Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Near lane-change accident

New driver here. Last night I got into a near accident on the highway when attempting to change into the right lane. I did not see a car on my right. He honked and I was able to get back in the center lane in time. He backed off, and I changed lane without further incident.

However, I am puzzled why I did not see the car. I did not see it in my rear or side mirror. And I did not even see it or its headlights upon shoulder checking.

I drive a CRV, while the other car is a light gray sedan. Because the body of my car is higher than the other car, is it possible that the interior of my car blocked its lights and I did not notice its body due to the color being similar to the road, especially at night? I have my side mirrors angle far out so that I cannot see the side of my car while driving (I saw this recommended on one of those safety websites). Is this setting wrong?

I will be super careful to check twice before changing lanes now, but I just wanna figure out why I screwed up so badly this time.

They are called blind spots. There are portions on the sides that you cannot see with the mirrors or even by looking back or through the windows. I have noticed also that now people love to hang in on the blind spots and just sit there. I don’t know why but they seem to have no idea what they are doing. This should have been covered in driver’s training. I’m sure the person sitting in your blind spot thought he did nothing wrong at all when in reality HE nearly caused an accident.

If the mirrors are angled correctly, there is no blind spot.

The method you used is a rough start. Here is how I fine tune the setting.
Left: driving in the middle or right lane, watch cars as they pass you. First you see them in the center mirror, then they should leave that and become immediately visible in the outside mirror, with a little bit of overlap.
Right, the same, watching as you pass cars on the right. They should move off the right mirror and become immediately visible in the center mirror, with a bit of overlap.

No, that setting is not wrong. “Mirrors out” is the proper way to have your mirrors adjusted. Unfortunately, most people do not do this.

You also want to be sure they’re adjusted properly in the vertical plane. A lot of people adjust them so that they can see airplanes and clouds in the sky. You don’t need to see that stuff. Adjust them so that you see the most road possible. The top of the mirror should be at most an inch or two above the horizon, so that you’ll see cars approaching, but will also see cars that are already there.

All that aside, sometimes even the best driver misses stuff. You just learn from it and make sure you’re extra vigilant in those situations going forward. It sounds like this is the decision you’ve made, so I’d say you’re on the right track.

If he was far up enough that his headlights were disappearing from view, or he didn’t have his headlights on, or his side marker lights were burned out, it’s entirely possible that you missed him due to lack of visibility. A lot of people seem to feel that their headlights are magical devices powered by pixie dust that’s very hard to find, and the magic dust will run out if you use them too much, and so they won’t turn them on in the rain, or at dusk/dawn. Could be you fell victim to this.

The CRV has fairly decent visibility, but if he was in just the right spot it’s possible that all of his marker lights were hidden by your body panels. However, there are other clues to watch for. You can see his headlights on the pavement ahead and to the right of your car. Seeing more light than your car emits on the road is a clue that another car is close.

Another thing I like to do is to signal, then wait a few seconds before starting my merge. A lot of people signal and then immediately merge or, even better, get halfway through the merge and then turn their signal on. If you signal and then wait a few beats, that gives the other driver time to recognize that you’re about to move over, which lets him be ready to take evasive action should you mess up and try to merge into him.

The high windows do cause problems. I remember almost hitting a boat trailer being towed and passing me on the right. I could see the SUV doing the towing, but the empty trailer was so low that it was not visible through the right windows. Luckily the right mirror picked it up.

Yes, I think that’s one area I could definitely have improved on. At the time I thought the right lane was clear (behind this gray car that I missed there was no other car for a long stretch) because it was an exit lane, so I signaled and began to move to the right, maybe half a second later.

If you set your side mirrors this way, you will minimize the blind spot:

Lean the side of your head on the driver’s side window and look into the rear view mirror. Move the mirror in or out until you just see the edge of the rear fender. Adjust the mirror up or down as required to see vehicles. Lean to the right, put your head over the console, and adjust the right side mirror until you just see the edge of the rear fender. Adjust the height as required. When you are on the highway you can fine tune the adjustment so that you see part of the car in the lane next to you and behind your CRV until you see the vehicle next to you when you turn your head. You still need to turn your head left or right and look to see the cars, and you may not eliminate the blind spot completely.

@blueskies - This is your second post about having a traffic problem (which we all have at times ). It might be a good idea if you know someone you consider to be an excellent driver to ride with you and possibly give you some pointers that you might not have thought of.

Possibly, the sedan came up at a fast speed, or changed lanes close to you. You were saved by changing lanes slowly. All you can do is check one more time.

If the right lane was an exit lane, then there is a good chance the other car was behind you and was being an a*****e, especially if you are in the tidewater area of Virginia or St Louis.

But sometimes you just miss one, I think pretty much everyone has.

I prefer to be able to just barely see the side of my own car in the outside mirrors. That’s how I set them up. Not only for changing lanes, but it makes it easier to get up near the curb when parallel parking, which is something I do often. Not everyone agrees with this method. You could try it both ways, see which works best for you. The best method probably varies depending on the car and the driver. I also move my head left and right to widen the angles I can see in the mirrors before changing lanes.

