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How to Eliminate the Dreaded “Blind Spot” (wisc.edu)
242 points by harshulpandav 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 308 comments

There are smaller things (bicycles, motorcycles, pedestrians) that can sneak into the gap between the side and rearview mirror views here. And colliding with one of those is much more likely to cause serious injury or death than colliding with a car.

It's a much better idea to make sure your side and rear mirrors have complete coverage (i.e. no gaps) at the back, and actually turning your head to check the blind spot. Make a habit of doing this on every lane switch or turn, even if you think you're at the side of the road - there may be a bike lane or crosswalk you didn't notice, or someone might be simply be using a nonexistant lane of travel.

A good way to adjust your mirrors is to have someone walk by your car, and make sure you can see them in either your rear or side mirrors, and make a note of where you need to look for the blind spot.

Of course, even if you make sure the side and rear mirrors provide complete rear coverage, that doesn't always keep things safe - some cyclists and motorcyclists seem to like to jump out from behind a vehicle to lane-split and then get mad when they see you switching lanes in front of them...

This, and the other comments that say turning your head is still necessary.

I tried what the link suggests and had many instances where a motorcycle zipped by close to my car -- I didn't notice them until [what would have been] too late because I couldn't see the area next to my car easily that way. Now I have my mirrors adjusted so I can see motorcycles better, and I turn my head to check the remainder.

All humans are legally blind in their peripheral vision just a few degrees off-axis, so I make sure to focus where I claim to be checking.

I've got my mirrors set as the article describes. I've had motorcycles zip by right beside the car, splitting lanes. I saw them coming, and had them in complete view from when they entered the rearview mirror to the side mirror to out the side window.

I've measured the exact point at which an object leaves the field of vision of the side mirror, and I'm pretty sure it's slightly ahead of the driver side window, at which point glancing at the mirror will see them anyway. There's potentially a blind spot if a motorcyclist or bicyclist is on the far side of the lane next to you (not close to the car, but lined up with it), but as long as you change lanes slowly and don't just barrel across 4 lanes of traffic you'll see them long before you hit them.

True, but convex mirrors help a lot. I'm not sure do all cars have them, though...

Federal law prohibits them on the driver's side in the US[0].

[0] https://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/30/in-defense-of-co...

Clarification: federal law permits them on the drivers side in the US as long as the mirrors also have the required flat mirror [0].

[0] same link, and the fact that my vehicle came from the US manufacturer with both.

I have a 2017 Ford Fusion with a "blind spot mirror" (i.e. a small convex mirror in the corner of the flat mirror) and I have no idea why all cars don't have them. With the left and right mirrors adjusted to just barely see the edge of the car, I have no blind spots (assuming you are careful to check the small mirror separately from the main mirror.)

> All humans are legally blind in their peripheral vision just a few degrees off-axis,

This is a misleading summary. Humans can’t read text or distinguish fine textures in peripheral vision, but peripheral vision is very good at detecting moving objects (that’s arguably its main purpose).

I like to think of peripheral vision as “prey vision” – as in, “what would I need to know about my environment if I were a deer and a wolf might jump out at me from any side, and my main response should be to run away as soon as possible?”

> detecting moving objects

substantial movement relative to your position/trajectory.

Not to be rude, but yeah, what else would they mean? Is your peripheral good at picking up anything on the planet since it's always spinning? Everything is always moving relative to something else.

It's important to be explicitly clear in this case because objects traveling next to you in the road, which would be visible only in your peripheral vision, may be effectively stationary reflective to you. So you can't rely on your peripheral vision to notice them.

Ah yeah, got it.

Turning your head is not necessary. When you have side mirrors set up correctly you need to first look in the rear view mirror and only then in the side mirror.

The problem is, the "correct" way to set up your side mirrors involves adjusting them so that you can't see the side of your own car without craning your neck. This, in turn, means that your mirrors might not be where you left them. If someone bumps your mirror in a parking lot, you may not notice that you now have a sizable blind spot close to your car.

So I usually compromise by keeping a small sliver of the car visible in the mirrors and turning my head at least slightly when I use them. I think that's probably the way to optimize for real-world safety.

Another pet peeve is a feature my own car has, which is an auto-dimming function that's intended to cut down on glare from nearby headlights. If I turn that on, the side mirrors get so dark that I can't see cars that don't have their headlights on, which is all too common near dusk around here. Extremely dangerous implementation of an otherwise helpful feature. One of these days I'm going to open up the mirror housings and clip the appropriate wires, since I really only want the interior mirror to adjust itself.

You are partly correct. Every time I sit in my car I check the mirrors by moving my head to the left and to the right. It takes barely a second but it is the only way to assure mirrors are set correctly.

Let me share a story. I am blind to my left eye which means I have to turn my entire head way, way to the left to be able to look into "blind spot". Once I almost crashed the car when looking into "blind spot" when joining into busy highway because the car before me broke hard as some other care before run out of space. Only my wife screamed and I instinctively slammed the brakes and stopped few inches from the car before me.

This was about 10 years ago. I started reading about how to fix this problem and I found the article why and exact procedure.

It took some time to get adjusted. Particularly, driving with no traffic at the beginning meant there was nothing in the side mirrors which was disconcerting. Also, when you back up with your car you have to tilt to be able to see the side of your car. But, remember, you can back up as slowly as you want but when you need to join moving traffic you have to do it at speed.

Nevertheless, I finally feel free in my car. I know exactly what is happening around me just by scanning the mirrors with very little head movement and on the lanes directly to the left and to the right I have no blind spot where a cyclist could fit. There are blind spots on further lanes so if I change lane I still need to make sure there is no car that decided, at the same instant, to also change his lane.

If you sit straight and you see the sides of your car even a tiny bit then your mirrors are way from being well set up. It is not a compromise, you have a huge blind spot unless you have particularly large side mirrors. Thats because your rear view mirror is a cone, and the job of your side mirror is point exactly in the middle between your peripheral vision and the cone shown by rear view mirror. If your side mirror sees the side of your car then over half of your rear view mirror is duplicated with your side mirror. If both side mirrors are set this way then you don't really need the rear view mirror as in both side mirrors you see the road behind your car.

Again, how do you know your mirrors are where you left them?

You will not always drive cars with perfectly adjusted (or adjustable) mirrors. The responsible thing to do (if you can) is to turn around.

For me this is mostly about the extra time it keeps me from making a stupid deadly mistakes. Switching lanes that way takes longer, and this is a feature not a bug.

The responsible thing is to adjust your mirrors to be able yo drive safely. Where I live (EU) all new cars are required to have adjustable mirrors and have been for a very long time. I would expect the same for US.

This method requires you to also lean into the mirror to see more towards the side of the car.

It is ridiculous, because the side mirrors should give you a far away view, and then you look to the side to make sure that closeby there is nothing either. You only have to turn your head.

Now this method in the article would make you lean into mirror to get behind you, then you go back to normal position and look in the mirror, then you look to the side. Someone thinks they have found a hack to mirrors and driving, but they are just making it more dangerous especially by spreading this new interesting way.

The message still stands that a lot of drivers could have avoided hitting someone if they had used their mirrors and looked to the side. Accidents however often happen because of distraction causing a driver not to do what they normally would do.

> This method requires you to also lean into the mirror to see more towards the side of the car.

You don't need to move your head at all to see a car at any point while it is coming up behind you and passing you: that's the whole point of adjusting your mirrors the way the article describes.

As the article notes, you should still turn your head before making a maneuver like changing lanes. But because your mirrors are giving you more coverage, the head turning doesn't need to be as extreme.

Exactly. The article doesn't state it quite so clearly, but any mirror showing space that can't be occupied by another vehicle is wasted mirror. Turn them out further.

Disagree, see my reply to your parent.

> You don't need to move your head at all to see a car...

But what I'm saying is the article's suggestion doesn't allow me to see something smaller like a motorcycle with the mirrors, and either I'd have to turn my head even further to see it with the mirrors in suggested position to check that area or -- worse yet -- I can't physically see that spot without the aid of a mirror.

> the article's suggestion doesn't allow me to see something smaller like a motorcycle with the mirrors

In other words, you now have some amount of "blind spot" for motorcycles--but only motorcycles. Whereas, with the mirrors adjusted further in, you still have some blind spot for motorcycles--though perhaps less than with them adjusted further out--but you also now have a blind spot for cars, which you don't have with the mirrors adjusted further out. And cars are much more common than motorcycles, so adjusting the mirrors further out is a net gain in how many vehicles you can see with the mirrors.

An even better solution is cameras like the ones that some higher end vehicles now have for changing lanes. In the ones I've seen, when you turn on your turn signal, your vehicle's screen (the one that shows the backup camera image when you're in reverse) shows a view of everything on that side of your vehicle. No blind spot for anything. Eventually I'm hoping this will become mainstream (the way backup cameras are getting to be).

You can turn your head and check the blind spot on your side. You can’t turn your head and check the motorcycle blind spot at the back. A large checkable blind spot (which you always check) is far preferable to a small uncheckable blind spot.

At least on my car (09 Honda Fit), there isn't one of those. A motorcycle coming from the back enters the side mirror field of view before it leaves the rear mirror field of view.

I have my mirrors set as TFA describes. I dislike the surprise of having a clear view in the mirror and then noticing a vehicle is actually next to you but behind the cutoff of peripheral vision.

That said, I still turn my head and check before changing lanes. Belt and suspenders.

If you turn on your turn signal and don't start your lane change before at least one blink has occurred, this really helps out motorcyclists and bicyclists (and everyone else).

The Car Talk guys used to advocate for this method. I did it for a while, and liked it. Until I almost killed a motorcyclist.

I'm a motorcyclist in a crowded city and sadly this is a multi-daily occurrence

As a bicyclist, I always drove so that even if a car had no idea I was there at all, I would be safe or have a plan to dodge. On a motorcycle, I have to think that any time I entered a car's blind spot I would alert and planning to leave. Even in a car I don't hang out there.

Sorry =( As a bike commuter I can relate.

This is fantastic advice. The only thing I can really add is you should be keeping track of what’s around you, don’t look just before a lane change. Having good situational awareness is the most important thing when driving.

I used to emphasize and practice that, back when I drove a '93 Honda Civic. It was a useful skill as I would naturally adjust my speed to prevent cars from cruising in my blind spot or to give myself more room for maneuvering.

But newer cars have such poor visibility that it takes too much effort to track movement such that it becomes a diversion. In my '93 Civic any kind of movement in my peripheral--direct or in the mirror--registered immediately; and that peripheral was wide and tall and clear. It was also easier to hear the road and traffic, which also helped. Newer cars make you feel like you're entombed and deaden the senses, compounding the problem.

I know part of my degraded situational awareness is getting older, but since we keep a '98 Civic for when I have to commute by car, I have an idea about which changes are more objective than subjective. The sight lines in the '98 Civic aren't as great as the '93, but still incomparable to the post-2010 cars I've leased or rented. I drive both our family car (new lease every 2-3 years) and the '98 in roughly equal proportion and pretty much all of my unforced traffic errs have been in newer cars. (The most egregious of which are not noticing pedestrians about to cross at a four-way intersection. Modern A pillars seem deviously sized and placed to perfectly obscure the far corners of an intersection. Though I suppose these are the errs I'm most likely to notice as the pedestrians are revealed the moment you begin to enter the intersection from a stop. Most other potential collisions probably go unnoticed.)

Thankfully this year we finally leased a car with lane departure warning. It hasn't actually prevented an unforced err, yet, but I'm glad it's there. (I know it's there because it'll beep if there's an adjacent car when I initiate signaling, even if I'm not moving into the lane. If a car sneaks up after signaling it only warns when you begin the lane change.)

Definitely true about newer cars. My wife and I shop for cars specifically looking at the back window being small and raised too high as an automatic NO. We last bought in 2011, and the car has one of the largest back windows on the road today. I don't know what we're going to do when it's time for an upgrade.

Is it newer cars or newer US cars? I've driven a fair amount of rentals in both US and Europe and I'm always amazed at how big the blind spot is in the US.

In Europe the smallest car typically does not fit in the blind spot, in the US a pick up truck fits in there.

Poor visibility is an ironic consequence of automakers responding to women's increasing role in vehicle purchase decisions. Automakers insist that women choose cars with poor visibility because they thereby feel less "exposed" to people in other cars. Is it true? It's true that automakers think so. They compete to make cars with bad visibility.

It will probably take a lot of lawsuits to turn the trend around. We might not get there before driving your car is outlawed, obviating the whole problem.

Come again? Isn’t the more reasonable explanation simply that cars have to meet much more stringent auto safety standards which required thicker, more obnoxious A pillars?

I can't say what would be a more reasonable explanation. I am reduced to relying on what the automakers actually say is their reason.

They could be lying, I suppose. I don't know why they would, but that doesn't mean they're not (after all their lips are moving), but I like to have some evidence.

A pillars don't create much of a problem; you're pretty much always going to be aware of objects 45 degrees to the left or right of your heading. fat B and C pillars are far more problematic.

that said, there are plenty of affordable cars with great visibility (e.g., a vw golf). if you pick a car with bad visibility, it's kinda on you.

thanks for the link, I was only thinking about vehicles moving parallel to one's direction of travel (ie a lane change situation).

I have to say though, the design of that intersection seems crazy. do I understand correctly that vehicles traveling on either road can just go straight across without stopping if they don't see anyone? where I live, at least one of those roads would need a stop sign. I can't think of a single time where I've been surprised by someone moving perpendicular to me.

The road has a two way stop sign but it isn't enforced properly.

Biking, I'm perpetually baffled by the people who drive up behind me, overtake me, and seem to forget I'm there before they even finish passing me.

The worst case is when they expect to turn right soon; I consistently have drivers half-overtake me and then start moving towards me, or turn right across a bike lane without looking.

I think this is caused by drivers who think "cyclist == basically not moving" when in reality cyclists can be doing a pretty good speed, ~20mph isn't rare. Most drivers haven't ridden a bike since they were kids, though.

When I took my driving test in Ireland the examiner marked me down for checking for cyclists and simply said "there won't be any cyclists doing 20kph" - which of course is a very normal cycling speed.

For a stretch of a few hundred feet (like a city block) where you'll both likely come to a stop, do you prefer cars overtake you beforehand or to trail behind? Do cars trailing you make you anxious?

I don't think I've ever forgotten about a biker I've passed, but I also like to avoid situations where I might forget, which put the biker in a position to surprise me, or which impede my maneuverability if something else happens.

But while I'm okay poking along for a block, if there's traffic behind me then that could result in an impatient driver overtaking both of us, which could be far worse. It's a tricky balancing act.

I'm an avid urban cyclist. My preference is for you to behave the same way as if I'm driving a car. Pass me if you can. If you're alongside me, a gentle tap on my brake will get rid of you quickly enough. ;-)

I will admit to having a mildly "political" motive, in that I would like drivers to have a positive experience dealing with cyclists. So I'm probably more courteous than the bare minimum required by the traffic laws. I get out of the way if I'm backing up traffic, whether driving a car or riding my bike.

My general preference is to find routes where there's minimal car traffic.

> I will admit to having a mildly "political" motive, in that I would like drivers to have a positive experience dealing with cyclists.

Me too, except the other way around. I will make sure there is a ton of room before merging in front of a bicyclist, and I will give them the full lane on a two lane road when passing them even if they're hugging the curb.

When riding on the streets, they are given the same legal protection as any other vehicle. I just wish that every bicyclist also knew that they have to follow every law a car does too - including stopping at red lights and stop signs.

Oh, we know. :) Just like car drivers know about the speed limit and texting.

I don't agree with the practice, but a lot of bicyclists will readily pass car drivers around intersections (because cars are bulky and take much longer to safely navigate through an intersection) so you rarely lose /that/ much by poking around a block or two.

Either way, it sounds like you've given it a lot of thought so you're likely the least of my worries. Just imagine it would be your child on the bicycle and you'll probably do the right thing. (Short of picking them up -- don't do that.)

I prefer that you stay behind me until it's safe to pass (that is, you can change lanes to pass) and I won't see you again thirty seconds later at the red light.

I’ve found that adaptive cruise control has really helped here. Instead of having most of my driving effort put into managing the distance and speed between myself and the car in front (something that is hard for a human but easy for a computer) I can let the computer handle it, only sanity checking to make sure it isn’t messing up, and put much more focus on situational awareness (something humans are good at but computers are bad at), constantly checking what is happening around me and scanning the road and traffic ahead for potential dangers.

Absolutely, this is the best advice in this thread. In the event that I lose track of what's behind me, I will even sometimes go as far as intentionally varying my speed a bit to get something to go around me so I can re-establish a complete mental picture with 100% certainty.

Or maybe use your mirrors or shoulder check instead of flying blind.

Thanks for the snarky but uninformed reply. I will edify you: There are some vehicles in which mirrors and should check alone are not enough to get a complete picture, and the only way to know what's around you is to keep track. Large RVs, trucks towing large trailers, etc. all fall into this category. Sedans, compact crossovers, and large SUVs with decent visibility are all comparatively simple to drive.

I do this as well but you can't rely on it. That one time out of a thousand, some maniac will be going 110mph and come out of nowhere.

This. I remember having a lively debate at a company "safety moment" over this. All of the managers thought this was a great idea, while a small but vocal contingent of snarky developers argued this was complete nonsense designed to make everyone feel good about being "safe". Sure, its something that you can do to increase visibility, but it lures you into a false sense of security and takes you out of the habit of looking and turning your head. that is not good.

When you are piloting a multi ton hunk of steel and flammables, you should take care to look around you and be aware of everything and everyone around you. This cannot be done with Mirrors, cameras and sensors alone. Use your eyes, and turn your head. Ive a really good friend that was crushed by a car that didn't see him in the "blind spot". He had just purchased his dream bicycle, was out putting in road work, and a car swerved and smashed him between a concrete embankment and the car. 3 years later, he walks with a cane, has a replacement hip, knee and sets off any metal detector to its maximum reading. Please look around for everyone.

I relearnt driving as an adult and had a driving instructor. This is what he insisted again and again and again. It's now a second nature for me to turn my head quickly and glance at the blind spot before switching lanes or turning. It's way too many times I have noticed a motorbike/bicycle has sneaked into that spot. Mirrors and adjustments are all good but this (simple) extra step avoids accidents.

I drive a full size pickup (with a camper shell) in Los Angeles traffic, so I appreciate the value of well aimed side mirrors. (fwiw, I'm primarily a cyclist, and only drive the truck on the weekends for shopping).

I remember reading a great (and hilarious) quip about side mirror configuration:

"There is no point in seeing your own car through the side mirrors because it's the one thing on the road that you cannot possibly collide with."


me: safety nerd, ex-blogger/founder, urbandriver.org (RIP)

/edit: phrasing/

There is an even better way, used in Latin America, Africa (and I suspect other developing countries). I've driven about 100,000 miles through 46 countries on those continents, I've had a lot of practice at what I call "Make it up driving"

The rule is, who cares if it's behind you. Do whatever the hell you want, because people behind you can see you and they will get out of your way. You can't easily see them, so don't concern yourself with them.

This does rely on ALL drivers being much more attentive than the average first-world driver.

If you want to be polite, or you're doing something really unexpected like stopping in the driving lane to let people off or reversing through traffic, you can just tap your horn a couple of times to say "Hey everyone, look at me", and everything will just flow around you.

It's amazing how well this works, even in the kind of insane free-flowing traffic most Westerners would utterly lose their minds in. I enjoy it much more because it makes driving way less boring, and you get to interact with all the other drivers too. I love too that when you come to a stop sign there is no need to stop - if all the other cars in your direction are already going you just go, and the drivers at right angles to you will compensate and watch and then their direction will go and flow sometime later. Red lights - no need to stop if there is no opposing traffic, etc. etc.

I don't have statistics, though in my almost 5 years of driving in these conditions I have never once seen a fender bender, and traffic really moves way better through intersections than in developed countries where people follow the stupid rules. (Highway driving is a different story in terms of crashes and deaths in developing countries)

Statistics though show that western-style driving is definitely safer than the free for all that is common in developing countries (I speak for Jordan and Vietnam in particular, comparing them to Western Europe).

I'd bet those statistics are averaging across whole countries, so they're adding in highway driving - which, yeah, is very dangerous in developing countries.

I'd be willing to be there are less crashes driving in big cities in developing countries than driving in big cities in developed countries.

Considering that the big cities make up such a large percentage of the population, an even larger percentage of the cars in developing countries, and the accident rates are so much higher, that is an unlikely explanation of the statistics.

That's not even taking into account that the numbers we have for developing countries are likely under reported.

The numbers aren't even close, developing countries are absurdly dangerous to drive in comparatively.

"Make it up driving" is what makes Thailand world's second most dangerous country to drive

Yes you'll probably still want to turn your head somewhat. However, the way most people adjust side mirrors, so they can see the side of the car without moving their head, is unnecessary. The view out the rear window from the rear-view mirror angles outward. Therefore if your side mirrors give you a view straight back down the sides of the car, you have overlap beginning right at the corner of your car. By turning them out further, you can increase the side coverage without creating any holes in the back.

It definitely varies from one vehicle to another based on things like rear window size and position though, so your advice for testing makes sense.

If there is no overlap, you've created a blind spot large enough for a motor bike or regular cyclist, and it is one you cannot easily check. By adjusting your side mirrors so you see straight with the overlap, you have eliminated the blind spot and create another one that you can easily check by turning your head.

You don't need the mirror to point straight back to eliminate any overlap where something could actually exist though. Especially if you have some situational awareness—a thing can't just materialize right on your bumper; it would have to get there from somewhere, and you should certainly notice if a motorcycle approaches and begins tailgating a few inches off the rear corner of your car. (Any further than that, and you will see them in your mirrors if aligned properly.) For lower speeds where there might be something smaller like a pedestrian in that spot, you can still see straight back in the side mirror with a small movement of your head.

So basically, at high speed, when it's most critical, you get more visual coverage with less motion of your head. At low speed you still have full coverage, with some head motion.

> Especially if you have some situational awareness—a thing can't just materialize right on your bumper; it would have to get there from somewhere, and you should certainly notice if a motorcycle approaches and begins tailgating a few inches off the rear corner of your car.

If you've ever driven in a city with many bicycles and mopeds that is simply impossible to keep track of. No matter how much situational awareness you have, they will seemingly materialize out of nowhere.

> So basically, at high speed, when it's most critical.

I disagree. The most critical is when there is greatest risk for someone to die. That is not if you collide with a car, but hit softer road users (I do not know if it's the proper English term).

City driving, there will be enough to keep track of that some times something will be unexpected. The key is to know your blind spot and check it. At highway speeds, you have plenty of time to orientate you properly with either configuration.

I've made this exact argument many times, but a lot of people seems to disagree with it. My guess they haven't dealt with lane-splitting two wheelers, or been driving in a European city with more bikes and mopeds than cars.

It doesn't help that it's often advised in the US is to lean your head towards the window/center of the car, and adjust your mirror so you can barely see the side of the car. It creates a blind spot big enough to hide a motorcycle.

I drive a motorcycle, and from the other end, "being seen" is one of the most important things.

The main rule is, if you can see the driver in his mirror, he can see you. You should always try to jump past the blind spots, and stay in the spots that they can see. If you have experience on the road, a lot of times you already know what a driver will do before he does it.

Cars are still OK, but trucks have plenty of blind spots, and they are pretty large. Right behind them, right in front of them (!). I'm always careful around them.

Do you believe in being seen (hi-viz vest/colors), or being heard (loud pipes)?

This + always switch on your blinkers a few seconds before turning, even when you know nobody is around.

Agree that extra caution is needed for pedestrians and bicycles. Having said that, I never understood why bicycles aren't required to ride on the sidewalks in areas that have them. The threat posed by a car to a bike is much greater than the threat posed by a bike to a pedestrian, therefore, to maximize safety bikes should be on the sidewalk.

As far as motorcycles are concerned - I think they're a bad idea in general. I have a cycle endorsement, and when I ride, I am acutely aware that it's on me not to get hit, because many vehicles just realistically don't have the kind of visibility to reliably spot motorcycles. The law should probably be updated to reflect that ... because although most bikers are aware that that's how it is in reality, it's not codified anywhere.

> I never understood why bicycles aren't required to ride on the sidewalks in areas that have them.

I'm so positively gobsmacked that a statement this plainly ignorant came from a fellow HN participant, I don't even know where to begin.

Start with: bicycles are vehicles—always have been, in fact.

Pedestrians are not. Sidewalks are for pedestrians. (It's not a "sideride" after all. )

Even razor/bird scooters on sidewalks are typically forbidden—we have PSAs on the buses here in LA reminding e-scooter riders to ride in the road.

Bikes can participate in traffic, so they ought to be on the road. Bikes mix better with cars than bikes mix with pedx: anyone who walks in a city regularly would know this.

Wow. Just ... wow.

I'm gobsmacked that you can feign amazement and then post a reply that's basically "sidewalks aren't called siderides, so bikes should stay off" with no further logic. Perhaps we should stay on the driveway?

You're phrasing your conclusions like the alternative is moronic, but it's not. There are lots of places that allow bikes on the sidewalk, and it doesn't lead to martial law.

I lived in a large but suburban city that allowed it, and it was hardly a problem, bikes would yield to pedestrians, and the only problem is bikes taking the intersections too fast.

At higher densities, I've seen bikes on sidewalks in various Asian cities, including several Japanese cities with various pedestrian densities. I think these anecdotes are a fair counter to your LA anecdote.

If we follow the logic of your post, we should also ban vehicles such as electric wheelchairs from the sidewalk.

>I'm gobsmacked that you can feign amazement and then post a reply that's basically "sidewalks aren't called siderides, so bikes should stay off" with no further logic.

You must'a missed the subtle metaphor abuse to lighten the mood. Sorry 'bout that.

At any rate ...

Side walks haven't the width for fast moving traffic. Sidewalks cross other rights-of-way with always implied priority, traffic comprised of pedestrians, kids, dogs, old folk, etc.

I ride a bike in the city every day. I know riding on the sidewalk wouldn't work, even if you made it legal. Not at real commuting speeds.

You really advocate cyclists poking down the sidewalk at 5-8 mph, dinging their bell at every pedestrian, asking them to step aside? Or no, wait .. does the cyclist have to stop, do a track stand, and weeble-wobble around every blockage? Oh, and bunny hop over dog leashes. Hmm, yeah.

Anyone who thinks bikes should be on sidewalks has nearly zero understanding of what an urban mix of traffic works like.

Fellow cyclists, please jump in here!


Well, when I was growing up, common sense said I should ride on the side walk. The side walk was hardly ever used and perfectly suited to riding a bike. The road was much more frequently used; by 3000lb death machines piloted by zombies. No thanks.

If the side walk is too populated to comfortably ride a bike, and the road is busy with said suicide cans, then there is simply no place for a bike. I haven't ridden one in years. A short section of "bike lane" and a helmet wouldn't do much to convince me otherwise.

A lot of cities are trying to increase the number of people that ride a bike for various good reasons. If your solution leads to bikes being essentially banned except as toys, it's not a solution.

Ignorant because it's not what you believe, or because you have data to justify your beliefs? Explain to me the logic from a safety perspective. 40mph car vs 15mph bike? Biker is lucky to live. 15mph bike vs 4mph pedestrian? Maybe a broken bone, if that. Besides insulting me and declaring that because bicycles are vehicles they should be on the road, you provide no quantitative reasoning to back your position. I fail to see how that's enlightened.

Let's first acknowledge that between mixed traffic (whatever the mix may be) collisions will happen, and then discuss how to minimize harm.

The problem with your logic is that few bike accidents happen from a 40 mph car overtaking a 15mph bike.

Most car-bike collisions happen at intersections and not only does riding on the sidewalk not reduce that problem, it makes it worse both because a bike on the sidewalk is not as easy for the car to see, but also it multiplies the number of intersections since suddenly every driveway becomes an intersection that a car might be pulling out of.

Cars can avoid bikers more easily than pedestrians. You don't walk around with rear-view mirrors.

A bike rear-ending a pedestrian is going to be much worse than broken bones for both. A bike rear-ending a car is just going to hurt the biker.

The solution you're looking for is for people to not ride bikes if they don't want to take the risk.

I'm pretty sure sidewalk building codes are also written to assume they're not a bike path. You're more likely to run into blind corners on the sidewalk (and thus risk a collision) than a bike lane.

You've also forgotten about disabled people using the sidewalks.

It is obviously the bike's responsibility not to rear end a pedestrian, not vice-versa. In any case, I would counter that a bike rear ending a pedestrian is a lesser accident than a car rear ending a bike.

People are having a strong reaction to what you're saying because you're fundamentally presuming a car-centric infrastructure where others have to accommodate cars.

Bikes are vehicles and have as much of a right to be on the road as cars do. It is car drivers' and regulators' responsibility to make cars avoid colliding with bikes, not vice versa. There are plenty of collisions between cars and big rigs on freeways, yet we don't ban cars from going on freeways, instead we insist on more stringent safety standards for big rigs.

> Let's first acknowledge that between mixed traffic (whatever the mix may be) collisions will happen, and then discuss how to minimize harm.

Sure. It's best to separate the traffic. Either build bike paths, or (if that's not an option) take lanes away from cars and make them into bike lanes (protected by curbs and bulbouts).

> Bikes are vehicles and have as much of a right to be on the road as cars do.

Only vehicles that have been built to safety and performance standards, checked for roadworthiness, been registered and insured, and are under the control of licensed operators are allowed on the road.

When bicycles accept the same responsibilities they can enjoy the right to be be on the road.

In places where such laws exist, sure. If you want all bicyclists to go through that, go pass a law in your municipality.

Otherwise you are not the authority on this. International law codifies cyclists' right to the road. Most large American municipalities and states explicitly state in their municipal codes that bikes have the same rights and responsibilities as other vehicles. The US federal government doesn't state that outright, but implicitly treats bikes as equal to other vehicles as well.

A bike going 30 km/h on a sidewalk is often impossible to see from a car doing a right turn because it’s covered by cars parked on the curb.

Cyclists, like car drivers and pedestrians, should look in all directions for dangerous traffic before crossing an intersection. The right of way is little consolation for the dead.

    Here lies the body of Henry Gray,
    He died maintaining his right of way.
    He was right, so right, as he sped along,
    But he's just as dead as if he were wrong.

Pedestrians and cyclists can be killed or seriously injured in a collision:


A pedestrian was killed by a cyclist in my city (Perth, Western Australia) on a shared (bikes and pedestrians) path some years ago.

The argument that broken bones are the worst outcome of a cyclist-pedestrian collision is incorrect.

