It's a situation that just about every driver is familiar with. The road looks clear, there aren't any vehicles in the rear and side view mirrors, but then a car seems to come out of nowhere. Of course, it didn't actually come out of nowhere -- it was just out of range of the mirrors and hidden in one of the blind spots that every single vehicle has.
In a recent Ford-commissioned survey, 60 percent of respondents blamed blind spots for either accidents or near-misses. The NHTSA is also looking into regulations that would mandate blind spot detection technology, but increased awareness can go a long way toward preventing accidents. To that end, the agency offers some helpful advice (pdf) on the subject of blind spot safety.
One way to deal with blind spots is to always check over the corresponding shoulder before changing lanes or turning. Of course, some drivers lack the necessary mobility to easily perform that type of movement. One low-tech way to solve that problem is to install a blind spot mirror. Wider rear view mirrors can help reduce the size of blind spots, as can extended side view mirrors. Some blind spot mirrors actually replace the original equipment, but there are also options that just slide on top of the existing mirrors.
Another type of blind spot mirror takes the form of a convex mirror that attaches to either the driver or passenger side mirrors. Since convex mirrors reflect wider angles than flat ones, they can effectively remove blind spots. However, they also distort the images they reflect.
In addition to low-tech solutions like blind spot mirrors, there are also a number of blind spot detection and warning technologies that are either available now or visible on the horizon. These systems use everything from lasers to video cameras and even sonar, and they could feasibly help prevent some of those 60 percent of accidents that drivers blame on blind spots.
The question is: do we need high tech solutions and government mandates where increased driver awareness -- or an inexpensive blind spot mirror -- could serve the same purpose? Modern cars and trucks grow increasingly complex every year, and the information overload and sometimes invasive computer controls are already turning some drivers off. Is blind spot detection really necessary, or is it just another excuse for inattentive driving?
Image courtesy of Roberto Verzo via Creative Commons 2.0