It’s not an uncommon thing to have this problem from time to time. To some extend you rely on the car you are about to have a conflict for space with to give you a warning. The important thing safety wise is to not make sudden moves when lane changes, so you give the other driver time to give you a warning or move out of your way.

I used to drive a pickup truck with a camper as a teenage driver and there was no visibility to turn and look before changing lanes to the right, the camper was in the way. So I had to rely entirely on the truck’s mirrors. What I discovered was helpful was to first turn on the blinker indicating I wanted to turn right. And let it blink 5 seconds or so, and only then begin to gradually pull into the lane on the right. I also tried to make lane changes immediately after passing another vehicle, b/c then I knew there was only that one car to worry about. Good for you for being concerned about traffic safety. Best of luck.

Congratulations on your new license.
Regarding the ability to see next to and behind you, I suggest “fish eye” mirrors. They’re little round mirrors that allow a wide view of the lane next to you. These mirrors make objects look much farther away that they are, so if there’s any car in the mirror at all assume the lane is not free. I have them and I love mine.

As you gain experience, try to make a habit of always being aware of everything going on around you, whether you plan to change your path or not. At first it requires conscious effort, but it soon becomes a habit that may save your life. You should be aware of the cars in the other lanes even if you never plan to change lanes. Then you should double check carefully using the fisheye mirrors and whatever other visibility you have AND spend a bit of time with your directionals on to warn the others around you (using directionals when changing lanes is the law in every state I know of).


  1. use whatever mirror hardware you can get to see all around you. Use them often.
  2. stay constantly aware of everything going on around you whether you expect to need the information or not
  3. USE DIRECTIONALS and give others time to see and react to them.

When I was teaching my daughter I used to tell her that on every single drive no matter how short you’ll see at least one stupid move by another driver. If you drive twice a day, that’s 730 chances for an accident every day. And if you assumed that every driver around you was about to do something stupid and stayed ready for it, you’d avoid hundreds of accidents every year, and they’d become non-events. With experience, and if you stay alert, you’ll eventually be able to anticipate 95% of other drivers’ stupid moves. The balance you’ll be ready for and able to avoid.

I’ve been driving for a very long time, so I anticipate and react almost automatically and don’t even remember all but a very few stupid moves I see, but while driving with my daughter-in-training, I became much more aware… and to my surprise there were far more stupid moves on every drive than I would have guessed.

Small suggestions:

  1. leave the radio and cell phone off until you become a very experienced driver. Even with all my years of experience, my radio is usually off, and NH now has a “hands free” law so I can’t use my cell phone either… and IMHO it’s just as well.
  2. I always have my lights on no matter the time of day or the weather. The easier other drivers can notice you is the safer you are.

I urge you to take these suggestions to heart. They could save your life.

Sincere best.
Stay aware: stay alive.

It’s a wonder we didn’t have more lane change accidents in the good old days. Cars back then didn’t have outside rear view mirrors. I added left side mirrors to my cars, but I didn’t have a right side exterior rear view mirror until I bought a 1971 Ford Maverick Grabber in 1973 that had “sport mirrors” on both sides. However, the right hand mirror was not adjustable from inside the car.

How true. Perhaps the only thing that saved us at all was that we could turn our heads and look back over the seats. With today’s high “beltlines”, headrests, and fastback-type windows, it’s almost impossible to do that now. Outward visibility in a great many of the old cars was almost unobstructed. Today it’s almost unavailable.

Allways told anyone I had drivers ed miles with, cars come out of no where and always look over your shoulder, they learned fast. It still happens and i have these little stick on mirrors for driver side outside mirror, and they help. I put it on the towards car side of the mirror, big side towards the car.

@the same mountainbike My first car, a 1947_Pontiac Streamliner fastback had no outside rearview mirrors and a rear window that was more like a skylight. The best cars I had for visibility were my 1954 Buick and 1955 Pontiac.

Olur 61 Merc was the first car we had with left and right mirrors. The only problem was that they were mounted on the front fenders about half way to the front. So to adjust them required two people or in and out of the car 20 times.

I dunno, I find the fish eye mirrors distracting but whatever floats your boat. I just think regardless of how you set the mirrors, its true these folks come out of no where and seem to have little regard for the hazard they create. You just plain are not always going to see them. That’s my million miles worth.

Does anyone recall cars with outside mirror placement on top of the left and right fendors, but up near the front of the car? Wow, was that ugly. But it probably had some optical benefits.

Cars in Japan were that way, the mirrors were about 6" behind the headlights and they were convex. You knew exactly where your were in relation to all the vehicles around you. That was needed as the Japanese drive within inches of each other at all speeds.

Like I said, that’s the way our 61 Mercury was. Then the Chevs mounted the left one on the door. No right one on the Biscayne.