Scanning and Observation

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The video captured from my dashcam which appears below is crystal clear evidence of the need for ALL drivers to exercise due care and attention while driving.

There is an often spoken about concept integral to the skill of driving known as “Scanning and Observation”. ‘Scanning’ means precisely that. Sweeping the view you have of what is happening in front of you, in your mirrors behind you, and when essential – such as moving from lane-to-lane or merging – immediately alongside you, while driving. Keep your vision moving. Don’t fixate on one object or event, keep your eyes active. Use both areas of vision, Focal and Peripheral. (Read the linked article. It explains conclusively how your eyes and combined visual acuity functions)

The event in the video shows a number of events I detected that the trainee alongside me did not. That is not to say that she can’t drive, in fact, she drives very well, but her scanning and observation skills are immature, as are the same skills of a vast number of so-called experienced open licensed drvers. What did I see that alerted me to what was likely to occur?

  1. a vehicle parked on the side of the road where it perhaps should not have been, and where the margin between that vehicle and passing traffic was minimal;
  2. a passenger alighting from that vehicle, which infers that the vehicle MAY be about to move;
  3. the wheels on the vehicle starting to move;
  4. lack of indicator from the vehicle communicating the driver’s intention to leave the kerb;
  5. lack of movement from the driver’s head, which, while obscure in the video, was very clear to me as the distance closed rapidly.

As the supervising driver at the time, my reactions could have been quicker, however these reaction times tend to lengthen with age. I am 58, and I know I’m slower to react to events now than I was when I was 20 years younger. That degradation of reaction time requires that my scanning and observation skills operate at a higher level, which means that I need to be constantly aware and alert to the actions of other drivers while on the road. Hence my observation of items 3 and 5 in the list above, closely followed by #4. These are very small things, but they speak volumes of the driver’s skills, abilities and attention levels.

This event was a very close call. Thankfully, the Anti-lock Braking System and Traction Control System on the Kia Rio functioned as designed. Frankly, I should not have needed those technological marvels, but human beings are inherently unpredictable creatures when behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. Therefore, as a driver, YOU need to be aware of this unpredictability. YOU need to be aware that other drivers WILL do things that you wouldn’t do. They won’t drive as YOU know how to drive. Be alert, stay alert. Scan the environment you’re in. Observe and interpret what you see, taking appropriate action to negate the potential hazards you see. In adverse road conditions, drive slower and in accordance with what you know the road will allow you to do, and what you know you and your car can cope with if the unpredictable becomes probable. Driving is not just about travelling from A to B. Driving is about staying alive, out of danger and safe.

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