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Spatial Understanding
The basis of our spatial understanding relates to the size of our body, the space we occupy, and the ability to project that size ahead of us.   We are able to judge if we can walk between two rocks or under a branch.

When we ride a horse or a bicycle we change our size as far as the spatial understanding is concerned, we have to take into account our size and the size of the horse or bicycle.

Next we can judge the size of an object and where it will fit.    For example, will this piece of furniture fit in that space?

We use both of these concepts when we drive a vehicle.

1. Firstly our mind has to accept that we are the size of the vehicle and that we are sitting on one side of it.   A lady recently told me the story of her driving in the USA for a few years (Left drive vehicles on the right side of the road).   On returning to Australia she drove down a country road that was very familiar to her and came to a narrow bridge.   She had the strangest feeling that the car wouldn't fit across the bridge because her spatial understanding had not returned to right drive vehicle on the left side of the road.   In effect her mind was driving two vehicles, the real one to the left of her and the imagined American vehicle to the right of her.   She was right, two vehicles abreast wouldn't fit on the bridge.

2. Secondly we need to project the size of this vehicle into or through that space.   These judgements are required when we make a traffic judgement; park the vehicle and many situations in between.

There is a gender difference in spatial understanding.   The way we learn spatial skills is different.   Generally speaking however, observing the vehicle from outside when it is being parked for example, helps both males and females.

Reversing Observation


The former Victorian rules booklet "The Victorian Traffic Handbook" was an excellent manual, except the passage on reversing. A great deal of research went into the entire preparation of the manual and those who developed it worked very hard to make sure it was accurate and thorough. However, the section on reversing may have been misconstrued to suggest that it it wrong for a person to use the mirrors whilst reversing. Page 48 "Reversing. When reversing, don't rely on your mirrors. Always turn around and look over your shoulder."  The new "Road to Solo Driving" is clearer on page 16 it says "Quickly looking over your shoulder....Do this as well as using your mirrors....when reversing". Much clearer!  The problem is that ideas that develop into beliefs can hang around for many years.  Unfortunately too many have adopted the idea that is wrong or too difficult to use mirrors when reversing.


At DTA, we agree that we should include looking over the shoulder when that is possible, but without teaching mirrors for reversing, we miss out on very important skills. We believe that mirror use should be taught along with other methods of observing whilst reversing, for the following reasons: