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For any driver, it is important to have a clear view of what’s coming at you at any time. However, just as important is what you can’t see. Blind spots, the “area on each side of your vehicle where you cannot see,” can be one of the most dangerous elements of driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Association, 2013 data shows that “about 840,000 collisions and 300 deaths are attributable to blind-spot issues per year in the United States.”

Where are your blind spots?

Most blind spots are to the back left and right of a vehicle, but every vehicle is different. Trucks with a full cab or longer bed, as well as vehicles that feature the rollover protection of an A-frame typically have larger blind spots. No matter what vehicle you get in, it will have slightly different blind spot parameters, just due to the sizing of the vehicle – which is important to remember when renting or borrowing a new-to-you vehicle! 

Checking your blind spots 

Checking your blind spot may seem like a hassle or a habit that we have forgotten to do out of laziness, distraction, or overconfidence in driving ability. However, it can be one of the simplest ways to stay safe on the road, and takes only a moment. Busting a blind spot is simple – a combination of appropriate mirror setups and diligent shoulder checking can ensure nothing is in the way. The key is to do both; just relying on mirrors or a shoulder check isn’t sufficient. 

Chances are you’ve adjusted your mirrors a few times to see your blind spots, just like you might adjust your seat to ensure your feet reach the pedals properly. Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation suggests a more thorough approach before you leave the driveway. It is recommended you familiarize yourself with your vehicle’s blind spots by adjusting the rear view and side mirrors, and then having someone walk around the (parked) car. Watch in the mirrors to see where you lose sight of the person. This is where your blind spots are. Try to adjust the mirrors to minimize the disappearing area, or perform a shoulder check to see if that closes the gap.

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As you travel through your day, always be checking your blind spots. Changing lanes should always be associated with checking, but you also want to continually scan your mirrors for any surprises along the way. Blind spots are still important even when you reach your final destination and are fully parked. Opening the car door with your far hand (relative to the door) forces your body to turn and check the blind spot. Called the Dutch Reach, this handy maneuver allows you to check for cyclists and pedestrians, avoiding a collision with the car door.

Don’t just check your blind spots...

Once you’ve mastered your own blind-spot checking, it is critical to be aware of other drivers’ blind spots, just so you can stay out of them. Commercial vehicles, such as tractor-trailers, have huge blind spots, including immediately behind the vehicle. Moving through other vehicle blind spots, and avoiding tailgating, ensures that you are visible to everyone on the road at all times, increasing safety for all. 

Blind spots can catch you off-guard and can be a recipe for disaster. Know where they are before you go, to mitigate risk and surprise!

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