The Problem of Blind Spots

Every year, children are injured and killed because drivers (in some cases, parents) don't see them while backing up. According to Kids and Cars, a nonprofit group that wants to improve child safety around cars, back over incidents killed 91 children in 2003. Those deaths represented a 57 percent increase.

A contributing factor is that larger vehicles (SUVs, pickups, and minivans), which have become increasingly popular, have larger blind spots than passenger cars. A blind spot is the area behind a vehicle that a person can't see from the driver's seat.

To help consumers understand how large some blind spots are, Consumer Reports has measured the blind spots of a number of popular models. The results for both an average-height driver (5 feet 8 inches) and a shorter driver (5 feet 1 inch) are listed in the chart below.

To measure the blind spots, a 28-inch traffic cone was positioned behind the vehicle at the point where the driver could just see its top. As the illustration shows, longer and taller vehicles tend to have significantly larger blind spots. (The shading shows the length of each blind spot; lighter for an average-height driver, darker for a shorter driver.)

Bottom line: Your best defense against back over accidents is to get out of your vehicle and check behind it just before you back up. If kids are nearby, make sure you can see them while backing up.

Blind-spot measurements

This chart shows the length of the blind spot of each listed vehicle. The distance noted is how far behind the vehicle a 28-inch traffic cone had to be before the person, sitting in the driver's seat, could see its top by looking through the rear window.

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