Every vehicle has blind spots. These are areas surrounding your car that you cannot see in your field of vision in front of you or when looking in your rearview or side mirrors. If another vehicle slips into your blind spot and you change lane positions without checking that area, you might cause a crash. This is why knowing your blind spots, how to minimize them while driving, and how to check them is critical for road safety.
Common Blind Spots
Many blind spots are due to the basic structure of the car and where the driver sits. The height of the vehicle, shape of the windshield, and positioning of the pillars are some of the most common factors. Pillars are the vertical supports between windows, and the A-pillars, which are on either side of the windshield, are notorious for obstructing the driver’s view diagonally to the front.
Such zones behind the driver can also be due to pillar or other physical obstructions, such as headrests or passengers. Anything obscuring the views out of the windows can create a blind spot.
There are also areas along the sides of the car that the mirror views do not cover, simply because of their width and placement. This is why proper mirror adjustment is so important.
Minimizing Your Blind Spots
Obviously, you can’t do anything to change the positions of the pillars or other structural elements of your car. There are some important adjustments you can make to improve your zones of visibility, however. These include:
- Adjusting your seat position. Shifting the position of the driver’s seat can improve visibility. Sometimes this is a matter of sitting a little taller or a little further forward so that the frame of the car blocks less of your view. Experiment with this until you are comfortable with what you can see in your periphery.
- Adjusting your mirrors. Truly, this is the key to minimizing your blind spots. Sit in the driver’s seat and adjust the rearview mirror so you can through the back window without moving your head. Then adjust the side mirrors one by one so that, at a glance, you can see behind you in the adjacent lane with the side of your own car barely visible.
Checking Your Blind Spots
Many newer cars have alert systems that sense when something gets too close to your vehicle. While these are potentially helpful in reducing crashes, they’ll never fully replace the value of a quick glance to get a full view of the area. Always take a look over your shoulder before:
- Changing lanes. After checking your mirrors, look over your shoulder to make sure there are no vehicles before changing lanes. Looking twice for motorcyclists can prevent deadly crashes.
- Merging onto the highway. Watch traffic as you approach your merge and peek over your shoulder before completing the maneuver. At high speeds, someone might appear in that space unexpectedly.
- Merging from street parking. If parked along the side of the road, glance to make sure it’s clear for you to pull out. You will need time to accelerate for a safe merge into traffic.
- Backing up. Whether you’re backing out of your driveway or a parking space, it’s a good idea to look behind you to make sure the coast is clear. (These days, some rear cameras provide an even more complete view, so use this as well if you have one.)
- Crossing a bike lane. If you are turning right and will cross over a bike lane, look over your shoulder first to make sure you are not cutting off a bicyclist going straight. Respect the bicyclist’s right of way and yield.