How to adjust your mirrors to fight blind spots

Imagine a scenario: A new teen driver failed her driver’s license test because she didn’t look over her left shoulder to check the “blind spot” while merging onto the interstate. She pleaded with her instructor that her side-view mirror was adjusted properly so that she didn’t have a blind spot and thus didn’t need to look over her shoulder, but he didn’t buy it. This is a true story.

Unfortunately, that examiner was probably like the vast majority of drivers who don’t adjust their mirrors properly and do have to contend with blind spots — that no man’s land on both sides of your car where it can be difficult to see other vehicles.

The Purpose of Your 3 Car Mirrors

Every modern vehicle is equipped with three mirrors that have two distinct jobs. The inside rear-view mirror, which is usually mounted on the inside of your windshield, gives a view of what’s directly behind your vehicle. The side-view mirrors, which are usually mounted on the front of the driver and passenger doors, give you a view of what’s beside (and slightly behind) your vehicle…if they’re adjusted properly.

Ahh, but that’s one mighty big “if.” That’s because most people have their side-view mirrors adjusted in too far, giving them a great view of the side of their vehicle but not what’s in the lane beside them.

Considering that about 9 percent of all accidents involve lane-change maneuvers (according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), it IS important to know what’s in the lane on either side of you.

Many new cars now have sensors that give an audible warning or an image that lights up in the side-view mirror when an object is in a nearby lane. While this technology is great, whether your vehicle has it or not you still need to adjust your mirrors properly and learn how to use them.

Three Steps, No Blind Spots. So, what’s a driver to do? Here are three easy steps that will show you how to get rid of blind spots behind the wheel.

  1. Start by setting your inside rear-view mirror as you normally would so that you can see what’s behind your vehicle.
  2. Next, lean your head to the left so that it touches the driver’s window. Then, adjust your left side-view mirror so that you can just see the left rear corner of your vehicle.
  3. Finally, lean your head to the right so that it’s just above the center console (or middle seat if you’ve got a bench seat). Then, adjust your right side-view mirror so that you can just see the right rear corner of your vehicle.

When you get your mirrors adjusted correctly, here’s what you’ll see: When a car comes up from behind, you’ll first see it at a distance in your rear-view mirror. As it begins to pass you (on your left, for instance), right before it disappears from view in your rear-view mirror it will also be visible in your left side-view mirror. As it moves past you, it will be visible in your peripheral vision just before it disappears from your side-view mirror. The passing vehicle should flow seamlessly from mirror-to-mirror-to-peripheral vision without you losing sight of it.

You might need to make some slight adjustments, particularly if you drive a longer vehicle such as a truck or van. A good place to fine-tune your mirrors is next to a line of parked cars, which will simulate having vehicles next to you in traffic.

Finally, realize that it takes a little time to get used to not seeing the side of your vehicle when you glance at your side-view mirror from behind the wheel. But don’t worry — it will still be there!

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