Apart from human error ("failed to look properly"), the second most common factor in car-cyclist collisions is whether the cyclist is entering or crossing the roadway:


In other words road crossings and riding past driveways across the sidewalk increase the risk of car-cyclist collisions considerably. As a commuting and recreational cyclist, my personal experience aligns with this strongly. Most of my close calls with cars have happened when I have been riding on a designated cycle path (separate from the road) and had to cross or enter a road.

So riding on a sidewalk that contains numerous road crossings or driveways can increase the risk of a collision for the cyclist.

In Perth we have a network of "shared paths" for use by cyclists and pedestrians. These are wide paths with a center line marking (ie they are for bidirectional use, convention is to keep left) and are separate from the roadway. Until very recently, adult cyclists were not permitted to use other sidewalks/footpaths unless they were accompanying a child cycling.

On these shared paths pedestrians always have right of way (even if they are on the wrong side of the center line). If a cyclist hits a pedestrian, the cyclist is considered to be at fault.


Well these paths are often through public parks or along scenic sections of the coast or river bank. As such they are popular places for families to take their children and to walk their dogs. Young children and dogs have no concept of "keeping left" and may do unpredictable things. As cyclists are the faster moving path users, it is their responsibility (by law) to enure they can safely pass pedestrians. Cyclists must have a warning device (bell or horn) to warn they are approaching and if it is unsafe to pass must slow down or stop until they can pass safely. Dog owners are required to keep their dogs under control (I think they may be required to use a lead by law, though many don't).

Most other sidewalks here are not designed for mixed use by cyclists and pedestrians. They may not be wide enough, have no designated center line marking, may be in front of retail or food outlets (increased pedestrian traffic with added unpredictable stopping/direction change) or have numerous driveways and road crossings.

Children, the elderly and dogs are common users of sidewalks. Children and dogs often make unpredictable moves on paths. The elderly are generally less agile (unable to take evasive action to prevent a collision), have diminished sight and hearing and are at high risk of serious injury in a fall or collision.

As a regular cyclist, I choose to ride on the road over the sidewalk as it is more efficient and safer for me and others (even though I have been hit by cars a few times). Where possible I will use a shared path, but often elect not to as they are too heavy in pedestrian traffic (coastal paths) or have numerous road crossings.

Non-motorized wheelchairs operated by obese 90-year-old people are also vehicles, and they clearly don't belong on the road (hope you agree), so "vehicle" doesn't matter. The same goes for little battery operated kid toys and traditional kid tricycles.

Most bike riders are far closer to the above than they are to cars. Lots of people are obese, elderly, and otherwise lacking in athletic ability. If these people are excluded from the sidewalk, then they are entirely excluded from the benefits of bike usage.

The trouble here is that bike-related laws are mainly influenced by people who are extreme bike users. These users want to be in the road. They care enough to join cycling organizations that will lobby to have bikes treated like cars. The typical bike user is a physically weak person, and they ride on something like a $39.95 bike from Walmart. The bike has overly thick knobby tires, unreliable gears if any, big fenders, and lots of low-quality (thus thick) steel. You're saying these people have no right to ride bikes if you insist that they go on the road.

No, those cycling organizations typically lobby for safe bike infrastructure like protected bike lanes. Safe infrastructure allows all people, regardless of their athleticism, to enjoy riding a bike.

Bicycles don't ride on sidewalks because you want to maximize their visibility. Most deadly accidents between bikes and cars happen at intersections where bikes are getting right-hooked by drivers who forget to check their blind spot. Drivers don't expect objects traveling at 30km/h on the sidewalk, so they're even less likely to look. Sharing the road between bikes and cars is much safer. There would be almost no problem if cars respected safe overtaking distances and switched lanes to overtake bikes.

Drivers don't expect objects traveling at 30km/h on the sidewalk, but that doesn't matter. Drivers are supposed to be on the roads. I suppose the idea is that the bike would just zip across the intersection at that speed? The people preferring bikes on sidewalks are thinking of non-athlete bike riders. They never go that fast. At intersections, they dismount and walk. These bike users are far more compatible with pedestrians than they are with cars.

You can't expect cyclists to stop and get off at every intersection. They wouldn't get anywhere. Bicycles are not toys, they're vehicles. The people on them have places to be.

I am amazed that we allow cars in any place that people are nearby, such as cities of suburbs? 40,000 people die every year in the US, just so someone can get somewhere slightly quicker. Roads take up more space than private housing. Cost billions every single year.Such a ridiculous cost.

Updated how? If I'm on a motorcycle and get hit, it should be assumed to be my fault?

There's an even simpler, more effective way of checking blind spots: Actually turning ones head and looking over the shoulder.

The "blind spot" doesn't exist when drivers exercise proper caution and responsible driving behavior.

Of course, expecting this of drivers is unrealistically utopian. Nevertheless, a "blind spot" is just another excuse for unsafe drivers.

This is an integral part of a driving exam in the Netherlands. You are drilled to look over the shoulder for literally every maneuver (lane switch, turn, etc.) and if you fail to do it even once during the driving exam you will get a fail. In other news: driving test in the US is a complete joke.

> In other news: driving test in the US is a complete joke.

Not in all places. It’s highly dependent on who’s proctoring the exam. Some tests are administered by police officers and those can be extremely strict. Other times you get seriously generous people, and that needs to be fixed. Someone I know was the last test of the day for a proctor and they drove over a curb on a turn and still passed. There were quite a few of us baffled by this.

Location also depends on what gets tested. Here in MA pretty much everything gets tested (turn types, merging, all forms of parking, etc) whereas some neighboring states don’t test parallel parking.

In the training program I was at, turning your head was repeatedly drilled-in in every driving/observation session. Making sure you mirrors were set up for optimal maximum coverage was also tested. There was no shortage of not-ending-well stories related to blind spots and not checking all sides repeatedly.

For what it’s worth, it’s like that in much of the U.S. too— at least in my state (North Carolina), you’ll certainly fail the test if you change lanes without checking your blind spot.

Driving tests vary state to state, though. And I agree with you that overall, driver education in the U.S. is woeful. I didn’t even have to parallel park for mine! Meanwhile Scandinavians have to prove they can recover from a slide to even get a license.

> Meanwhile Scandinavians have to prove they can recover from a slide to even get a license.

Not entirely accurate, at least not when I did it. You do have to go take the slide test, otherwise you're not actually eligible for even taking the driving test. The slide test isn't so much a test though, but more of a forced (albeit very fun) experience to get you to experience first hand what it's like to hit a patch of ice or pool of water and all of a sudden lose all traction. It used to be a way to teach people to simulate ABS brakes as well, but I think nowadays that might be less relevant since pretty any car has them.

If you took the test in the summer time the sliding was simulated by some pretty interesting contraption that had wheels that would just point in whatever direction you where going, and at the instructors command would lift the car of the ground to remove traction. Somewhat like suddenly putting the car in a shopping cart at full speed. It's a lot of fun, when done in a controlled environment!

I wonder if it's possible to retake this test every year or so. As it stands you have to renew the license every ten years, but you never have to take another test once you have it. You just send in a new photo basically. I can tell that I'm most likely a worse driver now than I used to be, at least in some situations, and I don't really keep up with changes in traffic regulations. (Signaling requirements in roundabouts have changed apparently, I had no idea.) Sometimes I think maybe we should have a mandated refresher course every few years, with another slide test refresher as well, just to keep up with things. Modern cars are basically sci-fi space ships now I feel, half the time I wonder if I'd even be able to drive with all the assistive technology that's in there..

> I wonder if it's possible to retake this test every year or so.

Here the ADAC offers a Fahrsicherheitstraining (safe driving training) which includes similar exercises (e.g. evading an obstacle while experiencing aquaplaning).

I think it's about context. Scandinavians have snow and Ice, so it's more likely they'll skid.

I never had to parallel park, either, for my test, but I also will never parallel park unless I travel 4+ hours away from my home.

I did have to prove I could control/stop a skid on gravel, and make a decision on whether to pull onto the soft shoulder or pass or stop or whatever on a narrow lane. Because there is much gravel and huge machinery moving around here on back roads.

>Scandinavians have snow and ice, so it's more likely they'll skid.

A lot of the US has snow and ice too.

Many areas of the south have considerable issues with poor traction. Heavy rainfall after a long dry spell typically disturbs the accumulated contamination on the road surface, creating a sudden and drastic reduction in friction. Dust deposited by desert winds can be almost as slippery as ice. The infrequency of these conditions mean they pose a particular hazard, because drivers lack experience in dealing with them.

In some states, yes. In Texas, I know of several people who didn't even have to take a practical driving test - just a written exam. There used to be an exemption from the practical driving test if you had a licensed parent teach their child under 18 to drive.

> You are drilled to look over the shoulder for literally every maneuver (lane switch, turn, etc.)

It's not the recommended practice in Romania, you're supposed to only rely on your side-mirrors and partly on your rear-view mirror without completely turning your head from the direction you're going (i.e. forward).

I'd say that this is the better solution for Bucharest's streets, where there's a much bigger chance of a pedestrian suddenly hopping in front of your car from between two parked cars on the side of the road, and as such it's better for the driver to almost always be attentive at what's in front of the car compared to what's on his/her sides.

In the US, this is also part of the driving exam. However, it is not an automatic failure on its own.

I myself failed to do it once, on the test for turning right after crossing through a bicycle lane on my right. Every other maneuver, I checked over my shoulder. Felt bad because I used to commute via bicycle and it was...well, a little ironic that I messed up there of all places.

Agreed, though. The US driving test is pathetic.

The bike lane on the right scenario is just stupidity. In what other context is it permitted to turn right across another straight-ahead lane to the right? When I turn right and there is a bike lane to my right, I pull into the bike lane first so nobody can pass me.

Where else would you put it? If you put it on the left, then bikes are going to have to cross the car's path to get in/out of the bike lane. So either way, cars and bikes will be merging past each other.

However, in California, cars are not supposed to "turn right across another straight-ahead lane to the right", they are supposed to merge safely into the bike lane and turn right from the bike lane, letting any bikes behind pass the car on the left.


> Where else would you put it?

Just have the cyclist ride in the right-most lane available for traffic. Then there are no crossing movements to deal with. Cars making a right turn will either be directly ahead of the cyclist or directly behind the cyclist.

Does that really solve the problem of cars turning to the right in front of cyclists? Seems like the same motorist that would pass the cyclist in the bike lane and turn right in front of him, would also pass the cyclist in the roadway and turn right in front of him.

