Image Gallery: Car Safety
Image Gallery: Car Safety

That pesky hiding place near your car's rear fenders is known as the blind spot -- and yes, it's dangerous. See more pictures of car safety.

Joe Fox/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

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How to Adjust Your Mirrors to Minimize Your Blind Spot

"Oh, come on," you're saying to yourself as you read this headline. "Who doesn't know how to adjust their rear-view mirrors?" You sit in the driver's seat, twist a little knobby thing in the arm rest, and bam! Done.

If that's how you've been adjusting your mirrors -- if you bother to adjust them at all -- then you've also experienced that heart-stopping moment on the freeway when you try to move into the left lane only to find someone's already there. And they don't want to share. They seem to think there's some kind of physical principal about two objects occupying the same space that you're about to violate. What a bunch of chickens.

That hiding place near your fenders, in case you aren't familiar with the term, is the pesky space known as the blind spot. It's the place at the rear flank of your car that you often just can't see in your mirrors. You can see a car coming up behind you in the center mirror mounted inside, and you can see that same car next to you as it passes through your window, but for a few seconds it slips into another dimension where you can't see a lick of it. Some cars have bigger blind spots than others, but you'd be surprised at how large a vehicle can be and still hide in that blind spot if your mirrors aren't adjusted correctly.

The technological wizards of the 21st century have developed systems to help detect cars hanging out in your blind spot and alert you to their presence. But the best defense is the old-fashioned proper mirror adjustment.

Tips for Adjusting Your Vehicle's Mirrors

Luckily, getting your mirrors just right requires no special tools or skills, and you'll only look a teeny bit silly for a few seconds at most. Don't worry. After all, there are pictures of you immortalized on Facebook doing far sillier things than this -- and this silliness is in the name of safety. Here's how you do it:

Lean to the Left: To adjust the driver's side mirror, lean until your forehead touches the window glass. Then adjust the mirror until you can just barely see the slightest sliver of the side of your car. When you sit up straight in the driver's seat, you shouldn't be able to see your own car at all. Why would you want to? When has the rear fender of your own car ever snuck up on you?

Lean to the Right: Now lean until your head is hovering over the center console and adjust the passenger's side mirror the same way. You should just barely be able to see a sliver of your own car.

Note that this adjustment routine only works if your mirrors can be adjusted electronically. If you have to move the mirror glass around with your hands rather than with a switch, then you have to have the window open or walk around to the other side of the car. Give the head position your best guess in that case, or enlist a friend to move the mirrors while you lean.

A quick word about the center mirror: Sit normally before you make the adjustment. Don't suddenly develop Marine Corps posture if you're a sloucher, and don't try to show the mirror your good side. Also realize that some days you're a sloucher, and some days you're a ballerina. Simply adjust the mirror for that day, which means when you glance up while driving, you can see as much of the back window as possible.

That's all there is to it. No more swerving wildly into and out of lanes because someone is hiding out in your blind spot.

Author's Note

No one ever gives a second thought to adjusting their mirrors, or that there might be a right way, or a better way, to do it. I didn't -- until I nearly swerved into a state trooper who was cruising along in my blind spot on a lonely highway. (Don't you hate those people? No, not cops -- I mean the people whose speed nearly matches yours, so they hover in your blind spot for miles. Just pass me already!)

Anyway, I nearly met the trooper's front fender with my rear quarter panel, then swerved back into my lane. I over-corrected and ended up spraying a little of the gravel on the shoulder of the road into the trees that lined the highway. No harm, no foul, luckily for me, but I did take the time to learn where to put my mirrors after that. I'm also an obsessive over-the-shoulder blind-spot checker, which they tell me isn't necessary if you do the mirrors right, but now I'm spooked. I mean, it was a state trooper.

Related ArticlesSources
  • SeniorDrivers.org. "Mirror Adjustments." AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. (March 21, 2012) http://www.seniordrivers.org/driving/driving.cfm?button=mirrors
  • SmartMotorist.com. "Adjusting Your Mirrors Correctly." (March 21, 2012) http://www.smartmotorist.com/car-accessories-fuel-and-maintenance/adjusting-your-mirrors-correctly.html
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison. "How to Eliminate the Dreaded 'Blind Spot.'" Computer Science. (March 21, 2012) http://pages.cs.wisc.edu/~gdguo/driving/BlindSpot.htm