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What is the blind spot when driving?

January 03, 2023 by

Being able to see all around you while driving is quite obviously a crucial part of keeping safe on the roads. Yet every car has areas which aren’t possible to see by simply relying on the windows or side mirrors.
These areas are called blind spots, and in this article, we will look at how to identify them and how to effectively check them while out on the road.

What does the term ‘blind spot’ mean?

A blind spot is the term given to the areas around your car that you cannot see by looking out your windscreen or mirrors.

One key blind spot is created by a car’s ‘A pillar’, which comprises the sloping vertical metal line where the windscreen surround joins the leading edge of the front door; this can obscure some of what you can see when pulling out of T-junctions and roundabouts, for example, and needs to be ‘looked around’ so that you do not miss that a cyclist, pedestrian or other road user is occupying the space blocked by this piece of the car’s bodywork.

Another blind spot – and this one is often known as ‘the blind spot’ – sits behind your right shoulder, and is an area that commonly cannot be seen in the wing or rear-view mirror. Another blind spot can exist over your left shoulder.

Some argue that a properly adjusted driving position and mirrors can eliminate these blind spots, but this may not always be the case, and checking behind your shoulder before changing lanes is always advised, regardless.

Does every car have a blind spot?

Every vehicle has blind spots. Some are larger than others as a blind spot is influenced by the shape and design of the side glass, roof pillars and mirrors. The design and height of the car will also play a part, a sharply curved rear roofline or thick side pillars can create blind spots large enough to hide an entire vehicle from view.

More upright cars with a large window area will have smaller blind spots, but you still need to be vigilant as you can easily miss a motorbike or smaller car if you rely solely on your mirrors.

Why is a blind spot a problem?

Being aware of other road users around you is key to staying safe on the road. That’s why not seeing other cars, motorbikes or pedestrians in your blind spots can easily result in some angry hooting and swerving, or even a collision.

How do I deal with the blind spot when driving?

The Highway Code has specific rules for using the road, these also cover how to deal with blind spots when stationary, pulling off and on the move.

Before moving off:

  • Use your mirrors to check that the road is clear
  • Look around to cover the areas you cannot see in the mirrors
  • Indicate or signal if required before heading off
  • Do a final check

Once on the move, remember to mirror, signal and then manoeuvre.

Driving around town, you’ll need to peer around your A-pillars (the ones on either side of your windscreen) when pulling away from junctions and be aware of vehicles in the blind spots over your shoulders.

When on the motorway, you will need to be more aware of cars on either side of you which may be obscured by your B-pillars (the ones in the middle of the car). If you are towing a trailer or caravan, you will need to account for their extra length when assessing your blind spots.

When preparing to overtake or change lanes, check that your blind spots are clear before doing so. If you are on the motorway with fast-flowing traffic, make sure to check your rearview mirror for any vehicles approaching from behind at high speed.

Is there any technology that helps driver’s with the blind spot?

Blind-spot detection devices typically illuminate warning lights in wing-mirrors when sensors detect an object that may be hidden from mirrors

A few decades back the only ‘technology’ available to help a driver with blind spots was a curved side mirror that expanded the amount they could see to either side of them.

Things have certainly moved on since then and while physically checking your blind spots is always a good idea, many modern cars come with blind spot driver aids that are designed to alert you if there is a vehicle, pedestrian or obstruction in an area that isn’t visible in your car’s mirrors.

These system’s names vary depending on the manufacturer, but most use external sensors and cameras to monitor your blind spots and are either passive (delivering a visual or audible warning) or active (take control of the steering or braking system).

Passive blind spot aids

  • Curved mirrors – provide an expanded view of the road on either side of your vehicle
  • Warning light in the side mirrors – usually a small red or orange triangle when a vehicle is in your blind spot. Some cars have warning lights on the dashboard, A-pillars or in the head-up display
  • Live camera feed – dedicated cameras providing a permanent view of your blind spots
  • Audible cues – beeps, boops and warning messages that alert you to a vehicle approaching your blind spots

Active blind spot aids

  • Steering intervention – Either a vibration, increased resistance or actually taking control of the steering wheel to prevent a collision
  • Braking intervention – some cars may also use the brakes to either change direction (applying the brakes on one side of the car) or slow the car down to avoid a collision

Relying solely on any of these systems without manually checking the blind spots yourself is never a good idea. Even if your car is equipped with the latest safety devices, no technology is infallible and a blind spot monitoring system should never replace basic common sense when assessing your blind spots.

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