Thursday, September 08, 2005

Driver's Seat

The best driving advice I ever heard was given by Tom and Ray Magliozzi, the Car Talk guys. They gave advice on how to set your sideview mirrors to eliminate your car's blindspot. In other words, when you're changing lanes, you can simply trust your mirrors completely without having to glance over your shoulder. I implemented their solution about a year ago and I love how it works. I really can't believe they didn't teach this in Driver's Ed. back in the day, and the more I happen to drive other people's cars, the more I see that not many people use this really handy piece of advice.

So here's how it works: picture a car coming up behind you that will pass you either on the right or the left. Ideally you want your mirrors arranged so that, as the car moves out of range of your rearview mirror, it moves into range of one of the sideview mirrors. In other words, you can always see a part of the passing car; at least the tail-end of it or the very front bumper. As the car passes, it will move out of range of the sideview mirror and into range of your peripheral and forward looking vision.

So here's how to configure your mirrors for this to work: sit in your driver's seat (I'll assume an American car with the steering wheel on the left). Tip your head the left so that it bumps right up against the driver's side window. With your head tilted and looking into the driver's side mirror, adjust the mirror so that you can just barely see the backend of your car. That will seem to be adjusted pretty far out when you sit upright. Now for the passenger side. You basically do the same thing, but it's a little trickier. You may have to sit in your driver's seat where the controls are and estimate the correct position, imagining what the angle would look like. Or you can sit in the passenger seat, but imagine tilting your head all the way over from the driver's seat. You may have to tweak this side a little as you go.

It doesn't seem right at first. The mirrors seem spread too far apart and you can't see directly behind you in either sideview mirror. In fact, you may have to sell the system on your spouse if you share cars... But give it a chance for about a week. Test it out by watching closely cars coming up and passing you. It absolutely works.

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