In my experience, it does if one rides in a way to take up the entire lane. Many motorists don't perceive bike lanes as actual lanes of traffic they have to yield to when making turning movements. But they will do so for general purpose lanes.

There's no such thing as a "US driving test." There's a separate driving test with separate standards for each one of the states and territories and DC.

Do you not think I know this? Sometimes less precision for the sake of flowing conversation is worth it. HN can be absurdly pedantic some days.

So why are you making a sweeping claim about all US drivers tests, given that you only took one of them? The one you took was clearly bad. The process I went through in Maryland is apparently one of the tougher ones. 30 classroom hours, 6 hours one-on-one with an instructor, 50 hours daytime driving with an older licensed driver, 10 hours nighttime driving, and then you can take the written and driving tests (which require you to parallel park). After that you can drive on your own but still can't have any non-adult passengers and can't drive past midnight or your license is suspended for a year. After 18 months of driving with no moving violations and no other criminal convictions, you finally get a real driver's license. The whole process takes a couple of years.

I did a driving test in Toronto and one in San Francisco. In Toronto, failing to shoulder check once wouldn't normally be an auto-fail in the same way that blowing a stop sign would, because most maneuvers are evaluated three times. If you fail to do it all three times, then that's a strike.

In San Francisco, we only did a few turns and that was it. Not even any form of parking or three point turns.

I failed my (US) driver's test because, while I looked over my shoulder to check my blind spot, the proctor judged that the window was too fogged up for me to be able to see.

Granted, I should have known better how to work the defrost function in the car.

That's not true. My driving inspector watched for it and actually commended me at the end. There are also so many other things that he noticed and appreciated/warned me about that I see drivers not doing every single day - indicators, not switching lanes in an intersection (immediate fail), blocking an intersection, not cruising through bike lane, taking a right turn as close to the curb as possible, stop & look for pedestrians before turning right on red, look twice for pedestrians before making a turn and on and on. I don't see most drivers following any of it.

Same here in BC, Canada, you will fail your road test if you don't shoulder-check on lane changes and even turns

Same in Canada (Ontario).

Then again, in my US driving test I was penalized (I still passed the test) for not looking over my shoulder before one lane change. It was a two-lane one-way road with zero traffic. There's no way a car could've gotten there without me seeing it in my mirrors unless it had been dropped from the air into my blind spot. I'm definitely not still bitter.

I've had plenty of moments in my 33 years as a driver where a vehicle dropped out of the sky and into my blind spot; they just do that!

The problem is that your attention isn't riveted on the mirrors at all times.

If you have been sternly monitoring the mirrors in the previous fraction of a minute, then such a hypothesis does hold.

In road tests, you have to do everything by the book, though.

They want to see that you've developed the habit of checking. The habit will save you that time when your don't-have-to-do-it hypothesis happens to have a flaw.

>The problem is that your attention isn't riveted on the mirrors at all times.

This is mitigated by what pilots call their "scan" or "flow" (I've heard both terms).

Pilots follow a visual path around the instruments to ensure they refresh their awareness of critical values and system states (airspeed, ascent rate, engine parameters, etc.) at appropriate intervals¹.

I argue that drivers should have a similar flow to maintain constant situational awareness, and side mirrors are a key element in such a pattern.

I also have a pre-drive checklist that I call the "Six Ls" —

Lights (obvi), Locks (obvi) , Levels (fuel, oil press, electrical supply, etc.), Laps (seat belts), Load (cargo secured?), Loud (radio down/pax calm).


¹—With automatic alerting in modern planes this arguably is not strictly needed, but pilots start in small, simple planes before moving up the tech stack and it's a good practice at any level.

How much does the roster of what pilots are constantly scanning have to do with what is happening to the rear of the airplane's path of travel?

Pilots don't have the problem of a child jumping into their path from between parked cars.

They can fly blind in a complete fog, by instruments.

In a car, your attention should be mostly toward the front. The rear action deserves attention, but not a lot; just a glance every few seconds.

There are times in driving when what is happening rearward is very important and deserves a lot of attention; it's generally good to keep those to a minimum.

> The problem is that your attention isn't riveted on the mirrors at all times.

Well, sure, no one is going to be perfect, but similarly, no one is going to always check over their shoulder.

> In road tests, you have to do everything by the book, though.

Of course. I expect proctors to do things by the book. That's easier and more consistent than trusting each proctor's judgment. My complaints about the test methodology were in jest, but I do think what I did was not in any way unsafe.

> Well, sure, no one is going to be perfect, but similarly, no one is going to always check over their shoulder.

Plenty of people do. I do. You make it a habit so it's not something you even think about. Or put another way, it's like brushing your teeth--it's something you do because not doing it makes you uncomfortable. (And as someone who had to develop the habit of brushing as an adult rather than being trained as a young child by attentive parents, I know it's possible to develop such habits belatedly.)

I've found that in modern cars the B pillars are so far forward and wide that the value of the blind spot check is diminished. In my 2018 mid-sized SUV I have to stretch so far to see the blind spot that in heavy freeway traffic I feel like I'm taking my eyes off the road ahead for too far long. So I'm on the fence on the turning the head thing and suspect some day soon pervasive collision avoidance systems will definitively settle the matter, though I'm not sure I'll ever be able to break the habit myself.

But it's definitely a mistake to think that it's not practical to consistently do something as simple as checking your blind spot. It's perhaps one of the few driving tasks that one can reasonably expect to perform with near perfect consistency, even during emergency situations like when you're tempted to veer to avoid a rapidly approaching road hazard.

> Plenty of people do. I do.

What I mean is that "check your mirrors" and "look over your shoulder" are equally easy to follow. I didn't look over my shoulder because I had checked my mirrors and was extremely confident there was no car in my blind spot. I still have a rule that I follow all the time.

>>There's no way a car could've gotten there without me seeing it in my mirrors unless it had been dropped from the air into my blind spot.

But if you don't check every single time, you will eventually make a mistake and hit another car.

It is the same rationale about never pointing a gun at another person. Even if you are 100% sure that it is not loaded.

> But if you don't check every single time, you will eventually make a mistake and hit another car.

I don't really follow that logic. If I check every single that it's necessary to check, by definition that is adequate. Of course I'm not genuinely bothered that the driver test proctor scored me by-the-book, I'm sure that's much easier and more consistent for them and it probably rarely makes a difference between pass or fail. But I also don't think I was driving in any way unsafely in that instance.

The rule is designed for humans who lack perfect judgment. If you aren't in that category, why are you driving an automobile?

That still doesn't make sense. Why does the rule "always look over your shoulder" work for imperfect humans, but the extremely similar rule "always check your mirrors" doesn't? Both rules obviously work when followed and don't work when not followed.

No rule will prevent all collisions of automobiles driven by humans. There's no free lunch here. If you want to be safer, drive less. TFA is fun, but mostly because it pretends that cyclists don't exist. IRL, there is a trade-off between turned-head blind spot checks and hidden-pedestrian alertness. You weren't talking about that trade-off, though. You were assuming that you always keep perfect track of your mirrors. Safety experts are quite sure that you don't.

It is not feasible to be always monitoring the mirrors; that takes attention from what is in front of you. You in fact must not be constantly monitoring the mirrors, but only glancing from time to time.

I would say you are driving with extremely low situational awareness if you are not always aware of cars approaching and overtaking you from behind.

Or you are driving with perfectly normal situational awareness, multiplied by enough hours, and sometimes you hit the low end of the bell curve.

Checking is far more reliable.

In my California driver test, I was penalized for not looking over my shoulder dramatically enough (a slight head turn and a glance over my shoulder out the side window was not sufficient apparently) when switching into a left turn lane which was carved out of the median island and couldn’t possibly have had anyone driving up to the left.

This is not an effective way of checking your blind spot. Unless you have a convertible or lean your head out of the window, the C-pillar will still block your vision.

You have to properly configure your side mirror in order to eliminate blind spots in most cars. With a side mirror configured like in the article, you can see everything beside you by sweeping your head just a few inches. This works extremely well, even in a car like a modern Camaro, which has little mirrors, slit windows, enormous b-pillars and a door sill that's higher than most peoples' shoulders.

Using your technique in a car like this will not work for anyone under 6'4 -- which is why so many people complain about the Camaro having visibility of a tank. They use the wrong, old fashion way of checking over your shoulder, rather than relying on properly configured mirrors, which is what I do and have no complaints about side visibility.

I don't think using such a poor design as a standard example of visibility is fair. Most cars have a far greater range of vision than the camaro, seeing as it's a low-seated, low-slung, small-windowed muscle coupe.

Also, a Camaro doesn't have B-Pillars the way a sedan or crossover does. I suppose they technically may be B-Pillars, but their rear (whether they are considered B or C) pillars are placed where a traditional C-Pillar goes in a 4-door vehicle.

Additionally, as I've mentioned elsewhere in the thread, checking over your shoulder should always be done in conjuction with checking your mirrors. Mirrors first, head check 2nd. Checking over your shoulder is a tried and true method of verifying that the space to the side and rear of your vehicle is clear. It is safe and effective.

This is not true at all. When changing lanes, scan from over your shoulder, to your side mirror and you get complete coverage. When first setting off, scan from I’ve done shoulder, through to the side mirror, to the front screen, up to the main mirror, out to the other side mirror and finally over the other shoulder to check all around the vehicle before setting off safely.

Source: recently learned to drive in the UK and this is how the instructor taught me and is standard teaching here

> There's an even simpler, more effective way of checking blind spots: Actually turning ones head and looking over the shoulder.

Properly adjusting your mirrors doesn't mean that you never turn your head and look over your shoulder, but that you don't have to do it nearly as often.

That's good, because physically turning your head is an incredibly slow and risky operation when compared to a glance.

Physically turning your head in __not__ a risky operation if a driver has given proper following distance to the vehicle in front. Turning to look over your shoulder is only dangerous if you are driving dangerously by following too closely or at an excessive speed difference between your vehicle and surrounding traffic.

My personal rule of thumb is at least 1 car length for every 10mph I'm traveling at, so at 70mph >= 7 car lengths between me and the vehicle in front of me.

> Physically turning your head in __not__ a risky operation if a driver has given proper following distance to the vehicle in fron

It is a very risky operation if you drive in a congested city where pedestrians can hop in front of your car at any one moment. I think that is not the case in the US but in other parts of the world if you take your eyes off from the forward-going direction then you risk hitting someone who has just appeared in front of your car out of nowhere.

