Tag: car

How to Get Rid of Blind Spots (No Optometrist Required)

Since the dawn of time (or at least since we've had rear- and side-view mirrors on automobiles), our parents and our parents' parents have been instructing us on where to point our side-view mirrors.  And along with this instruction comes the dire warnings of the perilous danger of the Evil Blind SpotsTM that exist when you're behind the wheel.    

Judging by the number of folks I see out on the road who attempt to imitate that scene from The Exorcist when they're changing lanes, whoever taught you to drive also instructed you that the only sure-fire way to avoid slamming into a nearby car when changing lanes is to quickly peer around the driver's headrest like a myopic owl before crossing the dotted line.

What if I told you there was a better way to avoid that heart-stopping situation where you realize you've just plotted your car on a collision course with the car in your blind spot?  One that doesn't involve buying the SkyMall "bigger is better" mirror and definitely doesn't involve risking whiplash every time you want to change lanes?

You'd probably be as skeptical as I was, the first time I heard about the alternative I'm about to share with you.  But seeing is believing (pun intended), and if you try out this hack for a little bit, I'll bet you'll be visiting your chiropractor only half as often as you do right now.

The big secret is the placement of the side-view mirrors.  Typically, we all tend to point our side-view mirrors so we can see the back corners of our car.  But if you think about it, there's actually very little point in watching the back corner of your car.  Why should you?  It's not like it ever moves!  Why not point your mirrors somewhere that actually adds some value to your field of vision?  

By moving the side mirrors farther out, you can line up all three of your mirrors so they have minimal overlap, and you can see EVERYTHING behind you AND beside you!  Here's how you do it:

  • Step 1. Set up your rear-view mirror the way you normally would.  You need to be able to see out the rear window of your car.  So take down that bobblehead doll collection if it's impeding your view.

  • Step 2.  Sitting in the driver's seat, lean your head all the way to the left so it touches the driver's window.  From THAT position, set your driver's side-view mirror so you can see the back corner of the car.  You WON'T be able to see your back corner of your car when you sit back up straight.

  • Step 3. Lean the same distance towards the passenger's window as you did in Step 2 (but the other way).  Adjust your passenger-side mirror the same way.

Now here's what you'll see now that you've broken the taboo of taking your mirrors off the rear corners of your car:

  • When a car comes up behind you, you'll see it square-on in your rear-view mirror.  But as it passes you on the left, you'll see it move to the left side of your rear-view mirror, and as its headlight disappears from the rear-view mirror, it'll simultaneously show up in your left-side mirror.

  • Similar behavior occurs when a car passes you on the right.  At every point from directly behind you to just behind your driver-/passenger-side windows, you'll be able to have the car in view in one of your mirrors.

So what's the catch, you may ask?  There are a few drawbacks, but only one lasting one.

1. Your side view mirrors are no longer showing you the rear corners of your car.  This could throw you off BIG TIME if you are in the habit of using your mirrors to help guide you in backing up.  This drawback never goes away, so if you just CAN'T figure out how to back up without using your mirrors to help you, might be out of luck.

2. You MUST use your rear-view mirror now.  You have to rely on it to see what's behind you, as your side-view mirrors now show you what's going on in the lanes next to you.  If you don't have a rear-view mirror or can't rely on it, again you might be out of luck.

3. This new approach may take some adjustment to get the right setup with your mirrors the first time you try this out.  Rather than wait until you're in rush-hour traffic to fine-tune your mirror angles, try pulling up next to a line of parked cars (preferably with nobody waiting behind you) and slowly pull forward until the car next to you should be in a position to be seen in both mirrors.  Adjust the mirrors until you've got the view right, and then go practice in light traffic until you feel comfortable with the new approach.

4. Someone using your car may be completely bewildered at first.  Technically, they're always supposed to adjust the mirrors to suit them before they get on the road, but you may want to remind them before they back your car into a telephone pole when they try to rely on your mirrors for help.

