Forget Everything You Know About Rearview Mirrors

It all began with Dorothy Levitt back in 1906. Not long after she suggested that women should carry a small handheld mirror to “hold aloft from time to time to see behind while driving,” rearview mirrors became a fixture on cars.

Cut to modern times: we now have blind-spot monitoring technology available in cars ranging from Chevrolet to Mercedes-Benz. But, according to expert George Platzer, blind spots can be avoided by adjusting our mirrors properly.

Platzer’s thesis, “The Geometry of Automotive Rearview Mirrors – Why Blind Zones Exist and Strategies to Overcome Them,” recommends a way to adjust your mirrors so you can eliminate blind spots (of course, you have to wade through some complex equations first).

We’re creating blind spots with our mirrors

Whoever taught you to drive probably told you to adjust your outside mirrors so you can see the sides of your vehicle reflected in them. Where this conventional wisdom came from is lost in the mists of time and probably has nothing to do with pioneering motorist Dorothy Levitt.

According to Platzer (who, by the way, has graduate degrees in Physics and Automotive Engineering), that traditional method pretty much guarantees 2 large blind spots, each one big enough to hide a car. That’s because the outside mirrors’ field of view overlaps with the inside mirror’s significantly — and that means all 3 mirrors are essentially looking at the same space behind you.

3 mirrors, each with a specific job

Let’s divide up the jobs of the 3 mirrors found on most modern cars. The inside rearview mirror gives the best view directly behind your vehicle. Although large rear-seat headrests or your passenger’s heads can get in the way, this inside mirror generally provides a clear and wide view of the cars behind you, including those traveling in adjacent lanes on multilane highways.

The sole job of the outside mirrors, then, is to reveal vehicles traveling alongside and slightly behind you. That means you should adjust these outside mirrors so there’s just a tiny bit of field-of-view overlap with the inside mirror. When the car that’s passing you moves outside the view of the inside mirror, it should start to appear in one of the side mirrors. Then, when it starts to move out of the view of that mirror, it should be visible in your peripheral vision.

How to eliminate blind spots

So, how can you perform this ideal mirror adjustment while seated in your parked car? Platzer suggests following these 4 easy steps:

  1. From the driver’s seat, position your head against the driver’s-side window, and then adjust that side’s rearview mirror so you can just barely see the side of your vehicle.
  2. Next, position your head to the right, more or less over the center console, and do the same type of adjustment for the passenger-side mirror.
  3. Once your side mirrors are adjusted properly, make sure your rearview mirror is centered for optimal view of what’s behind you.

It may sound awkward, but it works. With properly adjusted mirrors, you can minimize those quick over-the-shoulder looks before you change lanes, and, instead, simply glance in the outside mirrors and use your peripheral vision to detect cars alongside you.

Change your driving behavior

Still not convinced? Well, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 1.5 million injury crashes in 2011 and 9 percent involved lane-change maneuvers. While blind-spot monitoring technology is improving this stat, you don’t need to invest in a new car (or rely on technology alone) to stay safe.

My advice: consider changing the way you adjust your mirrors. You have little to lose but old habits.

And, as a precaution, continue to look over your shoulder until you become comfortable with this method. Over time, you may find you can rely almost solely on your mirrors. It’ll be easier on your neck … and you may just save it!

While you’re at it, here are some other ways to protect yourself and your car, covering everything from hazard lights to windows and windshields.

You can read more from Neil Szigethy on his blog

Favorite Road Trip Snacks: A Delicious Infographic

A month or so ago, we asked our Facebook fans to tell us their favorite road trip snack. And boy, did we get some interesting responses!

Maverick snackers

A few of you choose to keep it, um, rustic and local: one guy likes to snack on “squirrels,” while 2 others pick up a little “road kill” on the way. One of you prefers to go the extreme-vegan route with “algae” (the snack that grows back). And one respondent likes to fuel up with a mix of coffee, espresso, and energy drinks: about 1,019 mg of caffeine by our estimate. Talk about life in the fast lane.

Sugar and salt

For the majority of respondents, a road trip is the perfect excuse to indulge. Pop-in-your-mouth snacks like chips or gummy bears were high on the list.

Health conscious

Around 15 percent of you keep on the straight and narrow (even when no one’s looking!) with wholesome snacks like fruit and nuts.

For a breakdown of answers by type of snack, check out our infographic below. And feel free to share your own favorite snack in the comments section.


Related links

Stay entertained on the road with these 5 tried-and-true car games
See our top picks for Route 66

3-D Printers and DIYers: World Maker Faire New York 2013

Since we’re longtime advocates of innovation and tech, we’re always proud to support events (like World Maker Faire New York) that celebrate invention, creativity, and all things DIY.

So, as part of our inaugural sponsorship of World Maker Faire New York 2013, we welcomed makers, inventors, and tech enthusiasts to compete in our third Road to Maker Faire Challenge (the first 2 were part of our sponsorship of Maker Faire Bay Area). More than 66 entries, ranging from pedal-powered contraptions to drone fliers, were received. And, after an intense week of voting, one maker won the grand prize: $2,500 and an opportunity to showcase alongside us at World Maker Faire New York.

