by Cedric Hughes, Barrister & Solicitor with regular weekly contributions from Leslie McGuffin, LL.B.   

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Blind Spots

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Picture a many-eyed creature with lots of antennae sticking out of a rotating head-like sphere. When you drive, this creature is your role model because to drive safely, you need to know what is going on around you at all times. To help compensate for our limited number of eyes, no antennae and fixed necks, car designers have given us rear and side mirrors and horns. In turn, driving experts have given us strategies for using these devices to maximum effect.

Safe driving strategies recommend you keep your eyes moving while you are driving. Look directly in front of you and look well ahead, one or two blocks in the city and half a kilometer on the highway. Look from one side of the roadway to the other: are you driving by a row of parked cars? Is someone getting out? Are pedestrians walking on the sidewalks with children or unleashed pets? Are there breaks in the row of storefronts? Are these breaks commercial lanes? Is there a bus stopped from which passengers are disembarking? The sooner you see a potential hazard, the more time you have to avoid it.

But you also need to know what is going on behind you. Before starting to drive, adjust your mirrors so that you have the widest possible view they offer. Then scan them regularly: every five to eight seconds is a recommended cycle time. Checking your mirrors is an essential step before making any change in your driving. Before slowing down and stopping, always check your rear view mirror to ensure the cars behind you are far enough back that they can respond safely. Before changing lanes or direction, always check your side view mirrors. When pulling away from the right side of the road, always check your left mirror for cars coming from behind. When changing from the left to the right lane, always check your right mirror to ensure the space into which you are moving is clear.

Just checking your mirrors, however, is not enough. The problem is blind spots—large areas you can’t see in your mirrors. Motor vehicles have four blind spots in total, two large and two smaller ones. The two largest blind spots begin where the viewing area covered by the side mirrors starts and arc around to where the driver’s side vision begins: two large triangular spaces that can easily hide a car that is too close to be behind, too far back to be beside. The two smaller blind spots start at the front and back of the car and extend to the area of the road surface that you can see from the driver’s seat given the width and angle of the front and back of the car. Blind spots include the vertical dimension. Think of a small sports car in the blind spot of a transport truck or a child lying on a skateboard in the blind spot of an SUV or even a car.

Section 169 of the British Columbia Motor Vehicle Act (MVA) says that a person must not move a vehicle that is stopped, standing or parked unless the movement can be made with reasonable safety. Moving your car with reasonable safety requires that in addition to checking your mirrors, you check your blind spots. When you first start up your car to drive it away from the space in which it is parked, check your front or back blind spot. If you are backing up, turn right around to check to the side and all the way behind you.

Then check the other way also doing a full turn. As you back out, turn your head right around which may involve turning your body to ensure that you are looking out the back window the whole time you are backing up. By doing this, think of the risks you are avoiding: backing into the also backing-out car directly behind you in the parking lot; or driving over your child’s bicycle lying in the driveway. Before backing out of your home driveway, develop the habit of checking behind your car to ensure that the driveway is clear. If the visibility behind your car is limited, before backing up, tap your horn to sound a warning.

When you change direction, change lanes (which includes pulling just slightly into another lane to pass), pullover, or pull-out (remember: watch for cyclists) you must always signal, check your mirrors and check your side blind spots. Checking your side blind spots involves looking about 45 degrees over your shoulder in the direction you plan to move. Checking your blind spots by rotating your head over your shoulder needs to be done quickly but thoroughly. How thoroughly depends on the design of your car. The shape of your car windows and the thickness of the post separating them may require you to look longer, or scan a wider area, or even look twice. The thickness of the side arms of your glasses may also affect how much you can see at a glance.

Once you have changed lanes, you may be moving into the blind spots of cars in adjacent lanes. Try not to drive in these spots longer than necessary. Driving beside or slightly behind large trucks is particularly hazardous. Trucks have large blind spots that their drivers cannot check by shoulder checking. Remember: if you can’t see the truck’s mirror, the truck driver cannot see you.

Cedric Hughes of Hughes and Company Law Corporation with contributions from Leslie McGuffin, LL.



I was in an MVA where I left a parked position after checking my mirrors and blind spots. However ever someone pulled a left turn in front of me, and I could not prevent a collision.

ICBC gave Section 169 as the applied section and put the blame on me. However there is nothing I can do for a left turner (to predict someone intention).

This cannot be correct.

please email me auj.geo@yahoo.com with your feedback


Cedric Hughes

huges & company law corporation vancouver


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