It's also important to note that this does NOT absolve you of a need to look out the driver-/passenger-side windows when you're changing lanes.  But now you need only look directly left/right from the direction you're heading, rather than craning your head to look almost-behind-you to see if there's a car in your blind spot.

Happy motoring!  Send me a note if you try this out and let me know how it works for you.  I love it and will never go back to the "tried-and-true" approach of purposefully creating blind spots in my field of vision.


Illustrations and general concept shamelessly re-purposed from the much less verbose instructions on the Car Talk website.

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Driving Miss Daisy

Well, I wore her down, and now my wife has finally consented to looking into buying a minivan to replace her SUV.  I think the clincher was the 50-minute drive home from my brother-in-law's house where she spent the entire ride turned around in her seat with the seatbelt off trying to comfort a crying 2-week-old infant. 

The fact that the minivan will provide ample room for her to sit next to the baby for such comforting without twisting like a contortionist was a big pro towards the decision.  That seemed to hit home where things like gas-mileage, ability to get the kids in/out of the car easily and ability to get car seats in/out of the car easily failed.  Of course, she still hates the look of a minivan and dreads being a minivan-mom, but I think she'll get over that.

So now comes all the market research and calls to the dealerships.  And somehow we have to pawn off the kids on someone so she can take a test drive (unless she's going to go on her own, which I doubt she'll want to do).

Anyone have any first/second-hand experience with any more-recent minivan models and their pros/cons?  The last minivan I drove was a 1990 Dodge Caravan, and I know for a fact that there's got to be some better things out there than that mean machine.


Of course, there is a downside to getting a minivan.  My wife's car is only 5 years old, and she had planned on driving it into the ground.  In fact, she still has a year left of payments on it.  My CR-V just hit the 11 years mark, with ~145,000 miles on it.  We were planning on buying a decent sedan-type car to replace my CR-V at the end of the year, but there's no way I'm going to saddle us with two car payments at once, if I can help it.  The obvious thing would be to sell my car and start driving her current one, but I really don't like the Montero Sport all that much, and the gas mileage would suck for my commute.  But it would probably still be cheaper than buying a second new(er) car along with the minivan.  Something to think long and hard about, I guess.

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5 Minutes of Quick Tips – How To Buy A Car

Check out this 5 minute video of tips by Rob Gruhl on how to buy your next car from a dealership.  I remember going with my wife on her last car shopping trip (before we were married), and she ended up doing everything you're not supposed to.  If we had seen this video and had some of this guidance, she might have walked away feeling better about her purchase.

The only thing I see lacking in what he says is what you should do if you're not extroverted enough to follow his tips – in this case, find a friend – the one that loves to haggle/argue/debate/etc, and coach him/her with this video on exactly what the game plan is to follow.  Let this friend be the voice for you at the dealership – even though you'll be the one signing the final papers, there's nothing that says you can't bring in a designated hitter to face that salesman's pitch (pun intended).

I, for one, plan to follow these guidelines for my next car purchase.  Looks like that'll be sometime around the end of 2008, wish me luck! :-)

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Road Rage – How Do You Stack Up?

I was driving to work today when I realized there quite a few people out there driving like maniacs.  If my wife is reading this, she'll be saying, "Ross, you're one to talk!"  But seriously, there are some crazy drivers out there on the highways. 

With that in mind, I thought I'd help all you Voxers out there with a little quiz I put together to find out where you stand with respect to Road Rage.  Hopefully you'll find the results informative.  Post your scores in the comments, if you do decide to take the quiz – I'd like to see how people pan out.

Note: This quiz is a bit U.S. centric with discussions about right/left lanes and MPH and such.  Please adjust as necessary for your country of residence.

The 10-Question Road Rage Quiz
by Ross Goldberg

1. You are being tailgated while you are in the left lane.  What do you do?

  •     A) Move back into the right lane when you can.  You were just passing someone, anyway.
  •     B) Maintain your speed.  Since you're going the speed limit, everyone else should too.
  •     C) Brake/slow down to make sure the idiot behind you gets the point.  Bonus points if you prevent them from changing lanes to get around you!

