Think you’re setting your car mirrors properly? Well, think again.

As you’re head down the interstate at 70 mph, you are covering quite a bit of ground very quickly. In fact, you are covering a football field every 3 seconds. Taking your eyes off the road for this distance sounds pretty dangerous, but most of us do it every day while we check our blind spots. Isn’t there a way we could eliminate them? Lucky for you — and everyone around you on your daily commute — there is.

Most of us were taught by either our parents or drivers ed teachers to just put a little bit of your car in the exterior mirror and then you’re good. Most people I know do it this way, even many of my former colleagues who developed and designed the exterior mirrors for a major OEM! What they don’t know (and I didn’t until Jacques Villeneuve’s old driving coach showed me) is that there is a better way. No more cranking your head to check your blind spots every time you merge onto a highway or change lanes.

The problem with the current system is the amount of visibility overlap that it creates. If you look at FIGURE 1, you can see what I mean. What you can see is defined by your peripheral vision as well as both your interior and exterior mirrors. The dark shaded area is the overlap, which you can see just behind the car. What does seeing the same space in two different mirrors do for you? Nothing. In fact, it costs you more visibility on the side of your car and creates the huge blind spot we are trying to eliminate.

So how do we fix it? Just move your exterior mirrors out to fill in the blind spot and minimize the overlap! Looking at FIGURE 2, you can see that the blind spot in nearly gone. Before, you could lose an entire car in the blind spot. Now, only a very small person determined not to be seen can be hidden there.

To set your mirrors this way, start the same way you always have. Frame your interior mirror with your back window. Next, find an object in the very left corner of your back window about 15 yards behind you. In this case, I’ve had a friend stand there. Now, adjust your driver side mirror so that the object is closest to your window. Do the same with the other mirror, putting your friend on the right side of your interior mirror and closest to your window on the exterior window.

Click for larger views:

So now your mirrors are properly set! What is the transition like? It takes a little getting used to, but once you do get used to it you will never get back. Instead of cranking your head to check your blind spot, you now just glance at your side mirror. When a car passes you, you never lose sight of it. It first appears in your interior mirror. As they pull to pass, it moves to the left side in your interior mirror and appears in the right side of your exterior mirror. As they continue to pass, they move to the left in that mirror and eventually appear in your peripheral vision.

While this works perfectly in most driving situations, there is one special case. Imagine stop and go traffic where you are trying to change lanes. The car behind you is completely filling your interior mirror, preventing you from seeing into the distance in the lane next to you. In this case, you can either crank your head around like the old way or simply move your head towards your window to get a better angle on your exterior mirror.

So there you have it: a whole new way to set your mirrors to minimize blind spots. No need for a stick-on convex mirror or expensive blind spot indicator. Just use your mirrors the way that they were designed! (at least on German cars. I found that my Honda mirrors didn’t rotate enough to make this work properly) Combining this while maintaining a vigilant knowledge of your motorway surroundings will go a long way to make our roads much safer. Now if only there was something we could do about the Left-Lane slowpokes!

Here are some other links that may have some different methods, but the same general idea of fixing your mirrors.

Keep up with Riley, each Monday on our blog and follow us on twitter @CarouselMotors. You can also check out Riley’s other blog ( and twitter account @RileyLind.

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