Getting Ready for Your DMV Driving Test: What Is "Blind" Spot?

AUG 16, 2017

Getting Ready for Your DMV Driving Test: What Is "Blind" Spot? -
Imagine a typical situation on the road: you are driving your car and see another vehicle behind you signaling that it is going to overtake your car either from the left or from the right. At first, you clearly see the vehicle through the rear-view mirror on the windshield and then, when it starts the changing lane maneuver, through the side mirror. But suddenly you notice that in the process of overtaking the vehicle has disappeared from your sight somehow, just like a vampire, who is not reflected in mirrors. But has it really disappeared?

If you try to change the lane while thinking it has, you are very likely to get into a traffic accident, since it may turn out that you couldn’t see the vehicle because of a blind spot – space around your car which is not visible through vehicle mirrors.

Why Do You Need to Know More About Blind Spots?

Preparing for your DMV driving test and learning traffic rules from the Driver’s Handbook, you are sure to find quite a lot of warnings related to blind spots. Unfortunately, the most of those handbooks don't provide any definitions and don't explain what blind spots are and how to deal with them. So, when learning for your driver’s license test, you are just told to check those blind spots before making certain maneuvers or to stay away from them in order to be visible to other drivers. If you take driving test practice prior to the DMV exam, you will find several questions related to blind spots, but it will hardly help you see the whole picture of the problem and ways of solving it. However, you need to be ready for dealing with it, since your skills will be tested through a DMV road test and you can fail it because of those blind spots, not to mention the risk of an accident.

What Should You Learn Before Your Driving Test?

So, now we know that a blind spot is an area around a vehicle, which a driver cannot observe from his seat. Such spots can be found behind any vehicle, on both its sides and even in front of it (it is especially true for trucks).

  • You can discover blind spots of your vehicle with the help of an assistant: sitting on your driver’s seat behind the wheel, ask your assistant to go slowly around the car and watch him through the vehicle mirrors, both rear and side – when you lose sight of him, he is in a blind spot.
  • Also, you can reveal blind spots while staying in a traffic jam: just look in the mirrors and watch vehicles moving along your car on other lanes – when they disappear from your view, they get in the blind spots.

But don’t think that blind spots pose the threat only when it comes to overtaking or changing lanes. There is a real risk of accidents in many maneuvers, starting with lighting (when a driver doesn’t see an oncoming car and allows his passengers to get out of the car) and ending with reversing. In fact, these areas of poor visibility may be created by trees, buildings, other vehicles, topographic features in addition to designing features of your vehicle. While taking your driving permit practice, you can learn about specifics of blind spots related to different types of road users:

  • Pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists are small enough to be easily hidden in your car blind spots, so there is a high risk of accidents with their participation when driving in parking lots and performing turns or bends. Note that approximately one-third of blind spots accidents are vehicle/pedestrian accidents.  
  • Another sad fact: The European Commission and representatives of the International Road Transport Union (IRU) conducted a unique study, which showed that about 75% of road accidents involving commercial vehicles had resulted from blind spots. That’s why the driver’s handbooks for the knowledge test pay special attention to trucks and light-rail vehicles blind spots recommending other drivers to stay away from them.

How to Adjust Your Mirrors in Order to Avoid Blind Spots?

We have to admit the fact that even properly adjusted mirrors cannot save you from blind spots for sure, but it is the least you have to do in order to avoid painful traffic accidents. Theoretically, your rear and side mirrors should be adjusted in such a way that they could continuously reflect an object, moving around the vehicle from one of its sides to another. For example, you can ask your assistant to go around your car and adjust the mirrors in such a way that his/her reflection in one of the side mirrors would shift immediately to the rear-view mirror and then to another side mirror. Pay special attention to areas of both right and left quarter panels of your vehicle, since these are the most probable areas for impact in collisions when changing lanes. Keep in mind that properly adjusted side mirrors should reflect only the front door handle, while the rest of the mirror space should reflect a road and space around a vehicle. You can read more about adjusting your vehicle mirrors in our special article on this topic.

Additional Mirrors and Systems: Do You Really Need Them?

The problem is that vehicle standard mirrors just cannot provide a viewing angle exceeding 14 degrees. Thus, trying to achieve all-round view many drivers adjust additional mirrors on their vehicles, but some experts believe that this is a reasonable choice only for truck drivers. Unfortunately, you can’t find any recommendations on this matter in the handbook for your permit test, so let’s discuss all pros and cons of such a solution:

  • On the one hand, additional mirrors can distract the driver, since observing them takes considerably more time than checking the standard mirrors. This is especially true for a combination of standard and spherical mirrors, which can come in one block (in this case a spherical mirror reduces standard mirror surface) or as separate units (in this case a spherical mirror is adjusted above the standard one). Anyway, a spherical mirror tends to distort perspective and it takes more time to realize the picture, so a driver can lose control of what is happening in front of his/her car. That’s why in the United States curved mirrors can be installed only on the passenger’s side of the vehicle.
  • On the other hand, additional mirrors enhance visibility, while narrowing blind spots substantially. Alternatively, you can install a parabolic rear-view mirror, which gives a good view of what is happening around your vehicle, although slightly distorts the sense of distance.
  • Also, modern technologies offer rear-view cameras displaying an image on the control panel – this is a more safe way of controlling situation behind a vehicle provided that a driver can quickly analyze images coming from different sources.
  • Another technological solution against blind spots is electromagnetic or ultrasonic sensors initially designed to help during parking. They can give audible, visual or other warnings to prevent collision with an object, located to the driver’s side or/and rear. Many modern vehicles are equipped with blind spots monitors and systems, but they are more expensive, while sensors still can’t completely eliminate blind spots, for example, in front of a vehicle or in the A-pillar area.

What Else Can You Do to Observe Blind Spots Better?

In fact, you can avoid accidents caused by blind spots without using expensive equipment, if you get in the habit of taking the following steps:

  • Know your blind spots and check them before performing maneuvers not only by looking through the mirrors, but also by turning your head in blind spot directions – either to the side of your maneuver or to your vehicle rear. This is the most common advice you can find in the driver’s handbook while getting ready for your driving test. Make sure that there are no obstacles to your maneuver, but don’t look away for too long, as you can lose control of the situation in front of your vehicle.
  • It is smart to anticipate traffic situation development and behavior of other road users. For example, don’t stay in blind spots of other vehicles, especially when it comes to large commercial vehicles. When you are getting close to them either from a side or from behind, keep in mind that if you can’t see a truck driver in his mirror, than he can’t see you either. Be visible to other road users and let them know about your maneuvers in advance. Don’t wait until the last minute before signaling as well as don’t delay turning the signal off.  
  • Use both your vision and hearing to recognize danger in time. Remember that sounds often help compensate lack of visual information. If you don’t see a pedestrian or a vehicle coming close to you, you might hear the work of the vehicle engine or its warning signal as well as the pedestrians’ voices. Loud music in your vehicle may stifle even warning signals of your vehicle sensors, so be careful while performing maneuvers with the music on.  

Sure, to prevent accidents caused by blind spots you need to comply with the general safe driving practices like choosing the right speed and having enough space for maneuvers – in this case you will have more chances to avoid collision with a sudden obstacle.