The Importance of Completing a Proper Visual Search – Part I

As a professional truck driver, you know how important it is to know what is going on around your vehicle at all times. That’s why it is so important to complete a good visual search before you set out.

You need to make sure you are seeing ahead and to the sides at all times. The fact is, a tractor-trailer covers more distance than a passenger vehicle when it is coming to a stop, changing lanes or reacting to problems on the road.

You must be focusing on the road, other vehicles on the road and other problems. You must be constantly aware of vehicles to both the left, the right and behind. This is called distance scanning.

Practicing Distance Scanning

When you are looking ahead, just make sure you look far enough.

  • Give yourself enough time to spot a problem;
  • Make time to to decide on how to avoid a problem;
  • Try to be aware of any adverse traffic conditions;
  • Give yourself enough time and space to maneuver if sudden evasive maneuvers are called for.

As a general rule, always make sure to look about 12 – 15 seconds ahead of the vehicle you are operating. If you are in city driving, imagine 12 – 15 seconds as two to three blocks. On the highway it would be about a quarter mile.

While looking ahead is crucial, it is also important to make sure you are scanning behind and to the sides of your vehicle. Keep a keen eye out for road signs and pay close attention to your vehicle’s instruments. Your eyes must be constantly roving to stay aware of what is going on both inside and outside your vehicle.

As you scan ahead, pay close attention to things that could cause you problems or impact your path of travel.

Keep an eye out for:

  • Vehicles;
  • Road signs;
  • Traffic signals;
  • Road debris;
  • Animals (alive or dead);
  • Weather hazards;
  • Intersections or road undulations;
  • Construction zones;
  • Work crews;
  • Emergency vehicles;
  • Accidents.

Distance scanning carries several benefits to making sure you are constantly scanning the distance and area around your vehicle. It allows you more time to identify and react to situations around you.

Distance scanning can help prevent hard stops and evasive maneuvers. Scanning can also help you fight fatigue. If your eyes are continually moving and not fixed on a specific target, they are less susceptible to fatigue.

Side Scanning

When you are traveling down the road, you should be periodically scanning the sides of your vehicle. There are some situations where side scanning is even more important, such as while you go across crosswalks.

Crosswalks deserve extra caution. You must scan the entire area and pay special attention to what is going on to the right of your vehicle. Pedestrians and bicycles are very often out of your line of sight when they are closest to your vehicle.

When you are at an intersection, move your vehicle slowly. Make sure to look to your left and to your right, then left again. Make sure to consistently scan as you enter the intersection.

Be extra careful in school zones. Kids will often dart through traffic and their small size makes them easy to miss. Maintaining proper side scanning can help prevent a terrible and tragic accident should you miss a child for lack of proper scanning.

When you are in city driving, side scanning is especially crucial. Cars parked on the shoulder present hazards. They may also obscure other hazards that could present a safety concern.

Remember that people will often walk between cars or open their doors into traffic without even looking to see if a vehicle is coming by. The inattentiveness of others can create a safety concern for you. This is why proper side scanning is required to prevent potential accident or injury.

We hope you have enjoyed this week’s look at conducting a good visual search. Join us next week when we delve into the best way to use your mirrors and conclude with seeing to the rear of the vehicle.