The rule by the books is not car lengths, but two seconds. Easier to measure seconds, and cars are difference sizes so less arbitrary. 2 seconds tends to be just slightly longer than your rule.

Those who study human reaction times figure that from the time something happens, you notice and you get your foot physically moved to the brake and push hard enough to make a difference 1.75 seconds have passed. Thus 2 seconds is a minimum.

True, the rule is measured in seconds. But, I can't accurately measure time without distance. If a car passes a pole at time = 0 at ~ 60mph, I will be a certain distance behind the car if I pass the pole 2 seconds later, traveling at approximately the same speed.

I find it a little easier to use distance to maintain this over time, because I can always see how far ahead of me the car is, but to measure by time takes landmarks and it's much harder to get a real accurate time measurement. In any case, I tend to err a little on the high side regarding distance for this reason.

The one car length per 10mph rule barely gives you one second of following distance, assuming a car length is about 15 feet.

The way you phrased this stuck with me, reminding me that my own response time is not all the time I need.

That rule of thumb gives you about a second, assuming no one cuts into your lane or crosses the median. You are reducing but not eliminating risk enough to emphasize that it’s not risky.

Yes, but it is a floor, not a ceiling. That's why I said "at least 1 car length".

I give as much space as I possibly can in following distance without impeding traffic, but not less than 1cl/10mph.

For example, if someone merges in front of me at approximately 3 car lengths at 65mph, I'm not going to slam on my brakes to increase the gap, then gun it back up to speed. That's dangerous. I'm going to get off the throttle, maybe brake a bit, and let the gap grow out before reapplying power, which gives me reasonable protection without endangering me too much. This is also much more predictable for cars behind me, which again is safer.

Not every situation is in perfect compliance with the rules. My goal is to maximize my safety, predictability, and compliance without causing traffic problems for others. That's why it's a rule of thumb. It's not written in stone, but it's a good guideline to start.

Yes, but you said that turning back to look is _not_ risky and only gave one number that is too close to look back without risk. Theoretically “at least” has no upper bound, which I suppose gives you an out...

Well I admit, I never did the math on my rule of thumb. Perhaps it's time to revise it and give even more space. Maybe I've been, despite effort, still following too closely. Like I said, I try to give maximum space and be as responsible as possible. Not perfect though. I can still improve as a driver, as your math shows.

except when someone cuts in front of you and brakes when you have ur head turned.

Take a look at some of the late-model cars with gigantic A, B, and/or C pillars -- in many of these, head-checks are not as effective as in older cars. The Cadillac ELR, Nissan Leaf, Infiniti QX80, Lexus GS F, etc. All have gigantic C pillars and/or headrests that block rearward visibility, which results in blind spots the size of Texas if you rely on head-checks. Now take a look at some older cars, maybe a 2012 Ford Escape. Awesome visibility. The dual pushes for improved structural rigidity and strength (small overlap crash tests, anyone?) and swoopier designs are causing many new cars to move in the wrong direction on visibility.

I drive a van, and that absolutely has a blind spot on the far side from the driver, no matter what I do with my head. The problem is that there are no rear passenger side windows to look through, and you can't see into the blind spot through the front passenger window. A blind spot mirror helps partially, but it's disconcerting driving with a known blind spot.

I advocate turning your head and looking, but it’s not safe to take your eyes off the car ahead of you in Seattle traffic many times.

When traffic is both fast and heavy and with the potential to completely stop fast enough to engage abs, randomly, every few miles, anything you can do to shorten the quick look the better.

I have done this with my mirrors for a year or so and it’s been a big help. I still dart a glance when I feel safe enough, but there are times when it isn’t safe.

I am careful to give a blink on my signal before moving over and I try to change at a speed where if I’ve made a mistake, someone has time to dodge or honk.

I haven't driven in such heavy traffic, but you do everyone a favor if you can leave enough following distance not to have to brake so hard. It leaves a traffic shock wave that makes people slam on their brakes behind you, and starts a jam. If you can drop back just a little, you can maintain a more steady speed, which increases throughput for the road. Plus, longer-lived brakes.

This description suggests that it's not safe to change lanes in such traffic.

This is true. Accidents everyday.

I completely agree with you, but technology is encouraging us to 'rely' on it's helpful beeps, alerts, and flashes.

Soon we will have trained an entire generation to 'drive-by-sensors' and not senses.

Over-reliance on technology is a plague on driving quality. This is actually why I (and I realize this isn't realistic) think that new drivers should be required to learn to driv and pass the driving test using a manual transmission vehicle without driver aids such as blind-spot detection, lane-assist, assistive braking, etc.

Each year, cars become more and more insulated and isolated from the reality of driving, which is incredibly dangerous. Technology is exascerbating(sp?) this problem. As you say, driving via sensors rather than senses.

People must understand _what_ the car is doing in order to really know how to drive safely and competently. Lower-tech cars force people into this.

> manual transmission vehicle

Why? I get that there is going to be a lot of missing sensors, but the automatic transmission is now so ubiquitous that it makes no sense to require you not to. I understand it's a nice additional skill, but in the modern era it in no way proves/disproves one's ability to function on the roadway. In fact, once these sensors all become as equally ubiquitous, there will be very little argument to be made against them as well. Might as well make an argument that you everyone should drive a Benz Patent Motor Car just to really "feel" the car.

Because a manual transmission makes you engage more with the car. You must control it more actively, thus teaching drivers to focus on and observe the car and road rather than waiting for directives from sensors like blind-spot detection lights. An automatic mentally allows the driver to feel and operate more like a passenger than a pilot. Manual trans prevents this.

It's not about some pretentious "feel" like porsche-bros espouse. It's about engagement and forming good habits so drivers are more self aware and self sufficient on the road.

Your could make the same arguments for bringing back manual chokes. I think it's better to reduce the driver's workload so they can keep both hands on the wheel and devote more attention to what's happening outside.

> so they can keep both hands on the wheel and devote more attention to what's happening outside.

That was my point though. When driving a manual, your hands are either A) on the wheel, or B) one on wheel, other shifting gears. You can't really do much else. Maybe drink coffee if you're sitting in the same gear over distance, but in suburban traffic with stop lights and signs and turns, you can't afford to do much more than drive, shift, and execute maneuvers like lane changes, turns, etc.

There's far less opportunity to do things like text, read, rubberneck, etc. I.E. Devote more attention to what's happening outside.

At the times that an automatic most easily lets your attention wander, driving at a consistent speed, a manual does no more to keep you engaged.

It keeps you more focused on the car at lights and turns, but that might be a bad thing. I want to be focused on the cross traffic, not my engine.

If your hypothesis is correct then we would expect to see auto insurers offering lower rates for manual transmission vehicles due to a lower risk of crashes. Do you have any evidence for that?

To be fair, that would be hopelessly skewed by the propensity of illegal racers (and other people who think it's fun to drive powerful cars really fast on public roads) to prefer manuals.

I'd argue that those people are bad drivers.

That's the point.

> An automatic mentally allows the driver to feel and operate more like a passenger than a pilot. Manual trans prevents this.

I don't understand, they are still steering the craft, as well as adjusting it's speed. You haven't removed any of the important requirements for driving - being able to steer the vehicle and modify it's velocity. The ability to use a clutch and change gears simply compounds the difficulty of that exercise, it doesn't cause the driver to necessarily engage with the car in a way affects the drivers skill, it may have a higher skill floor, but it doesn't really make for a higher performance ceiling.

As a driver of both types of cars, this is completely false, in my experience. Having a clutch pedal doesn't make drivers more aware or capable. On the contrary, it's a small cognitive load that can be freed, then put somewhere else.

A bad driver isn't thwarted by a stick shift. They'll do the bare minimum to keep the car on the road. These drivers are notoriously bad at selecting gears, so they usually solve that issue buying diesel-powered cars with a more forgiving power curve.

It's just one additional thing that requires brain cycles which would be better spent on situational awareness.

In the UK (where I learnt to drive) you can take the test on either transmission, but if you take it in an automatic then that's all you can drive, whereas if you pass the test in a manual you're qualified for both.

Additionally, manual cars are far more ubiquitous in the UK than they are in Canada (where I live now) and the US (at least, as far as I know). Because of this pretty much everyone learns on a manual car.

> In the UK (where I learnt to drive) you can take the test on either transmission, but if you take it in an automatic then that's all you can drive, whereas if you pass the test in a manual you're qualified for both.

That's totally fine and totally fair. Manual cars do take additional skill to operate. My argument is that those skills don't make you a better driver overall. If you were to put a manual and automatic driver in an automatic car, the manual driver won't necessarily be the better driver by virtue of their being able to shift gears.

Anyone who's relying on driver assists as their primary safety (rather than just as a backup to their senses) is a bad driver. Bad drivers exist, and aren't going to magically become good drivers if you take away these aids, they'll just cause an accident instead. The NHTSA can provide volumes of actual data to refute your anecdata. https://www.nhtsa.gov/equipment/driver-assistance-technologi...

> new drivers should be required to learn to driv

This hypothetical situation is part of the learning process. That is the point. People __learn__ to drive without the assists. Not to all of a sudden revoke a current drivers' ability to use them.

This would help educate drivers in their formative stage in order to reduce the number of "bad drivers" on the road later.

> Soon we will have trained an entire generation to 'drive-by-sensors' and not senses.

I honestly believe that driver safety will approve more rapidly when that happens than ever before.

I trust silicon more than I trust meat.

> I trust silicon more than I trust meat.

I'm halfway onboard with you. The difference is in what I trust it to do. I trust meat more than silicon when meat is driving attentively and safely. There are many drivers out there with fantastic control of their vehicle, especially in bad situations.

The other half is that I don't trust meat to actually drive attentively and safely. I trust silicon to actually drive safely, unlike people.

