Blind spots getting worse in new car designs


Cars designed with high trunks and hoods and low, sloping rooflines give a sleek appearance on the outside but can cause visibility problems from the inside.

"Car styling trends have made it harder for drivers to see out. It's a problem not only in traffic but also in driveways and parking lots," explained Tom Mutchler with Consumer Reports.

Wide rear pillars and smaller back windows make it especially hard to see out the back, even when you turn around.

"More than 200 people die every year in accidents by drivers who didn't see them, and many of those are children," Mutchler said.

Consumer Reports tested rear visibility and found some cars were seriously lacking, especially for drivers who are short.

The Hyundai Sonata sedan has a blind zone of 21 feet. For the Toyota Sienna minivan, it's 22 feet. The Dodge Durango SUV's blind zone is 37 feet. With the Chevy Avalanche pickup truck, the blind spot is a frightening 50 feet.

More and more cars are coming with the option of a built-in backup camera, which can really help improve rear visibility. You don't have to spend top dollar to get one.

"You don't have to buy a luxury vehicle to get a built-in backup camera. We've tested cars that cost under $20,000 that have one," Mutchler said.

But be aware, some screens are small, like ones that show the view on the side of the rear-view mirror. Also, some models that come out of the dash don't display fast enough to see what's behind you before you back up. Any camera will help, but an ideal screen is large and centrally located.

The Department of Transportation is considering whether to require backup cameras in all new cars. That decision is expected by the end of the year. In the meantime, even if your car has a camera, don't rely on it alone to make sure there's nothing behind your car before you back up.

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