2. You find someone driving slowly (lower than the speed limit or surrounding traffic) in the right lane.  What do you do?

  •     A) When safe, merge into the passing lane and pass the individual, changing back to the right lane when it is safe to do so.
  •     B) Who cares?  You're already in the passing lane, you'll just stay here and breeze on by.
  •     C) Change from the left to right lane just to cut that sucker off.  After all, they're a safety hazard if they're driving that slow, aren't they?  Maybe they'll realize they need to speed up a bit when they see you zoom off in front of them.

3. You find someone driving slowly (lower than the speed limit or surrounding traffic) in the left lane.  What do you do?

  •     A) You're in the right lane already – you'll just stay here and keep an eye out in case they try to get back over into the right lane while you are passing them.
  •     B) They shouldn't be there, but you'll just go around them.  You will signal lane changes if you feel like it.
  •     C) Tailgate the idiot, possibly flashing your headlights at them to move.  When they don't get out of the way fast enough, swerve over into the right lane, accelerating and cutting them off as you pass them.  Bonus points if you then slow down to teach that sucker a lesson and force them to get out of the fast lane.

4. The majority of the traffic around you:

  •     A) Is traveling at the same speed you are traveling at.  Some people do some dumb things but you are aware enough of the situation to act defensively to avoid accidents.
  •     B) Is traveling slower than you are, but they're not a problem.  You make it through just fine, barring the times someone decides to drive in the wrong @#$^$%& lane.
  •     C) Is composed of idiots who never learned how to drive properly.  You use your mad driving skills to make it through the mess they cause on the roads.  Occasionally you have to teach them a lesson to show them what they should be doing, too.

5. You feel angry in the car when:

  •     A) Almost never.  You try not to get angry on the road – you need your concentration to drive safely.
  •     B) Only occasionally, when people do stupid things like cut you off or act like assholes and tailgate you, etc.
  •     C) Any time someone gets in your way, drives below the speed limit, tailgates you, applies makeup while driving, doesn't seem to know where they're going, talks on their cell phone while driving, brakes suddenly, takes too long to accelerate, takes too long to pass someone, doesn't merge properly, doesn't use turn signals, has a stupid bumper sticker, etc.

6. You're at a red light with one person in front of you.  How long do you wait before honking your horn when it turns green?
  

  •     A) Give them a chance to realize the light is green.  If it appears they're not paying attention after about 3-4 seconds, give the horn a polite tap.
  •     B) They should be paying attention.  If it looks like they're not, honk as soon as you see the green.  They'll thank you for the tip.
  •     C) Huh?  There's nobody in front of you.  You cut over into the other lane at the last minute so nobody would be in front of you at the light.  Otherwise, you'd probably have to lay on the horn to get them to move when the light turns green, and you didn't feel like getting pissed off by something so stupid as that today.

7. You come to a 4-way stop intersection.  You:

  •     A) Wait your turn.  If anyone stopped at the same time as you, the individual on the left goes first, but you've been known to wave them through to avoid confusion.
  •     B) Wait your turn.  If someone stopped at the same time as you, you take advantage of their momentary pause to start moving – they'll let you go once they see you going.
  •     C) Let any cars in the intersection finish their turns.  Start moving as soon as the intersection is relatively clear – everyone else will throw up their hands in frustration but who cares?  You're moving again, baby.

8. You're searching for a parking space and spy one halfway down a row of cars, only to see someone approaching from the other direction who appears to also be looking for a space.  You:

  •     A) Proceed to the spot, putting on your turn signal, and wait for them to drive past the spot so you can pull in.  If they already have their signal on, you do the same for them – they "called it" first.
  •     B) Speed up a bit so you can get to the spot first.  Put on your signal, but mostly as a formality – you're getting this space whether they saw it first or not.
  •     C) Speed up and pull partway into the spot so they have no choice but to keep moving.  Wait for them to squeeze by your half-parked car and then back-and-fill until you can fit into the spot.  Yes!  Another conquest achieved due to your elite driving skills!