Sensors need to prove themselves, but I'm optimistic that senors will soon be better. I have one set of eyes looking in one direction (whatever my field of view is, lets assume 90 degrees for discussion). I can never look two directions at once, but in fact I need to be looking all 4 at once. If I allow enough margin of safety I can get by since danger general is coming from at most two predictable directions but there are situations where one of the other direction has a danger that I can't predict. (for example: right turns where I look left for the danger of cars coming and miss the pedestrian trying to cross from the right - since pedestrians are rare a the intersections I drive nobody expects them)

I use my adaptive cruise control to prevent tailgating. Any time I find myself getting annoyed with a slow jerk blocking the left lane, I force myself to turn it on to make sure that I don't subconsciously creep up on his butt (because I know that's a thing that I sometimes do). ... I have also taken my owners manual's advice on the use of the high-beam flasher ... it calls it a 'flash to pass' ... so now I give a little blink of the brights after setting the cruise. Probably safer, but sometimes I fear that it may induce road rage.

Looking over the shoulder seems like a dangerous move to me, given that a car that is driving in front of me might break at the same moment I'm looking out of the side window. Also, it somehow seems little bit disorienting. But maybe if I would get used to it, it wouldn't seem so weird and scary.

Simple solution to this one too: don't drive so close to the person in front of you that a 500ms peek would put you in danger of collision.

The only time a peek would put you in the danger you describe is if you're tailgating or exceptionally slow at peeking.

Using the method the article describes, you still have to turn your head to check beside you but you don't have to turn it so far as to look over your shoulder.

The method in the article doesn't eliminate the blind spot, just puts it in a place that's easier to see.

As an ex motorcyclist I would never make any sort of turn without a glance over my shoulder. You make a mistake on a bike you die. That makes for some good training. I always think everyone should spend a little time in such a vulnerable situation when they learn.

Current motorcyclist here! Same shit, man. Mirrors first, then head check. Saved my ass many times so far.

I wish people had to get a license for a moped/motorcycle before a license for a car. It would make the roads a lot safer, I think.

I do this all the time (here in the US, Los Angeles), as my instructor back then told me to do so.

The article doesn't claim that you can adjust your mirrors such that shoulder checking is not required. Quote:

With the mirrors adjusted properly, a shoulder check to change lanes becomes more of a "shoulder peek", meaning you don't have to turn your head so far. That means your peripheral vision will still provide a view in front of you - no "blind spot" in front of you either, meaning less chance of rear-ending a vehicle that has suddenly stopped.

Note that no matter where you turn your head, you have blind spots, caused by the roof pillars of the vehicle. You also can't see a portion of the ground around your vehicle; that's also blind spots.

Blind spots are real; they are not just excuses.

Lean forward and "sweep" the region parallel to the back half of the car with the side view mirror.

In newer cars, with huge pillars filled with airbags, this is no longer true.

I hate this so much. Parallel focus between front and back is super confusing if not entirely dangerous.

I'm gonna cover my interior with mirrors. It should be standard.

My car has blindspot detection lights on the mirror. I don't do this most of the time now.

You must not be relying on warning system as a substitute for looking.

For one thing, if one day it stopped working for some reason, how would you know?

How well does it actually work when it works as designed?

The one bearing the responsibility is you, not that warning device.

yea manual says this

"The driver is responsible for driving safely. Always be sure to check the surroundings with your eyes when changing lanes or reversing the vehicle. The system is designed to assist the driver to change lanes or reverse safely by monitoring the rear and side areas of the vehicle. However, you cannot rely on this system alone in assuring the safety during a lane change or reversing. Overconfi- dence in this system could result in an accident and lead to serious injury or death. Since the system operation has various limitations, the flashing or illumination of the BSD/RCTA approach indicator light may be delayed or it may not operate at all even when a vehicle is present in a neighboring lane or approach- ing from either side. The driver is responsible for paying attention to the rear and side areas of the vehicle."

BLIS is a supplement to proper situational awareness & manual checking, not a replacement. These systems can and do fault, especially in heavy snow and sometimes rain.

And then you crash into the car in front of you that slams on the brakes. In my experience looking over the shoulder for a sufficient length to context switch what I'm seeing robs me of about 1/2 a second of my reaction time to things coming from in front of me. Adjusting the mirrors correctly is far safer IMO.

If you look straight ahead, there is a blind spot in your vision. To see things in your blind spot, you need to move your eyes. It's biology, not an excuse.

If you look into your car mirrors, there is a blind spot in your vision. To see things in your blind spot, you need to move your head (since you can't move your mirror "eyes" every time you look). It's physics, not an excuse.

Turning your head means not looking forward.

You might think it is safe to operate a multi-ton death machine at death speeds while closing your eyes or looking backwards or whatever you're doing except looking forward.

But it is not.

Learn to use mirrors, so your peripheral vision remains on the most important thing: where you are going.

"Turning your head" is an unsafe way to avoid having properly set mirrors.

With properly set mirrors, one does not need to "turn your head" and stop looking where your car is going.

Frankly, "Turning your head" is just another excuse for unsafe drivers. Eyes forward and on the road my friend!

Turning your head is completely safe, with one caveat: Proper Following Distance.

A quick, over-the-shoulder check is not dangerous at all if a driver gives the car in front proper following distance. Too many people follow WAY too closely, especially at highway speeds.

Lastly, safe driving includes both actions. Step 1 is to check your mirrors (first rear, the side views). Step 2 is to quickly check over the shoulder. Step 3 is to make the maneuver.

As a motorcyclist, I have to be vastly more aware and defensive than cagers, because a little fender-bender for drivers means injury and even death for riders. It is hammered into you, at any motorcycle safety course (by Moto Police no less, who spend all day riding motorcycles, every day) that you should always check over your shoulder before making lane changes, turns, etc. This is always done after you have already checked your mirrors.

As a driver, my primary focus MUST be in the direction I travel. I am simply not responsible for what is occuring behind me or in lanes adjacent to me.

When moving between lanes it's important to have no blind spots and to ensure safety before moving: which is what this article and anyone basically competent with mirrors does.

It's rank irresponsibility for me to stop focusing on the direction in which I am operating a multi-ton death machine simply because I am afraid of trusting the equipment I have.

As a motorcyclist, you should also know that being rear-ended by inattentive drivers is a huge and dangerous risk that is nearly impossible for you to prevent. While you can see and move out of the way of a bad lane change, it's vastly more difficult for you to see and move out of the way of a car that isn't stopping.

This, and so many other reasons, are why it is so important for car drivers to NEVER LOSE ATTENTION TO THE FRONT. Ever, for any reason.

What about debris falling off a car in front of you? Or driving on a city streets, with people randomly running onto the street? Proper following distance isn't universal remedy for not looking forward.

What you're suggesting directly contradicts the recommendations given in Roadcraft, the official police driver's handbook in the UK.

Use all your mirrors, and consider a shoulder check when it’s not safe to rely on your mirrors alone – for example, to check any blind spot when reversing, moving off from the kerb, joining a motorway or leaving a roundabout.

It is physically impossible to achieve all-round visibility using only the mirrors. The coverage angle of your mirrors and your effective field of view do not sum to 360 degrees. You will have at least two blind spots to the side, two A-pillar blind spots to the front and in many cars additional rear blind spots.

Try it for yourself - sit in the driver seat of your car in a safe open space, then ask someone to slowly walk around the car in an outward spiral. It should become readily apparent that at certain angles and distances, they disappear from view entirely unless you turn your head.

It's shocking that you have never learned to adjust your mirrors properly. It sounds like this article was made for you!

In my car, I have properly set my mirrors and there is no functional blind spot. When a vehicle is leaving my rear view, it is entering the side view. There is no gap between these two events.

I'm always gobsmacked that the vast majority of drivers are literally incompetent at mirror use.

It's shocking that you would claim that it's impossible to not have a blind spot when this article and simple testing would prove you wrong.

I would urge you to try your OWN experiment AFTER reading this article, digesting it, and practicing it.

Not turning your head means not seeing the bike next to you.

Turning your head means not seeing the pedestrian in the street in front of you.

People who drove cars in the EU and in the USA: did you ever notice how the blind spot problem almost completely disappears in the EU? That's because US enforces in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard #111 [1] that the left side rear view mirror cannot be convex, to aid the detection of the vehicles in the blind spot. I have not yet come up with a good understanding of why that regulation even exists, but personally I feel much safer on the road with the European type rear view mirrors.

[1] 49 CFR 571.111 Rear visibility

S5.2 Outside rearview mirror - driver's side.

S5.2.1 Field of view. Each passenger car shall have an outside mirror of unit magnification [2].

[2] 'Unit magnification' mirror means a plane or flat mirror with a reflective surface through which the angular height and width of the image of an object is equal to the angular height and width of the object when viewed directly at the same distance except for flaws that do not exceed normal manufacturing tolerances.


> it's the same reason that convex mirrors in America must have the text


S5.4.2 Each convex mirror shall have permanently and indelibly marked at the lower edge of the mirror's reflective surface, in letters not less than 4.8 mm nor more than 6.4 mm high the words “Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear.”

This is one of those things that most people do wrong and just aren't comfortable doing it the correct way. I tried to get my mother to setup her mirrors correctly but she just puts them back to an improper setup. For some reason people can't get past not being able to see the side of their own vehicle in their side mirrors. They think they need this reference point. Drivers education should really be pushing this so at least new drivers will setup their mirrors correctly.

This is so true. I was fortunate to learn about the technique described in the article when I learned to drive in high school and have used it for the past 25 years. However, I've completely failed to ever convince anyone else that this is the right way to do it. I've mainly tried it with people I shared a car with, first my parents and later my wife. They are so insistent on wanting to see the side of the car, but can't explain why that matters. My only hope is to indoctrinate my children when they start driving.

No. A thousand times no. I did this, on the advice of “Click” and “Clack” the CarTalk brothers. Shortly after, I backed into a short concrete pillar and messed up my left rear fender. The pillar was too short to see out of the back window, but I would have seen it if my side mirrors were set correctly as they reach you in school. You have to see where your fenders are going. Imagine if it was a small child back there instead of a pillar.

Yeah I also worry this advice would make it harder to back up. I drive a large minivan and use my side view mirrors all the time to check if I’m going to hit something when backing up. That would be a lot harder if I were not able to see my own car in the mirror.

Although I guess all you would need to do to see your own car in the mirror would be to lean to the side a bit... so maybe not a big deal.

I can deal with blindspots.

What boggles my mind is that some modern cars still have abnormally large ones. Cars with bad crash ratings get shat on but apparently designs with massive blindspots are totally OK.

Indeed. It puzzles me too how an A-pillar large enough to disapear a motorcycle, or group of children, is somehow accepted as safe. Our indescriminate push for safely has taken control from our hands in many contexts it seems.

