Apr 192012

After decades of accident-free four-wheeler driving I only recently discovered that I’ve spent most of that joyful time with improperly adjusted side mirrors, at least according to this “trick” that almost eliminates the blind spot areas and makes me feel safer. While I have to thank the indispensable over the shoulder look for my good driving record, it doesn’t hurt to have the mirrors cover most of the areas around me, so here’s how I’ve changed them.

Side Mirrors Adjustment

Like most other folks, I used to align my car’s side mirrors so that I can see the side of my car in their inner edge. Then I read somewhere that the best practice is far from that – they said that I shouldn’t see the sides of the vehicle, nor the same things I see in my rear view mirror because that’s a counterproductive and exaggerated overlap. At first I thought they must be out of their mind, but they said that you need to adjust them so that they show the areas further away from the car sides, eliminating instead as much of the blind spots on both sides as possible. Ideally, when a car is passing me on either side, just when it’s about to get out of the rear view mirror it should be clearly visible on my side view mirror.

Well, it kind of made sense, so I tried it, loved it, and never looked back (no pun intended – I still always stick to the lifesaver look over the shoulder and other precautions). Actually, I thought to myself “Well, DUH, how come I didn’t think of that?!” It would have been nice to read about this in the “Rules of the Road” drivers license exam book, but I just checked and it’s not there, and I can’t blame my dad who taught me and still drives on small country roads.

I still move my side mirror when parallel parking to see how close the side of the vehicle is to the curb, but then I also point it more downwards like everybody else (unless that’s another wrong assumption). Otherwise, seeing the same area in all three mirrors is a horrible waste of these helpful tools. Now I set my side mirrors so that I can see the side of my car ONLY if I lean quite a bit to the side I’m trying to view. From my center position they pretty well cover and show previously invisible and quite dangerous “wingman” positions on both sides. Whatever you do, and however you set up your mirrors, you should never give up the always important look over the shoulder. Be a trooper and train yourself to always do it as a routine before changing lanes – it saves lives.

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Disclaimer: This describes my experience and preferences driving four-wheel vehicles and tricks that increase my subjective feeling of safety. Your experience or needs may be different. Consult experts when in doubt. This doesn’t apply to trucks which, due to their size, usually need at least two or even three mirrors for each side.

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