You might remember in Driver’s Ed when you learned how to switch lanes, you would turn on your turn indicators, check your side-view mirrors, and then give a quick glance over your shoulder into your blind spot to make extra sure the lane next to you is clear before cautiously veering over. Kudos to those of you who have stuck with that procession. Shame on you who haphazardly switch lanes without so much as a signal. The point of teaching this technique was to minimize the amount of accidents on the road caused by lane-switching because there are these spaces called “blind spots” where the driver simply can’t see with just a mirror.
Side-view mirrors weren't always available though. Even in the late 1960s cars only had a side-view mirror on the driver’s side of the car. Now they’ve come a long way, to where you can see a lot more next to you without having to turn your head. They even have bright flashing lights that indicate you’re moving over to other drivers, and sensors that yell at you from inside of the car if you’re about to crash into someone.
Volvo was the first manufacturer to make a Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) and implement it in a car in 2007. Ford followed suit in 2009, before Mazda in 2012, and then Mitsubishi in 2016. The BLIS is supposed to inform the driver of things in their blind spots, via sensors and cameras built into side-view mirrors. Since BLIS there is now lane departure warning (which is self-explanatory) and parking sonar, which helps you not bash your car into a telephone pole or curb while parking.
There’s a decent argument for blind spot detection, lane departure warning, and parking sonar breeding a generation of lazy drivers. However, there’s no arguing with the fact that these could reduce the number of accidents that occur in the US, and thereby save multiple thousands of lives.
These systems, while brilliant in their own ways, are all different depending on what kind of car is equipped with them, which means they all operate within different parameters. If a car were to somehow slip in beyond those parameters, the car might not warn you until it's too late. For this reason, it’s still a good idea to look over your shoulder. Afterall, even with all the latest technology, the side-view mirror isn't exactly a "blind-spot mirror" quite yet. For the driver who’s on the road a lot and suffers from fatigue, these systems are good to get you back on the road if you start to wander, but so are the little ridges on the sides of highways that are there to warn you when you’re drifting into the freeway shoulder.
If drivers actually paid enough attention to the road, and realized they were driving a 4,000-pound steel and plastic death machine at 70 mph, perhaps we wouldn’t need this radical safety equipment. The fact remains that relying on car development and technology shouldn't replace good driving habits. So yes, don't forget to check your blind spots.
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