Blind Spots When Driving – What Are They and How to Deal with Them

One thing you will notice when reading or talking to people about blind spots when driving is that everyone has a different definition of what it is. I prefer to use the definition provided by Transport for NSW in their book guide-to-driving-test.


blind spots when driving

A car, motorcycle or bicycle in an adjacent lane can easily be positioned beyond the area visible in the mirrors.

As it is the drivers responsibility to make sure it is safe to drive, you need to look and make sure that it is safe to drive. Therefore it is important to understand what they are and how to check them.

Unfortunately parts of the vehicle such as the pillars, bonnet and boot obstruct your vision. Which means you can not see directly in front of the car, or immediately behind the car. In addition there are areas to the sides of the car that you can not see in your mirrors.


What are Blind Spots When Driving?

Most cars will have six pillars that hold up the roof. Whilst these pillars provide structural strength to the car and are essential for your safety if the car rolls over, they obstruct your vision and create Blind Spots when Driving. In addition the front and rear of the vehicle also obstruct your vision creating vision restrictions.

rear of car and front of car blind spots


Obviously the front window of your car is bigger that the rear window. Therefore your field of vision through the front window is larger than the rear window. In addition your vision via the rear window is reduced due to:

  • Rear view mirror: the size of the rear view mirror and its position affects your vision.
  • Passengers in the rear seat block your vision.
  • The height and placement of the headrests in the rear seat block your view.

When you are in the drivers seat, any area around your car that can not be seen in your mirrors or is hidden by part of the motor vehicle is a blind spot. Therefore your height, seat position, mirror adjustment and size of vehicle all effect what you can and can not see.

When driving a motor vehicle, there are areas all around your vehicle that you can not see. The main areas that you can not see are located at the front, rear and sides of your vehicle. The size of these hidden areas vary depending on the size and shape of your vehicle.

Windows and pillars in a motor vehicle are sized differently, which can negatively affect visibility whilst driving. In the case of the rear of the vehicle your vision will be affected by a number of factors including

  • the size of the vehicle.
  • size, shape and location of the rear view mirror.
  • size of the rear window.
  • shape and angle of rear window.
  • size, shape and location of rear head rests.

Therefore you need to be aware of these obstructions and take extra care to ensure you can see properly whilst driving.

Blind Spots and the NSW Driving Test

It’s a necessity to make sure it’s safe before you drive. Starting to drive without first looking and confirming that it’s safe to drive can be very dangerous. Therefore the driving test in NSW involves constantly monitoring that you are looking and confirming that it is safe before you drive.

When driving you must turn your head and check your blind spots before:

  • changing lanes
  • leaving or returning to the kerb
  • merging or diverging
  • reversing
  • turning left – looking for pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists who could be beside you in your blind spot
  • turning right – looking for vehicles that might be overtaking you
  • joining the traffic stream
  • leaving the inside lane of a multi lane roundabout

When reversing you must turn your head and look over your shoulder to look through the rear window for vehicles and pedestrians that may not be visible in your mirror.

For more information on the driving test in New South Wales please read the following booklets from Transport for NSW, Guide to the driving test and the road users handbook.

You must turn your head and check your blind spot at the correct time. Performing the observation check too early or too late will result in you being marked down in the driving test. In addition you must maintain proper control of the motor vehicle whilst performing the observation check.


What is a Pillar Blind Spot?

The pillars on your car provide structural support for the roof of the vehicle. Consequently you have metal bars that support the roof of the car. The number of pillars on a motor vehicle vary depending on the size and shape of the vehicle.

Because the pillars of the car block your vision, they create gaps in your field of vision. Therefore you will need to take this into account when performing your required observation checks during the driving test.

When approaching a T-section you must look left and right and confirm that it’s safe before making your turn.

However the  Pillars marked (A) in the image will obstruct your vision. Therefore you may be unable to see a pedestrian, cyclist or other vehicle. Consequently you will need to move your head to look around the pillar in order to perform your required observation check.

What are the Required Observation Checks during the NSW Driving Test

Failing to check Blind Spots when Driving is the most common fail item in the New South Wales driving test. In addition it is also dangerous and frequently results in motor vehicle accidents.

In the New South Wales driving test you will notice fail item number 19 “Frequently not making required observation checks“. This is the most common fail item in the driving test. Therefore it is very important that you understand where and when you are required to perform an observation check.

Whilst a blind spot is a required observation check, you are also required to make additional observation checks. Therefore you are also required to look to other areas that are obstructed by parts of your vehicle or have limited vision.

How Can You Check a Blind Spot without Turning the Steering Wheel?

A common error made by drivers when performing a required observation check is to twist the upper part of the body. This causes the arms to move which in turn moves the steering wheel. Consequently this can cause your vehicle to change its road position, which can be very dangerous.

The key to performing a required observation check safely is to turn you head without twisting your shoulders and arms. This requires practice and is harder to do on a bend. Therefore you should avoid trying to change lanes on bends or curves.

Learn Safe Driving Skills with Learn to Drive

At Learn to Drive Driving School we focus on teaching students Safe driving Skills that will stay with them for life. When you know how to drive safely and follow the road rules you will be able to pass the driving test. But more importantly you will be able to drive safely.

With our better way training program and personalised lessons you will learn all you need to know about defensive driving. Because we teach people to drive in a structured way, you are able to pick the topics that you would like to learn. Therefore you could choose to learn steering or required observation checks in a driving lesson. And yes you can do multiple topics in the one lesson, obviously the more topics you do the less time you will have to practice each topic.