The Mountain Eagle
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You can rely on your blind spot monitor — but do your part

Car Talk


Dear Car Talk:

Being an octogenarian, I am all into the safety features of the new cars, especially the blind spot monitoring. Without it, it is not as easy to change lanes as it was when I was young and supple.

My question is: How reliable do you feel the blind spot monitor is? To put it another way — can I trust it with my life? If not, there is no point in having it. — Art

I think you can, Art. I mean, no technology is 100% perfect at all times. But I’ve found blind spot monitoring to be extremely reliable and accurate.

And you’re absolutely right. It’s an enormous improvement in driving safety. I think we’ll look back on when we used to snap our necks around and look backward while driving at 70 mph and think that was both dangerous and barbaric.

I’ll give you two caveats, Art. One is that while the detection technology works really well, the warning part of the system varies from car to car.

We test new cars all the time. Some of them have large, bright warning lights on the A-pillar or inside the side-view mirror that really grab your attention when a car is approaching from behind. Some newer cars even project the warnings through the windshield via a head up display.

The best systems add further preventative steps if you try to change lanes despite the warning. Some, if you put on your turn signal to change lanes, will sound an additional, audible warning if it’s not safe. Others will actually nudge the steering wheel to keep you in your lane or vibrate your seat to get your attention. Those systems make it really hard to screw up.

The weakest systems, on the other hand, have small and dim lights in the side-view mirror that you have to look for — rather than lights that grab your attention.

So, look for a system with warnings that are highly visible to you and have additional protections.

The second caveat is that any technology can fail or fall short. Ask the Apollo 13 crew. In the case of blind spot monitors, if someone is speeding in the lane next to you — going 90 mph while you’re going 65 — between the time you check the blind spot monitor and when you start to change lanes, that moron could be in your way. Or, if someone changes into the next lane at the same time you are, the system might miss that.

So even though the technology is great, it’s always good to check your mirrors, signal and move over slowly — to give someone a chance to honk if they happen to get around your warning system.

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Got a question about cars? Write to Ray in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email by visiting the Car Talk website at www.cartalk.com.

(c) 2023 by Ray Magliozzi and Doug Berman Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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