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TWISTS & TURNS: Scan mirrors and gauges often By: Alan Sidorov

Some bits of driving advice do eventually trickle down to where they're accepted by the public. That's good, but only if the information is both complete and accurate.
An example of this is adjustment of side-view mirrors. For years, legitimate advanced-driving schools have recommended moving the mirrors outward, to where the bodywork of the vehicle just disappears from sight. The idea is to reduce the blind spot on each rear quarter and, as a rule, it works well. However, I have heard, and seen written, that this practice supposedly eliminates the need for a shoulder check when changing lanes.
Skipping the shoulder check is potentially dangerous, especially if the driver has not been monitoring the mirrors regularly. A very good driving tactic is to scan mirrors and instruments often, in order to maintain a 360-degree picture of what is happening around the vehicle. Bear in mind that this is just a glance, not taking the eyes off the road for any extended length of time. No good knowing who and what is behind your automobile, and then crashing into a stationary vehicle.
It's worth noting that not all automobiles and drivers are alike. This should be a consideration during the shopping process. Some mirrors are designed more for form than function, while fat roof pillars can produce equally fat blind spots. So might a raised rear deck. You may love the lines of that sporty coupe, but can you see out of it well enough to be safe in traffic? Failing that, do you have enough friends to always have a spotter along? Technology can't be counted on to save the day either. Blind-spot indicators do work reasonably well in some conditions, but are no substitute for driver awareness.
In your own car, take the time to adjust the mirrors so that as a vehicle leaves the rear-view mirror it appears in the side-view mirror. Then a quick shoulder check will confirm that it is safe to make your move. The scanning procedure mentioned earlier, gathering information continually, gives anyone's driving that extra bit of polish.
Another item, the core of any advanced driving school curriculum, is that the vehicle will tend to go where you look. The bad version of this is target fixation, looking at what you are afraid to hit, such as a parked propane truck. The good version is looking for a path or escape route, step one in avoiding an obstacle.
Correct use of eyesight is critical in skid control as well. In many years of teaching on skid pads, in Europe as well as North America, I've observed that, under stress, the eyes are the first to go. The driver then has no distinct path to aim for, and what remains are random acts of violence. Sometimes the motorist is lucky enough to regain control; more often than not, the result is a trip to the ditch or guardrail. On the skid circuit, it might simply lead to enough spinning that backseat passengers need to throw up.
What could possibly be negative about looking where you want to go? The answer is that when approaching a corner, skilled drivers learn to separate the tasks of looking and steering. Otherwise, the vehicle tends to crab too close to the inside of a turn, known in driving parlance as turning early or sleazing in to a corner. This means the driver will likely have to hold or add steering later in the corner, a classic driving mistake unless the turn itself is decreasing radius, such as a freeway exit ramp.
The acronym I came up with years ago for cornering procedures is BLT, or brake-look-turn. Gather information before you have to use it. Practise turning your head and using the side windows in tighter turns, for a better picture of the desired path.
Bear in mind as well that information tends to warp as it passes from person to person. That's a driving version of the old kid's game, and can lead to all kinds of nastiness. Find the source, and make sure that it is both credible and up to international standards. If in doubt, as with so many things, look for a second opinion.

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