Bobby Lambright and his 3-D printer

Bobby Lambright’s Deep Imager 5, a 3-D printer capable of creating just about anything, represents not only the spirit of the Maker movement but also the latest in 3-D printing innovation.

Making its grand debut at World Maker Faire New York 2013, the Deep Imager 5 features an aluminum powder-coated frame built to last, an LED Pico Projector, and door interlock switches for added safety. Using digital light processing technology and UV-based resin, the Deep Imager 5 builds high-resolution 3-D replicas from solid models that are sliced into layers, projected, and then cured with UV light.

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Esurance at Maker Faire New York 2013

As makers ourselves (of innovative mobile tools), we were also there to share our time-saving invention with the community: photo claims on Esurance Mobile.

With photo claims, you can send in photos of your damaged car from your phone to get your claim settled faster. It’s just one more way we’re using technology and innovation to make car insurance easier.

Upcoming technologies from Esurance

Since innovation is the backbone of our business, we never rest on our laurels. Stay tuned for some exciting new technologies heading your way in the coming months.

Related links

See who won the 2013 Road to Maker Faire Challenge Bay Area
The Road to Maker Faire Challenge 2012
Photos from Maker Faire Bay Area 2012


Are You Living in a Natural Disaster Zone?

September is National Preparedness Month — a good time to check your supplies, review your action plan, and make sure you’re ready to handle an emergency. A big part of that is knowing what types of emergencies to expect.

The U.S. encounters more severe weather than any other country in the world (lucky us!). So, depending on which natural disasters are most likely to occur in your area, you might need to designate a closet or stairwell in your home as a tornado shelter, buy hurricane shutters, or retrofit your home against earthquakes.

If you’re moving, it’s helpful to know which parts of your new town or region are most at risk before you rent or buy a home. And whether you’re moving or staying put, it’s important to know what kinds of insurance coverage you should have. Many renters and homeowners policies don’t cover damage caused by floods or earthquakes, so you may need to add extra coverage. And to protect your car from a natural disaster, make sure you have comprehensive coverage (which is optional in many cases).

Get the natural disaster data for your region

Real estate website Trulia has put together an awesome, interactive heat map that shows how vulnerable certain areas are to natural disasters and violent crimes. It lists 23 metro areas across the country (including San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Miami, Denver, Boston, Chicago, and Phoenix) and offers data for earthquakes, flooding, tornados, hurricanes, and wildfires. You’ll also find great info about commute lengths, home values, and the number of schools nearby.

Trulia map

Form your disaster plan

Once you know what you should prepare for, find out what emergency supplies you’ll need (and make sure you have a kit in your car as well as your home). Go through a practice drill so you know what to do if a natural disaster strikes. And make a plan for gathering your most important possessions and getting your children and pets to safety if you need to evacuate.

It’s also a good idea to look into your car, renters, and homeowners policies to see what coverage you have and what you need to add. If you don’t have insurance or are thinking of switching, you can get a fast, free quote from Esurance anytime.

See? Feels good to be prepared, doesn’t it?

For all things related to disasters, find out what to do in case of tornadoes, earthquakes, and even the zombie apocalypse.

Child Safety: Are Your Young Passengers Protected?

On Monday, Safe Kids Worldwide kicked off National Child Passenger Safety Week by debuting their latest study, “Buckle Up: Every Ride, Every Time.”

The study, which was funded by the General Motors Foundation, found that 25 percent of the parents surveyed had driven without buckling in their kids.

Busy parents had familiar excuses for skipping seatbelts or securing car seats: driving short distances, being rushed, or traveling overnight. But whether you’re headed to the corner store or across the country, making sure your child is securely buckled into their seat should never be optional.

The number of child fatalities from car accidents has fallen over 50 percent since the late ‘80s (a trend that likely started when states began requiring car seats for young kids), but it still remains the number one cause of death for kids ages 1 to 12.

So what can you do to make sure your young passengers are safe? Here are some key ways to protect your precious cargo before hitting the road.

Get child seats checked

Child seat safety inspections are held throughout the year, but many organizations will host additional events this week to help parents ensure their child safety seats are properly installed.

Safe Kids Worldwide is also sponsoring Seat Check Saturday on September 21, with over 500 events nationwide

Know where to go for recalls

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration keeps tabs on all safety issues for child seats. Not only will you be able to get more information on specific product recalls, but you can also see complaints about products, making it a helpful resource if you’re in the market for a new child seat.

Know the rules

In addition to ensuring you’re familiar with the child safety laws in your state, check out the CDC’s recommendations for child passengers. Although booster seats are only required until the age of 7 in many states, the CDC recommends that they be used until the child is at least 9 years old. Of course, you can also check out our expert child safety tips.

Buckle up every time

And now the lecture: No distance is short enough to warrant gambling with your child’s safety or your own. In addition to securing your child passengers during every ride, you too should be fastening your seatbelt. Not only does wearing your seatbelt reduce serious injuries in an accident by 50 percent, but it also makes an impression on young passengers. According to the CDC, kids whose parents passed on seatbelts were about 40 percent less likely to wear one themselves. Kids learn by example, so make sure you’re setting the right one.

Related links

The Safest Seat in the Car: You Might Be Surprised
Car Seat Safety: 5 Myths Debunked