A better view toward the rear

The Car Talk radio show on National Public Radio every week is well worth the price of admission (which, we all know is built in to our taxes that go to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.) And now that they have a podcast available of each week’s show, it’s easy for me to listen to it during my weekday commute and not have to set aside a precious weekend hour.

My love for the show was expanded last week by a particularly good tip on a new way to set your side mirrors.

We’ve all come to accept the conventional wisdom on side mirrors that they should be set such that the driver’s view extends from the rear corner of the car outward. But, as Tom & Ray objected, why do you need to see the corner of your car? It’s not going anywhere!

In fact, the conventional wisdom wastes mirror space by overlapping too much with the rear-view mirror and creates big blind spots on the sides.

Instead, what you should do is turn the side mirrors out to cover more of the space next to the car. Since it’s difficult to describe the method, they provide a PDF that illustrates how to set your side mirrors so that they give a better view behind and to the side.

To boil it down, sitting in the driver’s seat, you lean left until your head hits the window. Then set the left side mirror until you just see the rear corner of your car. (Obviously you should only do this when the car is stopped!) Then lean the same distance to the right and repeat with the right side mirror. Now when you’re sitting straight up, the rear view and side mirrors will overlap only a tiny bit and the side mirrors will now show you a lot more of what’s next to you, almost entirely eliminating your blind spots. (Of course, the degree to which the blind spot goes away depends on the particular design of your vehicle.)

I’ve been driving like this for a week and I can report that it’s a much improved experience. It did take a little getting used to: I still find myself looking over my shoulder to check the (nonexistent) blind spot and I had to train my mind to realize that cars I saw in my peripheral vision in the side mirrors were not where I automatically expected them to be.

But now, a week later, it’s second nature. No more craning my neck around to check my blind spot. Now the mirror does the work for me, as it should.

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