What does scanning mean?

Scanning = taking in the 360° around your vehicle. To be effective, scanning should involve moving your eyes, head and/or upper body in a constant routine to detect hazards from all around when driving. Drivers get better at scanning with experience.

How to scan for hazards when driving

To get your 360° view you need to look out the windscreen and side windows, in the mirrors to see behind your vehicle and perform head checks to cover your blind spots on either side (head checks are vital when reversing, pulling out, and changing lanes).

A scanning routine

Look up to 12 seconds ahead

Scanning should be constant. You should look up to 12 seconds ahead (60km/h = 200m, 90km/h = 300m). This will mean looking through the windows of other cars to see brake lights and indicators giving you more time to react. You should also scan side to side for hazards and constantly move your eyes and/or head.

Check your mirror every 8-10 seconds

You should check your mirrors every 8-10 seconds for new hazards that may be rapidly approaching (e.g. emergency vehicles).

Check your blind spots

Head checks to cover blind spots are vital when changing lanes.

Key points summary

  • Scan up to 12 seconds ahead
  • Check mirrors every 8-10 seconds
  • Head check your blind spots before turning or diverging

This routine will take about 10 seconds and should be repeated constantly.

Smart scanning

You can’t take everything in, so you need to filter what’s important when scanning.

Look for change

Your vision is designed to notice movement and change which is helpful, but you also need to be aware of stationary hazards (e.g. road works) so keep an eye out for both.

A hazard perception action plan

Through scanning you are trying to See-Think-Do (STD):

  • See road hazards (a.k.a. scanning)
  • Think about what might happen
  • Think about possible solutions
  • Do something to remain safe

Listening for hazards

Keep the radio/stereo at a reasonable volume so you are still able to listen for hazards like emergency vehicle sirens.

Avoiding fatigue

Fatigue reduces your ability to detect and respond to hazards. Increased fatigue increases likelihood a hazard will be missed and therefore, increases crash risk. Fatigue comes from driving long distances, working long hours, partying hard and not getting enough sleep. Getting plenty of sleep is the only way to avoid fatigue – not fresh air, not coffee and not loud music. To reduce your risk:

  • Avoid driving when you would usually be asleep
  • Stop, revive, survive with a 15 minute break every 2 hours

Key points summary

  • Scanning = taking in the 360° around your vehicle
  • Scanning should be constant including looking and listening
  • Scanning routine:
    • Scan up to 12 seconds ahead (60km/h = 200m, 90km/h = 300m)
    • Look for change, movement and stationary traffic hazards
    • Check mirrors every 8-10 seconds
    • Check your blind spots
  • Hazard perception action plan:
    • See (hazards)
    • Think (about what might happen and your reaction)
    • Do (something to stay safe)
  • Getting plenty of sleep to avoid fatigue and reduce your crash risk


Continue reading the Hazard Perception Handbook Summary:

1. What is the HPT?

2. Crash Patterns of Provisional Drivers

3. How the HPT works

4. Keeping Space From Other Vehicles

5. Selecting Safe Gaps

6. Scanning for Hazards

7. Important Situations

8. Expecting the Unexpected

Check out the other resources available to help you pass the Hazard Perception Test so you can take the Practical Driving Test:

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