How dangerous are blind spots? For just semis, the NHSTA estimates 413,000 accidents are caused by them each year, and of those, over one-third result in fatalities. Knowing how to compensate for blind spots can greatly improve your safety and the safety of those driving around you.
Identifying Your Car’s Blind Spots
For all vehicles, there are blind spots directly behind and to the left and right of the vehicle, behind the rear of the vehicle and below the rear window, and directly in front of the vehicle. The last two blind spots are small enough that they’re usually only an issue when parking, while the rear side blind spots can easily hide a car.
These blind spots also extend out obscuring traffic that is further away, making it more likely that you won’t see a car that is two lanes over if you’re on a multi-lane freeway. If both cars decide to switch to the same lane at the same time, there could be a collision.
The A pillars, which are between the windshield and the front doors, also create blind spots extending slightly forward and to the sides of the vehicle. The addition of side airbags has made these pillars larger, further obscuring the driver’s view. While it’s not enough to obscure a car, pedestrians and cyclists can be hidden at intersections.
Correctly Adjusting Your Mirrors
Most of us adjust our side mirrors so that we can just see the sides of our car, but the Society of Automotive Engineers recommends a different approach to ensure maximum visibility.
To adjust the left mirror, lean over until your head is against the door glass, then move the mirror until you can just see the side of your vehicle on the very edge. For the right mirror, set the mirror in the same position, this time with your head directly in line with the rear-view mirror. Done correctly, a passing vehicle will be visible from one of the side mirrors just as it leaves the rear-view mirror, then from the side mirror to your peripheral vision. Keep in mind that this isn’t fool-proof and vehicles can still be obscured if they’re near the rear corners of your vehicle, especially if you’re driving something with a long body like a full-size SUV or van.
Using Blind Spot Warning Systems
Newer cars come with radar or sonar devices mounted on the sides of the car to detect obstacles. If an obstacle is found, it will turn on a warning light on the side mirror, so you’ll see them when checking the mirrors before changing lanes. These systems can also flash the light, sound an alarm or even vibrate the steering wheel if you turn into another lane, but often this warning will only work if you have your turn signal on. Many blind spot warning systems also have “Rear Parking Assist.” This uses sensors that can detect traffic around the back corners of your car as you back out of a parking space. Like blind spot detection, it turns on lights in the mirrors when an object is detected.
As with mirrors, these systems aren’t 100% foolproof: tunnels and other large roadside obstructions can trigger false alarms.
Avoiding the Blind Spots of Other Vehicles
Staying in the blind spots behind and to the left or the right of the vehicle can make your car invisible, and, if the car moves into your lane, can leave very little distance for emergency stops. Passing on the right is more dangerous because drivers tend to be focused on what’s on their left side, whether they’re looking to make a left turn or they’re watching for traffic from the outer lane.
Semis have much larger blind spots due to their high cabins and long trailers. A trucker can’t see you if you’re near the truck on the left side, almost anywhere near the truck or trailer on the right side and either less than 25 feet in front of the truck or 200 feet behind the trailer.
In Wisconsin, it’s legal to pass any vehicle on the right, but in many states, it’s illegal in many circumstances, including using the shoulder and when passing semis.
Accidents Happen. When they Do, Visit Merton Auto Body
No matter how careful you drive, accidents are bound to happen, but Merton Auto Body can help get your car looking and driving like it never happened. We’re an I-CAR Gold Class certified shop, and our technicians are ASE certified, so your car will always be repaired using the latest tools and techniques available.
Getting repairs done right is important, but it’s also nice to have them done quickly so you can get back on the road. We have an appraiser on staff and an Autobody Estimating Center to help you get work approved by your insurance company as fast as possible. To learn more, visit our website, MertonAuto.com