9. The part of your car most likely to wear out first is:

  •     A) The tires.  Not for any special reason – just normal wear-and-tear of the road means you'll have to replace them when the tread is worn out, which should be sometime in the next 10,000 miles.
  •     B) It's a tie between the brakes and the transmission.  It seems like your drives consist of slamming on the brakes to avoid the idiots and then gunning it when you're past them.
  •     C) The horn.  You've already had to replace it twice since you bought your car.

10. Which of these statements would you say best describes your opinion regarding the kind of people who would answer A, B, or C to most of the above questions:

  •     A) People who answer A to most of the questions are good defensive drivers.  People who answer B seem like they're a little reckless, and people who answer C are maniacs just counting the minutes until their big car accident.
  •     B) People who answer A to most of the questions are annoying and I end up having to maneuver to get around them on the road.  But I prefer them to the people who answered C, who are just assholes.  Sometimes I want to crash my car into theirs just to teach them a lesson – hey, I'm insured, it's no big deal, right?
  •     C) People who answer A need to get the stick out of their butts and start driving right.  Show me that guy who answered B – I'm going to kick his ass for wanting to crash into my car…hope he has MEDICAL insurance too!

Road Rage Results – Where Do You Stand?

Tally your scores!  For each answer A, give yourself 1 point.  For each answer B, give yourself 3 points.  For each answer C, give yourself 5 points.

10-20 points:  You're the kind of student every Driver's Ed teacher wanted to have.  You probably have a perfect driving record, low insurance rates, and watch your cholesterol and blood pressure, too.  You're safe on the road – just watch out for all those crazies out there.  I wouldn't recommend driving in a big city though – you'll end up with permanent finger marks embedded in the steering wheel from your white-knuckle grip.

21-29 points: You're still a pretty safe driver.  You get irked occasionally, but nothing that affects your driving.    At worst, you have to remind yourself to take a deep breath occasionally.  Keep on the lookout for road-ragers and avoid them as best you can.

30-40 points: You're a little dangerous on the road.  Other people may see you as a little scary or irresponsible.  Try to remind yourself to take it down a notch when you get behind the wheel.  A couple extra minutes on the road won't kill you, and might actually save you from a brain aneurysm down the line.

41-49 points: Watch it buddy – you're a resident of Road Rage City.  If one of your actions doesn't cause you to get in an accident, it'll probably cause one in the people around you.  Increase your meds and try slowing down to everyone else's speed on the road.  If you find you still need to get some aggression out, take up racketball or boxing.

50 points: You are the spokes-model for Road Rage.  Nobody wants to encounter you on the road (and no, that's not a good thing).  It's only matter of time until you get pulled over by the cops or end up totaling your car.  Take preemptive action – trade in your sports car for a Kia, install a governor that won't let you get above 65 MPH, start attending some therapy sessions, and/or start taking public transportation.  You'll thank me in the long run (but in the meantime, no, I will NOT give you my address so you can come over and kick my ass, thank you very much).

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Duct Tape Use #5687 – Replacement Window

I've passed this guy a number of times on the way to/from work.  It's been hard to get a picture of him since he drives about 50-55 miles per hour on a road where everyone else is going 70-80.  I think if he goes any faster, his new window would blow away.  Even duct tape has its adhesion limits.

And for those of you that say "Wait, duct tape is not transparent, how well would it work as a window?"  It may not be apparent in this picture (sorry, best I could do while focusing on driving on the highway), but the duct tape is in strips that run from the middle of the car to the rear.  Each strip is independent of the rest, even though they sometimes adhere.  It's sort of like one big blowing net of duct tape.  If you peer closely (in real life, not in the picture), you can see into the car.  I imagine it would be fairly easy for someone inside the car to see out (much like looking through a window screen – the closer you are to it, the easier to see through it).  Much like a window screen, I would expect this replacement window would fare best when it is not raining.

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