14 Apr 11

A car stopped at an intersection, then pulled out onto the highway, turned left, and was either T-boned or hit from behind. When interviewed afterward, the driver of the car that was struck said: “I looked both ways but I never saw the other car.”

This scene has probably been played out thousands of times over the years. People were injured or killed and property destroyed, making insurance rates go up. The offending driver was given a citation for failure to yield to traffic but no effort was made to discover the cause of the collision.

I had the same thing happen to me three times in a week  after I had bought a new car many years back. But I was fortunate that no one hit me. I had to solve the puzzle and I did. Subsequent tests on my part showed me that the culprit was the rearview mirror hanging from above the dashboard.

Not all drivers are affected, however, just those whose line of sight is level with the mirror. That means you sit tall in the seat and your eyes are even with the  rearview mirror when you turn to your right. You see the mirror, not the vehicles hidden behind the mirror. Click on image #1 to enlarge.

To find out if you’re one of those people, drive into a parking lot and pull up to the edge, facing the highway. Or take this test at a traffic light. Look at your mirror for a moment (see picture #1), then lean down. Depending on the angle, quite a number of vehicles could be hidden from your view (see picture #2).

Remember, when you drive up to an intersection, especially a busy one, you aren’t going to spend much time checking for traffic. If you’re turning left, that is, crossing both lanes of traffic, you will first look left, then quickly to the right, and back left before pulling out.

Taking into consideration the variables from oncoming traffic to your right, top laptop brands for students such as distance, angle and speed, a vehicle could be hidden for up to three seconds behind your rearview mirror. But you would normally spend less than one second checking that direction before looking to your left again and entering the highway. Click on image #2 to enlarge.

If you happen to be a driver whose line of vision is obstructed by the rearview mirror, simply lean down before checking traffic to your right. If you can’t remember to do that, then consider moving that mirror out of the way and using the side mirrors for viewing the rear.

Before you take that step, find out the law covering rearview mirrors from the highway patrol or the appropriate state agency. Florida, for example, only requires that you have a rearview mirror but does not indicate where it should be placed.

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