04 January 2010

Check Your Mirrors

  • Jan 4, 2010

Check Your Mirrors

Occasionally I end up driving other people's cars.

Invariably, I have to adjust the mirrors.
I often question why they were set the way they were, and the answer is usually some variant of "I like it that way".
I realized that probably a whole lot of people probably see it that way.

Setting mirrors is not a matter of personal preference.
There is an absolute right and wrong way to do it.

Before you accuse me of being a mirror nazi, consider that car accidents kill more Americans under 50 than disease and murder combined; 100 every single day.

As someone who rides a bike, skates, rides a motorcycle,  has driven large commercial trucks with large commercial size blindspots, and nearly been run over inside other peoples blindspots, I say again, with emphasis, setting the mirrors on your car is not a subjective exercise.
Doing it wrong can literally mean the difference between life and death.

I have heard on more than one occasion "I don't want to look at the ground."

Actually, the ground is EXACTLY what you want to be able to see.
Cars are on the ground. Bikes, and small children whose heads are no higher than the bottom of the window, and the balls they roll out into the street, all on the ground. When you parallel park, the curb is on the ground.
Even the largest truck has its tires on the ground, so if you can see the ground, you can see the truck.
The chances that you need to be aware of a very low flying airplane, or perhaps a hovercraft coming up behind you as you drive are very close to zero.

Many people set their mirrors so that the horizon is in the exact center of the mirror. This means an entire half of the mirrors area is wasted with sky.
That half of the mirror being wasted means an unnecessary blind spot.
If the horizon were instead at the very top of the mirror, you could still see all the way down the road behind you, and in addition you could see anything right beside you down lower than the window level as well.

The second mistake is setting the side mirrors so that a substantial amount of what you see is your own car. But just like you don't need to worry about the sky when you merge, the chances your rear fender is going to hit you is pretty darn low.
One reason people do this is because at that angle you can use the side mirror to see directly behind. That's what the rear-view mirror attached to the windshield is for.
The other reason is to have a reference point to help determine where what you see in the mirror is in relation to your car.
Of course, with a little time and practice anyone will get used to the new position. And everyone should really know exactly where the edges of their car are anyway (I sure wish the DMV mandated cone tests for everyone). And you can always just move your head a little bit and see the car in the mirror.
But if you really feel you need to see the car you are driving as a reference point, just leave the tiniest sliver of the back of the trunk visible, so you get maximum mirror area for seeing whats out there moving about and potentially colliding with you.

While its still important to double-check by actually turning one's head, with the mirrors set properly it is in fact a double-check, and not a first check of blind spots. Because there are no blind-spots.
Set up properly, you can make it so there is virtually no blind spot at all. So that if a little person were hiding right alongside the door, you'd know it without even having to turn your head. So that a passing car is visible at all times, first in the rear view, then in the sideview, and finally through the window, without any gap along the way.

It will feel a little odd at first. Give it a chance. And when you don't die in a fiery and gory wreck, come back and thank me.

1 comment:

  1. Wow...I thought I was the only one who thought like this...terrific post!


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