Blind Spot No More

Rear view mirror

Jim Kenzie, the long time automotive writer for the Toronto Star and Wheels.ca has a thing about car mirrors. He maintains that if you adjust your outside mirrors correctly, there is no ‘blind spot’. Come to think about it, Jim has a thing about drivers who won’t adjust their outside mirrors properly.

He’s not wrong. If you move your mirrors out just past the point where you can’t see the side of your vehicle, you can see a car coming from either side in your mirrors. Subsequently, your peripheral vision takes over as that vehicle advances further up the side of your vehicle and you can then see the car out of the corner of your eye. Therefore, no blind spot.

The trouble is, ask any new driver. They’ll tell you they’re told to adjust their mirrors so they can see a sliver of the side of the vehicle in the mirror. The problem with this, is that there are very few vehicles that will fit in this sliver of view, so why not pitch the mirrors out just a little bit further so you can actually see a vehicle sitting behind and to the side of yours?

Despite these very simple instructions, and Mr. Kenzie’s imploring editorials, manufacturers have gone to great lengths to try and eliminate the blind spot through the use of technology.

Convex spotter mirror

Starting years ago and still used today, a small convex spotter mirror is sometimes included on the driver’s outside rear view mirror. The convex view helps give the driver a wider view of the road beside and behind them, and hopefully helps alert them to the presence of a vehicle.

Convex passenger side mirror

Are you ready for your close-up?

Of course, the classic inscription, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear” continues to this day on the passenger side mirror. That mirror has been designed to be somewhat convex to give a wider view to the right and rear of the vehicle, and in doing so, minimizes the blind spot on that side. 

Early attempts were clumsy at automating a warning for a vehicle in a driver’s blind spot. My wife and I were being driven to LaGuardia Airport a number of years ago in a very nice Mercedes-Benz. The blind spot warning was active, and it ‘bonged’ at the driver every time a vehicle came into his blind spot. Very annoying.

Honda LaneWatch camera

Standing watch

Honda came out with their LaneWatch system, which detected a vehicle on the passenger side blind spot and put video of that side of the vehicle on the centre dash screen to alert the driver. It only displayed the video when the right turn signal was activated. This would be distracting to the driver, but in Honda’s view, better than nothing. LaneWatch is now being phased out.

Bumper sensor

But Honda was on to something. LaneWatch only activated when the driver put their signal on. Today, almost all of the latest systems have three components: 1) rear bumper sensors, 2) visual warning and, 3) an audible warning. When you activate your turn signal, the vehicle “looks” out back to the rear and side of the vehicle using the bumper sensor.

 If it detects a vehicle in your blind spot, the system will chime or beep, and a light will come on, either in the outside mirror, or on the door. Because, the logic goes, that at this time you’re checking your blind spot by turning and looking in the direction of the lane change, aren’t you, and you’ll see the warning light flashing or illuminated.

As a result, the system gives far fewer ‘cry wolf’ warnings, and you’re more likely to pay attention to the warning when a vehicle is actually blocking your lane changing path.

'See' for yourself

You can use Automobl’s Comparison Tool to find vehicles with Blind spot monitoring, and Blind spot intervention. Blind spot intervention will actually help steer the vehicle back into your lane, preventing the lane change into another vehicle. These advanced systems will hopefully make your every day drive a little safer. Unfortunately, these systems will still likely drive Mr. Kenzie crazy.  You’ll be the judge if they’re a worthwhile addition to your new vehicle.

By the way, please be careful when adjusting your outside mirrors. Make sure they do the job you need them to do. We can’t be responsible for how you adjust your mirrors, so if you happen to run into a vehicle after taking our instructions to heart, we’re not responsible for any accidents or mishaps you might encounter. Thanks.

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