When Vehicles Block Your View
Tips on seeing around and through trucks, SUVs and sedans
Vision provides 85 to 90 percent of the information you need to be a safe driver, so having your view blocked by a large or tall vehicle is one of the biggest frustrations a driver can have. Now that there are so many more SUVs and pickup trucks on the road, it's an increasingly common problem.
But it's not just limited to trucks. Other cars can also prevent you from seeing what you want and need to see to be safe. And what you need to see can be anything from oncoming traffic, to an accident or construction a head, a road sign, traffic signal or a break in the traffic to make a left turn. So here are some tips on how to see around other vehicles in a variety of situations.
Slow down and back off. The closer you are to a tall object, the larger the amount of space it takes up in your field of vision. So if you're behind a slow-moving big-rig trailer on a two-lane road and want to know whether it's safe to pass, the best idea is NOT to pull out into the on-coming lane. Instead, what you should do is ease off the gas pedal and fall far enough behind it that you can see the left lane ahead of it. The same principle applies to SUVs and smaller trucks, but the distance you have pull back to be able to see will be less.
Look through their windows. This applies more to sedans ahead of you than it does to trucks, but can sometimes also be useful when you're behind an SUV. But be careful – in dim light or at night, this can be unreliable. Even in daylight, the angle might be insufficient to get a complete view, or your view may be blocked by passengers or other contents in the vehicle ahead.
Check for oncoming headlight beams. A compensating advantage to having the view ahead blocked by another vehicle at night is that oncoming traffic has to use headlights to see. The beams they cast tell you not only that they're present, but the intensity and angle of the beams can tell you roughly how far away they are.
Watch the taillights. There are going to be times – like when you're in a slow-moving traffic jam –that it's just not going to be possible to back off enough to get a better view. In these situations, you have rely on the view the driver or drivers ahead of you, transmitted through their brake or back-up lights for information.
Be patient. This doesn't help you see as much as it's a precaution to keep you safe. Waiting for the vehicle ahead of you to move out of your way to get a clear view of your own is sometimes the only sensible maneuver. This is particularly true when you're in a line to make a left turn, or approaching an intersection with a traffic light that's blocked from your view by a tall truck. Just because the driver ahead of you has decided the way is clear or the light isn't red yet doesn't mean the same will be true when you get there. For a left turn, allow a second or two for the vehicle ahead of you to provide a clear view, and at a stop light be prepared to see it pop into view on as red.