The key to good observation skills is to be constantly scanning.

Scanning is keeping your eyes moving, checking in one area for a couple of seconds and then moving your eyes to another area.  Whenever you’re driving, you depend on your eyes to provide you with a clear, complete and accurate picture of your surroundings.  You should always be constantly searching for potential hazards.  A hazard is anything that may interfere with your driving to cause you to change speed or direction.  Hazards also include potentially dangerous situations that may lead to a crash or injury.

Scanning is a key hazard perception skill.  All drivers should always be scanning around all the time to avoid hazards and crashes. Effective scanning means constantly moving your eyes and/or your head whilst driving so that you can detect hazards sooner rather than later. This may include moving your body forward or to the side, in order to gain a better view.  Effective scanning also allows you to identify, react and take action, if a hazard was to present itself.  You need to be aware of what’s happening right in front of you as well as what’s ahead.

For instance you look at what the vehicle in front of you is doing – whilst at the same time also looking as far ahead as possible.  Frequently checking your mirrors and surroundings, provides you better information.  Having this information, allows you to identify potential hazards and react sooner rather than later.

Always check your mirrors frequently, as things change behind and beside you when you drive.  Remember, your vehicle has “blind spots” not covered by your mirrors so be sure to physically turn your head, chin to shoulder, and check your blind spots and look out the side windows.

When scanning look:

  • In the distance.
  • At the road surface.
  • To your left and right.
  • Regularly at your mirrors and instruments.

Depending on the vehicle, blind spots may vary.  Vehicles such as vans or trucks often have more blind spots than passenger vehicles.  Checking the blind spots with a head check is vital when you want to move, merge, turn, change lanes or when reversing.

IMPORTANT: To maintain effective scanning, you must keep your eyes and/or your head moving and not concentrating on just one spot as the driving environment changes constantly. Drive to the conditions.  If your vision is limited, slow down to a speed that’s appropriate to the conditions or driving environment.