The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) did a study to evaluate the ability of drivers of large trucks (tractor trailers) to see cars and other targets using mirrors. This study found that 11% of targets were missed and about 2% were misidentifications. The greatest number of mistakes were made using flat mirrors alone. Flat mirrors caused the greatest number of blind spots. Using flat mirrors, the drivers did not detect many targets and misidentified many others. Regardless of the type or configuration of the mirrors, drivers substantially underestimated the distance of the targets from their own vehicle. They consistently estimated the targets to be closer to them than they actually were. This was especially true when the target was far behind the tractor trailer. This finding has important implications for the manner in which large trucks change lanes. Often trucks change lanes abruptly and at great speed on the mistaken belief that the car or other vehicle is very close them. This can cause an accident with another car or a crash by the truck itself.Detection of cars and other targets was improved when the tractor trailer used a convex mirror mounted below the flat mirror. A look down mirror mounted on the passenger side also improved detection of cars close to the truck in the adjacent lane. Fender mounted mirrors did not improve detection.
Younger drivers were significantly better in detecting targets than older drivers and did so much faster.
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