Can’t see the Road for the Blind Spot!

Posted by Simon R 02/07/2021 0 Comment(s)

Research by consumer magazine Which? has revealed 27 popular vehicle makes/models suffer from poor driver visibility. The affected cars have received only two out of five stars for visibility in the survey, due to their significant blind spots that make driving more hazardous.

 

In the UK alone, 1,119 accidents are caused every year due to a vehicle's blind spot, according to a study by insurance comparison website Compare the Market. One of the main problems is when a car has thicker pillars between the windows, especially at the rear.

Driving blind spot

© Smile Fight / Shutterstock.com

 

This design has become common in modern cars due to the stringent European New Car Assessment Programme safety tests, that require sturdy bodywork to better protect the driver and passengers, should they be involved in an accident.

 

Although this is crucial, of course, it has meant vehicles have less window space. Ironically, this feature can become a greater accident risk in its own right.

 

 

What are the main hazards of poor visibility?

While robust bodywork is important, it is equally vital that vehicle manufacturers strike the correct balance between safety features and allowing the driver to see what's happening around them.

 

Poor visibility can restrict drivers from manoeuvring and parking. This creates hazards, not only because you might misjudge a distance and damage your own car, but also because you could damage someone else's vehicle - or even worse, hit a pedestrian.

 

Manufacturers have so far failed to solve the issue. While the cars are assessed scientifically to make sure they are sturdy and safe, unfortunately, they are not assessed subjectively. While the thick pillars at the rear of a car may make it safer, they commonly obscure hazards lurking behind the vehicle.

 

The need for good all-round visibility is important wherever you are, but if you live in the city, where there are more cyclists and pedestrians, it can be even more vital to reduce the risks of a collision.

 

 

What are the common cars with this issue?

Which? magazine used hi-tech cameras to measure the cars' visibility, checking more than 100 new cars and giving them marks out of five for visibility.

 

The survey named the Nissan Micra as one of the worst-affected cars. With very thick rear pillars, from the inside, the vehicle is described as having an "almost visor-like" rearview.

 

Even high-end brands such as Mercedes-Benz have come under fire in the survey. The Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupé, which sells for £40,000 plus, is described as having a "sweeping roof-line" that leaves the rear of the car short of space for windows. The result is a "compromised view".

 

Newer models of the GLC Coupé include a reversing camera and an Active Park Assist feature, but for older Mercedes, the solution may be to have these fitted retrospectively to ease the problems of blind spots. A rear-view camera and rear parking sensors are a benefit, but they tend to come as standard only on higher-spec models.

 

According to a separate report in Forbes, another car with poor rear visibility is the BMW X2. The rear window is described as "small" and also blocked by the head restraints, further reducing the already limited visibility.

 

The BMW 1 Series Convertible is criticised on owners' forums for its poor rear-view visibility. Drivers say reversing out of places, particularly tight spots, is hard because of a sizable blind spot.

 

Unless a reversing camera and parking sensors are factory fitted, as they are with newer models, drivers are having them fitted retrospectively to make reversing and manoeuvring less of a risk.

 

The Volkswagen brand also comes under fire for visibility issues on owners' forums. The four-door GTI is criticised for having poor visibility when reversing, particularly on the left-hand side. The MK7 is noted for its blind spot on the driver's side, with owners reporting having to buy different, larger mirrors to compensate.

 

Reversing cameras and parking sensors can be a solution to the blind spot issues with Volkswagen too.

 

 

How can motorists drive more safely?

Aside from using technology to assist with blind spots, there are other simple things motorists can do to enhance safety. Always look all around carefully before moving off to make sure there are no obstructions in any direction. It may take you a little longer to set off, but it's far safer than a cursory quick glance.

 

Check blind spots by looking in your rearview mirror and wing mirrors for any potential hazards before any manoeuvre or changing lane. If necessary, wind down your window to get a better view of any vehicles approaching.

 

When driving on the motorway or a dual carriageway, always check to the side of your vehicle when you're planning to move out to make sure nobody is in the process of overtaking you. It may seem obvious, but failure to keep a proper lookout is one of the most common causes of accidents.

 

If you don't notice someone overtaking you and you begin speeding up or driving unpredictably, preventing them from completing the manoeuvre, this is incredibly dangerous. If you have an accident as a result, it's no defence to say you didn't see the car overtaking.

 

Another thing to consider is that other vehicles are also likely to have blind spots. If you're driving behind someone and you can't see their wing mirrors, there's a good chance they can't see you, so take extra care if you're planning to overtake.

 

During the winter, ice or condensation on the inside of your windows and on your wing mirrors can obstruct your vision more than ever. Make sure you clear all your windows and mirrors thoroughly before setting off. Never take the lazy way out and clear just a small spot in the centre.