A Quick and Easy Way to Eliminate Blind Spots

Category: Driving. Written by Grant 

The scene: You’re driving on the highway. Approaching your off ramp, you signal from the middle lane and glance over at your passenger side mirror. It’s completely clear.

You steer smoothly into the right hand lane when suddenly- a car materializes to your immediate right. Instincts kick in as your hands jerk the steering wheel to the left, narrowly avoiding a collision. The other driver honks and speeds away. This scene happens all over Seattle each day and is the result of blind spots.

To avoid these type of near misses, most drivers use the proper technique of turning their head and looking in the rear direction before switching lanes. While this technique is essential, many accidents also happen at the crucial moment when drivers are checking their blind spot. On a freeway on-ramp, where dozens of drivers are merging, a common and sudden stop in traffic in front can catch a driver off-guard who temporarily has his or her head turned. Astute driving instructors relay this fact, by telling students to make a quick glance instead of a prolonged stare.

In a tight situation however, where you need to make an emergency lane toss (driving terminology for an immediate lane switch) or veer out of harm’s way, you might not have the crucial time to safely check your blind spot. Rather than rely on hope and luck, you can use proper mirror alignment to help eliminate blind spots.

The Common (and Wrong) Way of Aligning Side Mirrors

Most common and incorrect mirror

Most common and incorrect mirror alignment.

Imagine yourself standing on a clock, with 12 o’clock facing forward. If you are like most drivers, your blind spots will be at your 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock position, just a bit out of your horizontal visual field.

The reason a blind spot occurs is because most drivers position their side mirrors so that they can see their own car. This alignment is too acute however and causes a loss of wider vision, while overlapping with the view from the rearview mirror. The picture at the top of this article is an example of a side view mirror that is set too closely toward the car.

In the picture to the left, you can also see the effect that a blind spot has, by preventing the driver from seeing a car directly to his right. This leads to the dangerous scenario of potentially changing into an occupied lane if you don’t check your blind spot.

The Correct Way to Align Side View Mirrors

Side view mirrors with larger coverage of the road (and blindspots).

Side view mirrors with larger coverage of the road (and blindspots).

This picture shows a proper side view mirror alignment, one that points out wide enough to catch cars in the typical blind spot. By aligning mirrors to point away from the car, this driver is now utilizing the full range of view that his mirrors will allow. This also means very little overlap between the coverage of the mirrors.

Many drivers don’t use this configuration because they are comfortable seeing their own car in the side view mirror, as it’s a point of reference. In the correct alignment, the mirrors will not show the driver’s own car, which can be a little unnerving at first, but becomes comfortable after a few hours of driving.

The best way to check that your mirrors are aligned properly is to enlist a friend to walk behind your car from left to right, across virtual lanes of traffic and seeing whether or not that person smoothly passes from one mirror to another. If there is too much overlap, then your mirrors can be adjusted out more.

Lastly, have your helper walk toward your blind spots and make sure you can see him or her. Have them finally walk out of range of your blind spot and then check with your head to see where they are, as they should be right in view if you are staring at your side view mirror.

The whole process should only take a few minutes, but will improve your field of vision and make you a safer driver in the long run. Note however, that it’s always prudent to visually inspect (turn your head) and check your blind spot regardless, as it’s always better to err on the side of safety. Properly adjusted mirrors will make your shoulder glance quicker and more effective, as you will have more confidence in your road surroundings. You’ll find merging and lane changes much easier, as well as developing a comfort with needing to perform a lane toss if need be.

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2 Responses to “A Quick and Easy Way to Eliminate Blind Spots”

  1. Foster on May 14th, 2014 6:23 am

    I am really inspired with your writing talents and also with the structure for your weblog.
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    Either way stay up the nice quality writing, it is rare to look a nice blog like this one nowadays..

  2. Drewhill on January 7th, 2017 12:46 pm

    This content has been illustratively simplified. I believe a toddler can be able to unequivocably comprehend what the author is saying. I have read a lot about the subject under discussion, but your style piqued me as it combines safety, with the shoulder check and best mirror adjustment practices, albeit, it eliminates the feeling of complacency with this technique, which others do not highlight.

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