What Is a Blind Spot and How Can I Eliminate Driving Dangers?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are more than 800,000 accidents every year that are caused in part by blind spots.
These accidents result in more than 300 deaths every year. The sad thing is that many of these types of accidents could have been avoided if people were more aware of their blind spots.
What is a blind spot, exactly? How have blind spots played a role in such a large number of accidents?
Read on as we take a look at what a blind spot is, and how you can try to reduce the risk of this type of driving hazard.
What Is a Blind Spot in Driving?
To drive safely, you need to be aware of all the other vehicles that are sharing the road with you. You should not change lanes unless you know that there is enough space to do so safely. This means that you need to be certain of where all the other vehicles are in relation to your own.
The vehicles in front of you are easy to see. The vehicles directly behind you are visible in the rear view mirror. Vehicles that are passing you on either side are visible in the side mirrors.
The problem occurs when a car passes into an area where it is not visible in either the rear view mirror or the side mirror. As a driver, you may be unaware that there is a car in close proximity to your own because you are unable to see it in your mirrors.
When another vehicle passes into a blind spot, it is impossible to see it without turning your head from your natural driving position. This is why blind spots are the cause of so many accidents; drivers will change lanes believing the lane next to them is empty. Since the other vehicle is so close, a collision is hard to avoid.
Where Exactly Is the Blind Spot?
When people talk about the blind spot, they are usually referring to one specific position.
When a car is passing you in the next lane, you will initially be able to see it in both your rear view mirror and your driver’s side mirror. As it approaches your vehicle, you will no longer be able to see it in your rear view mirror but may still be able to see it in your side mirror.
As the car pulls alongside your vehicle, there will be a point where it is no longer visible in your side mirror, but has not yet reached the point where it is in visible field of your peripheral vision. This is your blind spot; without turning your head, you can no longer see the car. As it continues to pass you, you will eventually be able to see it out of the corner of your eye before it moves past you and into your forward view.
This is the most common example of a blind spot, but you may have other blind spots around your vehicle. A semi truck blind spot will be much larger, for example, as you cannot see directly behind the vehicle. Door frames and other parts of your vehicle may also cause small blind spots.
How to Avoid a Blind Spot
Depending on your vehicle and the position of your mirrors, it may not be possible to completely eliminate blind spots. There are steps you can take to help reduce the risk of an accident, however.
Adjust Your Mirrors
When you slide behind the wheel, ensure that your mirrors are correctly positioned. If you’re driving in a different car, or someone has adjusted your mirrors, perform the following steps before you start driving.
- Move the rear view mirror until you have the best view directly behind your vehicle. You should make the adjustments with your head in its usual driving position.
- Lean your head across until it’s against your driver’s side window. Adjust the driver’s side mirror until you see the side of your car. When you sit back in a normal position, you should not be able to see any of your car’s bodywork in the mirror. You need to be able to see other cars, not your own.
- Now lean the other way until your head is in the center of the car, in line with the middle of the rear view mirror. Adjust the passenger’s side mirror until you can see the side of your vehicle. When you sit back in your normal position, you should not be able to see any of the car’s bodywork in the mirror.
- Your mirrors are now in the optimum position. You may still have a small blind spot, but it will be much smaller than if your mirrors were set up incorrectly.
Some modern cars now have what is known as mirror memory. It allows you to position your mirrors perfectly, and then save their position into the car’s memory. You can then return your mirrors to the exact same position with a push of the button.
This is particularly useful if you share your car with someone else who requires the mirrors to be in different positions.
Know Your Blind Spot
Once you have your mirrors set up to the correct position, you may still find that you have a small blind spot.
Learn exactly where your blind spot is, and how big it is. This will make you safer when on the roads because you’ll know the area that you need to watch.
The easiest way to find the size and position of your blind spot is to get out on the road. In your rear view mirror, find a car that is behind you, but is in the process of passing you. Watch it in your rear view mirror as it approaches and notice when it enters the view from your side mirrors.
You should be able to determine the exact point at which it disappears from both your rear view and your side mirrors. Now count seconds in your head until you see the car in your peripheral vision. This should be no more than one or two seconds, provided that the car is not passing you at almost the same speed you are traveling.
Try this a few times and determine the longest amount of time that any vehicle remains in your blind spot.
Wait to Pull Out
Now that you know how long vehicles are typically in your blind spot, you can reduce your risk of an accident by waiting for at least this long before changing lanes.
For example, if you notice that cars tend to be in your blind spot for two seconds at most, then when it comes time to change lanes, check both your rear view and side mirrors. If you don’t see anything, wait another two seconds before you pull out. This should give enough time for any cars that were in your blind spot to become visible again.
We always advise taking plenty of time to make your move into the next lane.
Look Over Your Shoulder
Another technique when dealing with blind spots while driving is to look over your shoulder.
If you cannot see a car in your mirrors, you should still be able to see it through the side windows. Because of the position of the most common blind spots, you will need to look over your left shoulder to do this.
Keep in mind that while looking back may reduce the risk of a blind spot accident, it could increase your risk of hitting the car in front. Always be aware of your surroundings. If you are in tight traffic, stay safe by being selective when looking over your shoulder.
The blind spot is not a new problem. There have been many attempts to eliminate blind spots using technology.
The simplest of these is a blind spot mirror. This is a standard side mirror, but a small portion of the mirror is shaped so it has a different view to the rest. It means that a car in your blind spot that doesn’t appear in your side mirror should still appear in this smaller section.
This can be effective, although the size of the small section means that it is still more difficult to see vehicles that are in your blind spot.
Some newer vehicles have a built-in blind spot detection system. If a car is detected in the blind spot, an alert will notify the driver, either on the dash or on the side mirror itself. You can also buy kit versions to add to your car if it doesn’t already have a blind spot detection system.
The rate of crashes in vehicles with these types of collision avoidance systems is 11% lower than for those without them. It is definitely something to consider when purchasing your next car.
Keep in Mind the Blind Spots of Other Drivers
As well as thinking about your own blind spot, you should also take into account the blind spots of other drivers. They may not be so aware of the problem as you now are, and they may try to pull out when you are driving in their blind spot.
If you are passing another car, avoid matching their speed too closely. This will cause you to remain in their blind spot for longer than if you were passing them more quickly. The less time you can spend in their blind spot the better.
Also take into account the blind spots of vehicles that cannot see directly behind them, such as large trucks, tractor trailers, big rigs or station wagons that are full right up to the roof. These drivers will only be able to see you in their side mirrors, so if you are too close behind them, you will be in a large blind spot.
They may brake suddenly, not realizing you are there. If you are traveling close behind them, you will have little time to avoid a collision.
Are You Looking for a Defensive Driving Course to Help Sharpen Your Skills?
What is a blind spot? Well, now you know.
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