Introduction to Scanning | THE BASICS

| Driving Lessons |

Driving safely involves more than just focusing on the road directly ahead; it requires awareness of your entire surroundings. Unfortunately, many new drivers tend to limit their focus to what’s immediately in front of them, missing potential hazards that can emerge from any direction. That’s precisely why learning effective scanning techniques is vital. This lesson aims to help new drivers develop a scanning routine, expanding their area of focus to spot potential hazards before they become problems.


To help the new driver develop a comprehensive scanning routine for improved awareness and safety.

The Learning Environment

Look for large empty parking lots in an industrial park or public facility during closed hours with no traffic, parked cars or pedestrians and with minimal obstructions. Schedule practice during the day with dry pavement and clear weather.  Avoid driving time when the sun may be directly in the driver’s view or when the weather is bad.

Materials Needed

  • A vehicle with an automatic transmission.
  • An empty parking lot. 
  • The Supervised Driving Log (Optional): Although it was originally created for California Teens Learning to Drive, this FREE and COMPLEMENTARY driving log is an essential tool for all new drivers.  Keeping a driving log is great for tracking how you’re doing, finding what you need to get better at, and feeling good about your wins. It helps you learn in an organized way, focusing on key skills to make you a better driver faster. This careful tracking builds confidence and speeds up your path to driving well.

Activity Steps for Introduction to Scanning

STEP 1 – Adjust Seat and Mirrors: Before starting the car, ensure that the seat and mirrors are adjusted to maximize visibility. The goal is to minimize blind spots and ensure a clear view of the surroundings.

STEP 2 – Hand Placement: With the car in PARK, place both hands on the steering wheel. This position prepares you for attentive driving and scanning.

STEP 3 – Mirror Checking Routine: Practice a routine of checking all three mirrors in a systematic manner. For example, start with a glance at the driver-side mirror, look straight ahead, check the rearview mirror, look straight ahead again, glance at the passenger-side mirror, and finally, look straight ahead once more. Incorporate periodic blind spot checks, especially before making any turns. This routine helps in building a habit of being aware of your surroundings.

STEP 4 – Scanning While Driving: Begin driving in the parking lot, practice scanning all mirrors approximately every 8-10 seconds. This frequent scanning helps in maintaining a full awareness of the area around the vehicle, making it easier to spot and react to potential hazards.

Common Errors

  • Forgetting to Scan: One of the most common mistakes is simply forgetting to maintain a regular scanning routine.
  • Over-Focusing on Scanning: Concentrating too much on mirrors can lead to neglecting what’s ahead. Finding a balance is key.
  • Steering Distraction: A tendency to turn the steering wheel when moving the head to scan. It’s important to keep the wheel steady while scanning.

Sign Learner Gets It

A new driver has successfully developed their scanning routine when they consistently use it every time they drive. This means they’re not just going through the motions, but actively engaging with their surroundings, identifying potential hazards well in advance, and making informed decisions based on a comprehensive view of the road.

Use a progress tracker to keep track of skills that have been mastered and those that still need practice or improvement.  Express Driving School proudly offers a Driving Skills and Goals Progress Tracker to help student drivers and their driving coaches with assessments and evaluations by providing a rating scale that is simple and easy to use.

driving goals progress tracker

Introduction to Scanning | THE BASICS

Developing a scanning routine is a critical skill for new drivers, enhancing not only their safety but also the safety of others on the road. By following these steps and practicing regularly, new drivers can significantly improve their driving awareness, leading to safer and more confident driving experiences. Remember, good scanning comes with experience, but with patience and practice, it will soon become second nature.

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