Are Shoulder Checks Necessary?
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 insure 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 center 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.
If you ride a motorcycle and you don't do shoulder checks every time, you are not going to be riding long. The consequences of not doing a proper shoulder check could be deadly! Get in the habit of doing every time and it will become a good habit.
Really necessary? Depends what new visual information is gained!
Not to quibble, but let's try and be analytical about some of this.
Well to put it simply, the answer is not really. For many drivers of buses and trucks, all that might be discovered is some inside part of their own vehicle; the sleeper maybe, or the passenger compartment. Look over your left shoulder in a small Senior's Bus and all you see is the front of the passenger compartment. In many larger vehicles, all of the available information is in the regular and convex mirrors.
Well now, we have 8 different license classes in BC, but that there definite yes doesn't apply for the higher classes. Certainly, the driver must ascertain if there's anything beside them that might be affected by their lateral move (whether moving over correctly prior to a turn, or before executing a lane change) but most of the time this is only accomplished by using the regular and convex mirrors.
So basically, ICBC apply somewhat different criteria to different license classes, for both Knowledge Test and Road Test. Even a Class 5 driver will be examined according to more stringent requirements than a Class 7, whilst professional classes will require even more demanding skills.
So the requirements for each of the classes must differ; particularly as the Class 7 Applicant is seeking their license to drive solo, making all of their own decisions and judgments. When you're a Driver Examiner, you can't ever get inside the head of the Applicant, to discover their visual and thought processes; but you can observe much of what they do.
But consider this; at the Class 7 level, there's about a 50% Fail rate. So if you're a DE, you spend half your working life with somebody who isn't actually yet safe and ready to drive by themselves, usually due to visual errors. This affects what you yourself can process; how often and necessarily the driver checks their mirrors is very difficult to ascertain, whilst ensuring the blind spot is also clear of conflict with a quick shoulder check - a confirmation of what was already known from the mirrors, when done properly - is easy to spot, while you're all the time scanning for potential conflicts that the Applicant may not yet have realized themselves.
This isn't exactly a new idea, actually (and not one that I agree with, for reasons that I'll put later). But let's look at a video on the subject.
But whilst the actual total coverage of the mirrors may help the driver track something like a passing vehicle, the visibility of cyclists or pending pedestrians - particularly to the right - is definitely compromised; a 'long view' of the cycle lane on the right is what's needed in order to see them coming, whilst an angular check (where the mirror don't cover at all, but your eyes do) for pedestrian conflicts is essential, particularly for large vehicle operators.
And I don't think that guy in the blue shirt in the video has thought about any of this stuff. Even while his neck stiffens up, from lack of use. Heh heh, thanks for listening to me rant.
I think this new method of adjusting mirrors is dangerous, in a misguided effort to avoid blind spots you are creating the most dangerous one of all. If you have a vehicle following you that you cannot see through, your rear view mirror will not make you aware of any bicycles or motorcycles coming up close on either side of you because of the close in blind spot created by this method of mirror adjustment.
If your mirrors are adjusted properly you should only have to turn your head to the left or right and be able to see just enough of your own vehicle as a reference point to know that you are not missing anything in close. This is why shoulder checking is so important, to see what is farther out that the mirrors can't see.
I don't personally know anyone that leans over to the left or right when doing a mirror check but everyone does turn their head to do so. Please, please keep cyclist safety in your mind, they can go faster than you in traffic and you must always be aware of them before lane changing or turning in either direction.
Your comments are dead on.
Once again, Check Ride comes up with astute observations (whilst leaving me no option but to make puns about it, sorry!).
That's it, exactly. I have often remarked to my students that drivers and other road users generally don't get into collisions with what they've seen, but with what they didn't see until it's too late.
The great thing about a good instructor is that he/she will not only have useful advice to pass on, but they will have a rationale, a justification, for any information they convey to their students. This will give the learner 'ownership' of their chosen actions, which is far more valuable than simply 'following the rules'. How drivers choose to function behind the wheel when making all of their own decisions is vastly more important than what they do on their driving test.
A different perspective ... mirrors only
Shoulder checks are not a useful method for drivers of big rigs. Mirrors and in most cases multiple mirrors are the only feasible way to check adjacent lanes. That said most cars and light pickups do not have adequate mirrors so for those situations shoulder checks are required.
Have to be honest I never
Have to be honest I never shoulder check. Got what is now called a class 5 licence on Monday morning when I turned 16 and my class 1 two days later on Wednesday.
My first vehicle was a pick-up and a shoulder check showed you the canopy. Due to being use to driving larger commercial vehicles I have always had a left and right outside mirror which was not required for cars and even most pick-ups only had a left mirror as standard. But I was use to two mirrors and for backing it is the only way to go.
The method recommended and shown in the video is useless for backing your vehicle and with more people buying SUV's and CC pick-ups I am amazed they would even suggest this.
Most pick-ups for the last several years have a mirror within a mirror so you can have one showing what you require for maneuvering while the other can be adjusted to cover what they are recommending here.
Then there is blind spot monitoring and even newer vehicles with cameras to show what is beside and behind your vehicle.
One final thought what was wrong with just moving your vision of the mirror slightly? By leaning forward you could get the same view and still keep your eyes on the road ahead. And if you have been scanning your mirrors regularly you should have seen you had something coming up along side of you before they got into the blind spot.
Nothing wrong either with buying add on mirrors that can attach to the existing mirrors.
One final rant please when you are pulling your trailer make sure you have mirrors that extend far enough out that you can see what is behind you.