Mirror Checks & Shoulder Checks & Right Turns

car mirror

Hours 3.5-5.5, Oct 11

I started off rusty because I hadn’t driven for a few days, but after a bit it came back to me.  Turning is getting easier, and I was feeling comfortable enough to go faster than I did on the first day.

Some tricks:

  1. for as smoother stop, ease off and on the brakes gently a few times just before the car jerks to a halt. This tip for sure helped me reduce the jolt in my stop.

  2. you can stop up a hill using just your accelerator by finding a sweet spot where you’re pressing on the gas pedal just a bit. this helps prevent your car from rolling backwards when you want to start moving again. for example, when you have to inch forward at a stop sign when stopping on a steep hill

  3. another way to prevent your car from rolling backwards when starting on a hill is to:

    1. press on the brakes

    2. turn on your parking brake

    3. lightly press on the accelerator

    4. turn off the parking brake

Oh yeah I got honked at several times! I’m guessing because I was too slow. I tried to ignore them as best as possible. We also went on busier roads with traffic lights where I had to go faster (35km/hr) to prevent road rage.

I tried to remember:

  1. Scan the intersections

  2. Look far ahead

  3. Check the rearview mirror

  4. Shoulder-check before you pull out, pull over, or turn.

  5. Shoulder-check right before you’re about to turn.

  6. When going straight through an intersection, generally do not move your car to the right as if you are going to turn right.

  7. When turning right, move your car to the right. Follow the curve of the curb, if there is one.

  8. Use your turn signals more gently so as not to turn on the high-beam lights.

I noticed that it was harder for me to look far ahead when going faster.

Things that surprised me were:

  1. You should try to look as far ahead as possible.

  2. Generally, you scan left, centre, right, and left again, but sometimes you have to focus on the side you can’t see well if you can see the other sides.

  3. if there are no traffic lights, it is the safest to wait for every pedestrian who is crossing to cross the road, regardless of the side they are crossing. This is because the car behind you may think it’s safe to go because you went and may not see the pedestrian.

  4. You should check your rearview mirror every 5-10 seconds.

  5. You can’t trust people’s turn signals. For example, even if they are signalling to turn right, they may go straight. You should try to make eye contact with the driver. If you can’t make eye contact, you can look at the positioning of the car or look for the direction in which the car’s tires are pointing.

I also saw 3-way stops, the rules for which are the same as for a four-way stop.

We talked more about the rules of the road:

  1. At an intersection, if there is space, two cars across from each other can turn left at the same time (assuming they both turn correctly.)

  2. If you are waiting to turn left at a two-way stop and you don’t have a stop sign, after yielding to pedestrians, you should pull into the road ⅓ of the way. this will make it clear that you are waiting to turn left.

All in all, I think I’m better than I was during the first day.

Q: I know you’re meant to shoulder-check before you’re about to turn, but should you check the side mirror at that time, too?

Instructor’s thoughts:

Yes, generally before you right turn you would check the right mirror approaching the intersection and then shoulder check before your turn, but it will depend on each unique situation. It is hard to say the same habit is true for every turn, as there are so many different shapes and sizes and varieties of intersections.

There isn’t much point in checking a mirror if you are not able or planning to do anything about what you see inside it, like if you are not planning on moving your vehicle position towards the right to get ready for a right turn for example then do you need to check the right mirror to see what’s there? Or if you are driving over a bridge and you are in the right lane Beside the edge of the bridge and there is no sidewalk, just a wall, do you need to check the right mirror then?

Yes it is good to check the mirror to look for bikes (that is what you would mostly be looking for before turning right,) but keep in mind also bikes are travelling sometimes much slower than you, and you sometimes will be aware of them because you drove past them sometime before your right turn or you saw them around the area.

If you’re on a narrow road for example and you are planning to turn right but because the road is so narrow you aren’t moving your vehicle position until you actually turn, then maybe the shoulder check is enough.

For sure we do need to shoulder check at least once before every right turn and sometimes twice (if you’re on a very wide Road and you are moving your car closer to the curb before the turn, then you need a shoulder check before you do the moving over part, as it is pretty much a lane change, and there might be a bike or something else In that space. If you then stop for a stop sign or pedestrian before your turn, then time goes by, and that means you need one more shoulder check before you turn to make sure another bike or jogger or pedestrian hasn’t appeared and is wanting to cross your path before you turn).

Things can change very quickly in front of you when you’re driving so you don’t really want to do a lot of extra unnecessary mirror checks or shoulder checks because it means you are taking your eyes off the road possibly when you don’t need to. So whenever you do take your eyes off the road it should be done quickly (1/2 second or 1 second for a shoulder check!) and for a good reason, that’s my opinion anyway. Try to think why you need to do something rather than trying to memorize patterns.. Driving is an art form, more art than science if you ask me.

Having said that it is important to eventually (I mean with experience) be fully aware of what is around your vehicle a full 360 degrees pretty much at all times when you are driving, and the only way to do that is to check the mirrors – all of them- pretty frequently, no matter if you are planning to turn or not.

We have been driving in areas which are pretty quiet too, it might be more natural to check the mirrors when you’re in an environment which is busier with a lot of traffic and bikes and pedestrians I think.

The reason to check the mirror after turning a corner and in general is so that if you see a car is approaching quickly from behind then you can speed up to the speed limit so the car doesn’t have to slow down because of you. Drivers get frustrated if they are driving along and then a car turns and drives slower and causes them to slow down. (This is sometimes unavoidable when you are learning as you don’t really have a choice, it is not smart to drive faster than you are feeling comfortable with, but I mean for experienced drivers in general)

Also, If you see a car behind you approaching and they are going faster than the speed limit and then they follow behind you too closely, you can do something about this unsafe situation by either pulling over and letting the car go past or In a case you are not able to pull over you can increase the amount of space between you and the vehicle in front of you (when there is one) so that if there is a sudden stop or slowing of the vehicle in front for a red light or unexpected pedestrian running across the road for example, you can use the extra space in front to gradually slow down, which forces the car behind you to gradually slow down too, and this reduces the risk of you being rear-ended. If you have no idea there is a car too close behind you and you stop suddenly it would be likely the car behind you isn’t able to stop in time, especially if the driver isn’t alert.

In addition there may be emergency vehicles approaching and more often than not you can see them way before you can hear the siren, especially if you are like most people and have the music on. And sometimes there is no siren because the police don’t want the bad guys to know they are coming so they only have the flashing lights.

I want people not to get overwhelmed trying to be perfect and remember all of the checks and things and trying to remember 1 million things at the same time. That tends to hurt people’s brains. Besides, it is a process, and, that is why you have a co-pilot beside you, to help you and warn you about hazards that you might not be aware of, among other reasons. I like to just add a little bit more each time like I am building a house. One little bit and then the next bit. In the right order. And I add the roof on last, not in the middle. After you are a bit more experienced, we can increase the difficulty and the standards. You are doing very well! 


Carmen became a driving instructor at the age of 22 in North Vancouver, Canada and is an experienced writer, blogger, photographer, artist, philosopher, certified day dreamer and generally complicated human.

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