning your head to the left or right and looking into your blind spots. These are areas that looking in the rearview mirrors will not reveal to a driver.

A driver makes a shoulder check when changing directions or lanes to ensure that there are no vehicles, bicycles or pedestrians hiding in the blind spots waiting to be collided with.

Another school of thought argues that it is best to keep your eyes forward in the direction of travel and use mirrors and peripheral vision to check surrounding traffic.

The idea is that if you place your head against the driver’s door window and adjust the left side view mirror to see your vehicle in the left edge, then move your head to the centre of the vehicle and adjust the right side mirror so that you can see your vehicle in the right edge, it will allow you to visually cover most of the area beside and behind you with the mirrors when seated normally behind the wheel.

Peripheral vision or a glance left or right will be enough to see what is not shown in the mirrors.

I was taught to shoulder check without fail in every case when I took driving instruction. The instructor told me that it was the only sure way to spot all hazards before I moved my vehicle into areas that could conflict with other road users.

I also understand that older drivers normally lose peripheral vision as a consequence of aging so the mirror method outlined above may not be appropriate for everyone.

The bottom line?

Before you turn or change lanes, it is up to you to make sure that it is safe to do so. Failure to look out for the safety of others will have serious consequences both during a road test and after a collision.

For more information on this topic, visit www.drivesmartbc.ca. Questions or comments are welcome by e-mail to comments@drivesmartbc.ca. Tim Schewe is a retired RCMP constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. His column appears Thursdays.

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