The importance of a good shoulder check
By Steve Wallace
Times Colonist, January 1st 2018
Most conscientious driving instructors take part in several professional-development exercises.
One of them is a ride-check of one another, from the back seat, in a typical driving lesson.
My New Year’s driving resolution resulted from one of these ride-check sessions.
A simple shoulder check, in the area commonly referred to as a blind spot, is very important.
It is the only way to see if there is someone or something not normally visible in the side-view mirrors.
The instructors who were ride-checking me said my check was somewhat delayed.
I was in the habit of checking the relevant shoulder after the student had done so, as opposed to doing it at a pivotal time.
The shoulder check is one of the most important checks, not only on a driving test, but also in everyday driving.
It will identify other miscellaneous traffic hidden in the blind spot, when turning, changing lanes, leaving or parking at the curb.
No matter how well drivers set up their rear-view and side-view mirrors, there will always be a gap.
It is imperative that every driver glance left over the shoulder in the intended direction of travel, before making any lateral driving manoeuvre.
The omission of this simple head turn is responsible for a great number of crashes and is often a major factor in failures on the provincial driver’s road test.
There are three skill-related driving tasks that involve reverse gear and are required on a driving road test.
The parallel, reverse stall and straight-line backing action all need a mandatory offside shoulder check, before beginning the back-up move.
An offside shoulder check is the act of looking over the left shoulder first before doing a scan left to right, and looking between the seats, out the back window of the vehicle.
This completes a 360-degree circular observation of the vehicle.
It is permissible to use one hand while backing in a straight line on a driving test.
Two hands are required for other reverse manoeuvres.
The most important lapse in a regular shoulder check can mean serious injury and possible death to an innocent cyclist or pedestrian.
It is possible to significantly reduce the blind-spot area by adding stick-on convex mirrors to the side view mirrors of any vehicle.
These mirrors in no way eliminate the necessity to do the mandatory shoulder check, particularly on multi-lane highways.
It is impossible to see far left or right over the shoulder by the sole use of convex mirrors.
Drivers should make turns from as far left and right as the lanes extend.
In doing so they will encourage cyclists to be positioned directly behind the motor vehicle, as opposed to beside it.
This will reduce the chance of a side impact.
A professional driver gave me the best advice concerning the timing of a shoulder check.
When in busy traffic, he would signal his intention first, then do a shoulder check.
This action allowed other drivers to give him the space needed to do a safe lane change.
At high speed, he checks his shoulder first, then signals his intention to change lanes.
Drivers at high speed, seeing a signal light, may be tempted to react out of fear of an immediate lane change.
In this situation, a hard brake or sudden steering motion on ice, snow, or a rain-soaked road surface, may cause a loss of vehicle control.
Do you have a New Year’s driving resolution this year?
Is it worth mentioning in this column?
Happy new year!
Let’s make it the safest ever.