Passive safety. A-pillar might be so bulky because it contains curtain airbag and provides structural stability necessary for good crash rating.

Conversely, a thick-enough A-pillar would be a great place for a forward-raving camera and driver-facing flat-panel display with face-tracking camera to always show the right perspective, thus making the A-pillar invisible.

Airbags don’t go into the A pillars typically - they start at about the top of the windshield, and when they blow the headliner tears, but not the plastic covering the A pillar.

You can see at 0:44 here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pl4-cO6pO34 that a portion of the side airbag is in the upper part of the A pillar. Here's what under the cover: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHRZcmA1A9U

This. I drive cars from the 90s for a combination of economic and nostalgia/aesthetic reasons, but every time I get in a recent model, I'm struck by how many of them have seriously compromised fields of visibility by comparison.

Is it just that there's no institutional rating of this sort of thing? I can't imagine that insurers would leave that stone unturned. Or is it really that it makes less of a difference than I'd believe?

> Is it just that there's no institutional rating of this sort of thing?

The ADAC gives school grades and explanations of the visibility for tested cars; most cars get shit-tier grades. E.g. the BMW X1 gets a straight 5.0 (fail) for rear view and 3,5 overall.

Many cars cannot be safely reversed alone without having a backup camera — which is often an extra feature.

When I was living in Northern Virginia I had blindspots on the windshield with two big registration stickers at the bottom center, an EZPass transponder at the top for the Dulles toll road, and a dashcam hanging off the rearview mirror. Those stickers are a ridiculous safety hazard. There's no conceivable reason they should have to be on the windshield instead of on one of the back passenger windows or something.

Related concepts, in the Netherlands they taught everyone to open their car door with the right hand, which makes your head turn and improves odds of spotting a cyclist.


I was taught (in the Netherlands) to hold the door with your right hand while you release the latch with the left. The benefit is not only turning the torso to see cyclists, but also holding on to the door in case there's a gust of wind.

The latter has saved the neighbor's car door a number of times.

This is a new law in illinois starting 2019


> which makes your head turn and improves odds of spotting a cyclist.

It doesn't because, when you turn your head, your view behind you will be blocked by the B-pillar of the car. It's actually better to look in the side mirror to check for cyclist before opening the door.

It's actually better to teach cyclists to not ride within 6 feet of a parked vehicle.

That's amazingly simple and effective. Awesome!

I've been aligning my mirrors like this for years. I prefer it because I can see cars in immediate adjacent positions without turning my head. It's particularly helpful in situations where I need to very quickly assess the situation, such as unexpected debris on the road and little time to react.

As noted, however, motorcycles can draw up unseen. But more often, when it fails, it's a car two lanes over to my rear that changes lanes towards me at the same time I do. it can go completely unseen. So I always do a head check, time permitting.

Yes. I always turn my head before I switch lanes, but I much more frequently am just aware that I don't need to turn my head because there is someone beside me. And you gain continuous situational awareness that means you pretty much always know which way you can go if you have to.

I also have had more surprise cars coming up next to me than motorcycles, because they're so rare and they don't come ut in the winter.

My father taught me this forever ago when I was learning to drive.

If this is done correctly, as a vehicle is coming up on, say, the left of you, as it is leaving your rear view mirror, it's entering the side view mirror. It should actually be in BOTH mirrors simultaneously. There's no blind spot.

Fun fact: European driver-side mirrors actually have a larger FOV than their US counterparts. It took me a while to get used to that when I moved to the US. I ended up buying some small blind spot mirrors that can be stuck onto the car's mirrors. I've been pretty happy with that solution (in combination with looking over my shoulder).

I have used this advice for the past decade and I could not recommend it more. After just few days of driving like that I could not believe how it was possible for me to drive with incorrectly set mirrors like 99÷ of car drivers.

I see many comments complaining about almost hitting bikes while using this method. How is your experience?

Okay, so the important thing to understand that with this method your mirrors don't overlap. Before, you could ignore your rear view mirror and just look in the side mirror to get the same coverage but slightly extended on that side. With correctly set mirrors you absolutely have to use both rear view mirror and the side mirror if you want to change the lane or are looking for a cyclist when turning.

I made some tests when I first started. I parked my car parallel to the street and observed when cars move from behind they move out of the rear view mirror and start appearing in side mirror before wholly disappear from rear view mirror.

With bicycles it is more difficult, not all parts of bicycle are easy to spot. If you just get a rear part or front wheel in the mirror you might miss it (it may be below your vision if you have SUV or have mirrors set bit high). For this reason I have my side mirrors set low, which also aides backing up when parking.

It is also important to look at your mirrors correctly. If you look for things moving faster than you, which is most of the time (for example when you are changing lanes or looking for cyclists when turning right) then you need to first look into the rear view mirror and then to side mirror, in that order.

I taught myself to scan all mirrors constantly when driving to have a map of all cars and their relative positions and velocities around me. It is tiring at the beginning but it means I am rarely surprised by normally moving cars (ie. not doing any stupid manouvers). It is very helpful when you need to suddenly swerve and you can frequently anticipate problems other drivers have and accommodate.

Am I the only one that doesn't find the blind spot to be where this article puts it? (Between the side mirror and the rear mirror's coverage areas.) I can (barely) see the entire side of my car in my side mirror; anything closer to behind me is going to appear in the rear mirror. The part I have trouble with is the other side of the side mirror, that is, the forward part of its coverage. A car can sit forward of what the mirror can see, but not yet in my peripheral vision.

So I turn my head when merging, to clear that area.

(Perhaps I have my side mirror pointing further "back" than the article?)

Yes, the point of the article is to adjust the side mirrors further out in order to shrink the regular blind spot (the same one you are talking about).

I disagree with that though, for two reasons:

1. You don't eliminate the blind spot, only shrink it. Depending on your car, the FoV of the mirrors, and the size of the other vehicle, you might still have a large enough blind spot so that your peripheral vision doesn't have it once it leaves the side mirror.

2. It risks creating an even more dangerous blind spot behind you (the one between the mirror views). Maybe not large enough for a car, but definitely for a motorcycle. This one is much harder to catch even if you turn your head.

I think every driver should turn their head, always.

These seem like good guidelines, although I would add that drivers should also be aware of other cars that may merge from the side, so you cannot depend entirely on the mirrors. This happens quite frequently in heavy traffic when folks are eager to take any space available

Agreed, drivers often do not check for this. If I'm merging into a lane, I prefer to do so when not sliding next to another car. If it's inevitable, I do it slowly.

Yes! I wish more people thought like this.

I've more than once been signaling a merge and had the car two lanes over attempt the opposite merge right into the space I'm signaling into, often when I'm already partially in it, without signaling. I'm very wary of merging next to someone now for that reason.

I've almost been hit by so many idiots who don't turn their heads and just trust their stupid mirrors, I want to have 5 minutes alone in a locked room with whoever wrote this article.

I rented a car once that had blind spot cameras in the outside rear view mirrors -- when you turn on the turn signal, it displayed the camera's view in the multifunction display in the middle of the dashboard.

It had a better field of view than the mirror, and made it very easy to see if there's a bike or pedestrian beside you. Since it was just a rental, out of habit I still turned my head to look, but it seemed like a useful. I think it even flashed and beeped a warning if there was someone in the blind spot, but that may have only worked for cars.

I think these systems should be required for trucks and other large vehicles that have a large blind spot.


Is it legal to have European style mirrors in the us? I almost crashed due to the stupid American bathroom mirrors.

Exactly how we were taught to set the mirrors in drivers ed.

They don't teach it in Wisconsin. Nor do they teach how to use blinkers, or to deal with multiple people coming up to a stop sign controlled intersection.

But I digress.

This is how you end up thinking you don't have blindspots and end up hitting someone/something. Blind spots need to be checked by turning your head unless you have 4 inch round fisheye mirrors that would fit equally well on a dumptruck or semi-truck. Those little tiny spot mirrors on consumer cars? Those are 4/5 times complete garbage and don't give nearly enough vision. If someone walks behind your car, at no point in time should they disappear without moving your head even for a fraction of a second.

I looked at some other "tips" in the folder and found this: http://pages.cs.wisc.edu/~gdguo/driving/RoadMarkings.htm which suggests it's OK to turn into any lane, near or far. That's not acceptable in my state. You must turn into the nearest lane.

[Never mind the next para. See child comment I replied to]

In driving school, I was taught to adjust my side mirrors exactly the way described here: rear view mirror points to rear, side mirrors just barely show the side of the car. And still there are blind spots in every car I've driven, no matter how much "fine tuning" I do.

This is why blind spot warning systems are a must in any new car I consider buying.

You might have misread this -- the way that you learned is the traditional way. The way described on this page, you do _not_ see your own car at all in the side view mirror.

Ah I see, you're right. I didn't understand what the author meant when he said you have to lean to one side when adjusting that side's mirror.

That's not what this is. This requires leaning your head all the way over and THEN only barely seeing the car. Then, when you sit straight up, you aren't even close to seeing the side of your own car.

I have a seven year-old Prius and the support columns on the left and right of the windshield are huge. I can't count the number of times I'll be pulling up to a stop sign only to stop and freak out when a pedestrian walks right in front of me. See, they're walking across the cross-walk at a pace that seems to match my slow speed but they're behind that giant support column so I don't see them until I've stopped. Usually, they're freaking out too and mouthing/gesturing bad things at me for not stopping sooner. This, of course, coupled with the fact that they were probably looking at their phone and couldn't hear me because at that speed, the engine has shut off.

The instructions in this post are great and I'm going to follow them the next time I get in my car. Still, I hope Toyota and other manufacturers start making pedestrian detection systems and blind spot information systems standard in all vehicles soon.

Side mirrors are called that either because they're mounted on the sides, or to see what's beside you. Specifically they're not there so you can see the sides of your own car.

As mentioned in other comments, what you seen in side mirrors are for situational awareness. When performing a manoeuvre, turn your head around to get the best view.

Here's a paper going into some technical details of blind spots and how to overcome them:


The Geometry of Automotive Rearview Mirrors - Why Blind Zones Exist and Strategies to Overcome Them

Googling that paper turned up an interesting summary of innovations in side mirrors, etc.


If this eliminates the blind spot, what's the white stripe in the 2nd illustration, between the side and rear mirror views? It's the blind spot. And someone on foot, on a bicycle, or on a motorcycle can fit in it. Turn your head, lazy-ass.

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