The Mythical Blind Spot

Almost everyone I've ridden with as a passenger has a "blind spot" (or two). That area to each side of the car, and slightly to the rear, where another car can not be seen in any of the mirrors.  It's there in every car, and it's one of those hazards of the road that we all have to learn to live with ("he was in my blind spot!"). But I'm here to tell you: there is no such thing!

It is usually taken as a given.  Everybody has a blind spot.  That's all there is to it.  The only way to deal with it is usually just to crank your head around and look.  We all do it! And it becomes second nature, so we don't even think about it.

But what if, for some reason, you can't? What if you strained your neck, bruised a rib, or recently had some sort of surgery that causes you great pain to twist your torso?  How are you supposed to know if there's a car there?

Turning to look can also be a safety issue because you're taking your eyes off the road. Have you ever checked your blind spot, only to look forward again and see that traffic has stopped?!? Once your heart-rate comes back down (or after the police report is filed), you'll be cursing that darn "blind spot".

Wrong!

SIDE mirror adjusted to a REAR view.
SIDE mirror adjusted to a REAR view.

The Myth

The truth is that 99% of cars do not have a blind spot! The "blind" spot is something we create ourselves by positioning our mirrors improperly.

"What?!?", you say? "My mirrors are right", you say? Well, if you have a blind spot, then, I hate to tell you, they are not.

Almost everyone has their side mirrors adjusted so that the rear of the car is just visible, and the road behind is centered, like the image here.

But ask yourself:

  • Why do you need to see your own car?
  • Why do you need the side mirrors to see behind you?

Seeing your own car is comforting, sure. It helps a driver feel oriented. This is the way we instinctively put our mirrors, because we don't have anything else to line them up with. And I think it can actually be neat to see the road passing by the car, like some image from a movie.

But why? When it comes down to it, if you don't know where your car is while driving, you've got bigger problems than a blind spot.  You know where your car is; you're in it!

The rear view mirror is for see behind the car
The rear view mirror is for see behind the car

And seeing behind you. You're supposed to use mirrors to see behind you, right? That's what mirrors are for!

But, really? That's what side mirrors are for? Why? Isn't that what the rear view mirror is for?

There is (usually) no need for an additional view of the rear. The rear view mirror is there for the explicit purpose of seeing what's behind the vehicle. Having an additional view from the side mirrors doesn't really buy you anything.

How to fiix your side mirrors

Fixing your mirrors, and consequently eliminating your blind spot, is sooooooo easy that I am still baffled by how many people still drive with blind spots.

The solution is: move your side mirrors out:

  1. Start with your mirrors in the usual position, where you can see the back end of your car
  2. Move them out so you can no longer see the car
  3. See if you still have a blind spot on either side, that mirror needs to moved out more.

If you have a car with power mirrors, you may be able to do this while driving. But do so carefully, and only make small adjustments. You don't want to be getting into an accident because you were screwin' around with your side mirrors, staring at them for 20 seconds at a time!

Another option is to find a parking lot cars that are fairly well spaced. Park next to another car so that it is directly in your blind spot, make your adjustments, then move forward and backward to make sure the blind spot is gone.

You'll eventually have to test it on the road, just don't forget about what's in front of you!

How do you know when your blind spot is gone? The basic rule-of-thumb for when a car on either side is passing is:

  1. when the car is leaving the rear view mirror, it should be visible in the side view mirror
  2. when the car is leaving the side view mirror, it should be visible through the side window

Easy!!!

During both of those "transitions", you should be able to see the other car in BOTH places (i.e. at some point you should see it in both your rear view and side view mirrors).

You can thank me later

The hardest thing about this process is getting used to the new mirror positions. At first, it's almost disorienting! You're so used to seeing the back end of your car, it almost seems like the side mirrors are askew, off in left field. I know very experienced drivers who understand how to eliminate the blind spot (because I've told them how), but are just more "comfortable" with their mirrors in the improper position. But just wait! It takes several days to get used to it. Step out of your comfort zone a bit; it's good for you! :)

The other thing that can make this difficult is learning to trust your side mirrors. We are so used to looking, and we trust our own eyes. How can we change lanes when we don't really, truly, for sureknow there's NO car there??? Okay. Go ahead, turn your head and look. But every time you do, take note of how unnecessary it was. There's nothing there that can't be seen through the mirrors!

Occasionally, there is a need to look. (So, don't come after me if something happens) But, it's rare. For example, a car from two lanes away may not be visible if you and he are both changing into the same lane (looking might not even catch this). And if you haven't been paying attention, then something small, like a motorcycle, might be sneaky enough to escape your view.

But for the most part, if you are keeping track of what's going on on the road around you, you won't have any issues.

Good luck.  And safe driving!

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Comments 9 comments

Cris A profile image

Cris A 7 years ago from Manila, Philippines

Wow I haven't thought about this and I cannot wait to put into practice your theory. But since I found myself nodding most of the time while reading this, in some kind of epiphany-ish sort of way, I'd like to thank you now. Great hub - it could save lives or if not, some lame excuse. Thanks for sharing :D


\Brenda Scully 7 years ago

my daughter nearly got us both killed last week, she just kept saying I did not see it coming,,,,,, We were assured there are always blind spots,,,,, ah well now we know for sure, and we are still alive to tell the story, cool hub


droj profile image

droj 7 years ago from CNY Author

Thanks, guys!


johnnyfr profile image

johnnyfr 6 years ago from Ormskirk, Lancashire

As a driving instructor, I'm not automatically knocking your suggestion.

But I would recommend caution as it would take time to get used to such a significant change in the mirror position.

There are other blind spots though - such as a child standing roughly by your passenger side brake lights still would not be seen.


droj profile image

droj 6 years ago from CNY Author

Hey johnny, I'm with ya on gettin used to it. It can feel pretty different at first. And you're right that this won't let you see EVERYthing, but 90% of the time (or more) it will let you a car in the next lane.


emievil profile image

emievil 6 years ago from Philippines

hmmm, you just answered my question on the "blind spot". When I drove in California for 3 months, it was everything they warned me about (that's why I have to literally look over my shoulders when I switch lanes). But here in my country, we don't have a blind spot and looking over the shoulders is not a common thing. I wondered what's the difference and it seemed from your hub that it's only because of the side mirrors. Thanks for this hub.


Hugh Williamson profile image

Hugh Williamson 5 years ago from Northeast USA

Love this HUB - Ive been saying the same thing for longer than I'd care to admit. A driver cannot turn around to check out blind spots without taking their eyes off the road in front of them. This is dangerous.

Investing a little effort to get used to this side mirror positioning technique may save a life. Great stuff, thanks for writing this.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

Good points. I addressed the 'blind spot' in my own recent article, simply because most folks do not know how to align their side and rear-view mirrors.

I've done this for years! My mirrors are adjusted to that when a car is just starting to leave my rear-view mirror, it is comiing into view in my side mirror, and as it starts to leave my side mirror, it is coming into my peripheral vision. Voila! No blind spots for me.

As to the other commenter pointing out a child standing near the passenger side brake light, just tilting the mirror downward a bit can take care of that one as well. Although, that situation is more likely when you are leaving a driveway or parking lot, before you are in motion, and CAN turn around to check.

Great hub--voted up & useful!


droj profile image

droj 4 years ago from CNY Author

Hey DzyMsLizzy, thanks! Yeah, it surprises me how many people don't know how to adjust their mirrors. And some people refuse to just because it takes a little getting used to! Anyway, keep spreadin the word! :)

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