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Convex Driver's-Side Mirrors for Autos May Come to U.S.

Convex side mirrors have been used on European cars for years to supplement drivers' views of their surroundings. The convex mirrors, although not required, are ubiquitous on the continent.

In the United States, however, it is illegal to have a driver's side mirror that is entirely convex. That is, the main mirror on the driver's side of the car must be flat. This rule forces the driver to turn his or her head to see what is in the car's blind spot. The convex mirror would make this move unnecessary.

While it may seem like a small thing, improving the utility of cars' side mirrors could end up preventing car accidents and saving lives. Drivers are sometimes negligent in not checking the blind spot. But a biker, pedestrian or other driver in a blind spot could suffer injuries when the car's driver makes a move.

Possible Change to the Rule on Side Mirrors

A recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposal includes a discussion of allowing the use of convex side mirrors on U.S. autos.

General Motors and Mercedes-Benz have petitioned the agency to adopt the driver's-side mirror rules that Europe uses. The manufacturers say that convex mirrors on both sides of autos will enlarge drivers' scope of vision.

Promoting Pedestrian, Driver Safety

The use of convex driver's side mirrors could prevent back-up accidents, in addition to crashes that can occur when a driver is changing lanes.

U.S. drivers and auto manufacturers are allowed to install smaller convex mirrors in the corners of their flat side mirrors. But a change to the rules, allowing the large convex mirrors and helping drivers see more of the road, is a logical step.

Source: "In Defense of Convex Driver's-Side Mirrors," New York Times, 12-30-10

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