The new blindspot: Where seeing is deceiving

Modern car designs have created a new blind spot for drivers. Now, road safety campaigners are calling for action.
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Indy Lifestyle Online

It sounds like a desperate excuse for failing eyesight - "Is it just me, or are cars these days getting harder to see out of?" But, unlike terrible toupees and cosmetic surgery, these words aren't a last-ditch denial of the signs of ageing. Recent research has found that modern cars have a blind spot at the front of the vehicle, obscuring up to 4.5m of the driver's view.

Labelled the A-spot, the new blind spot is created by the A-pillars either side of the windscreen, which have become thicker in contemporary cars in a bid to improve driver safety.

The worst offenders are 4x4s and MPVs, with the Jeep Cherokee recording the largest blind spot of the 20 cars tested. The smallest A-spot was that of the Audi A4, in which only 30cm were obscured.

As modern cars are designed to be more structurally secure, A-pillars have shifted and become wider to support the weight of a heavier frame. Highlighting the sharp rise in A-spot width over the past few years, the research found that a 1998 Ford Fiesta has an A-spot of 1.2m - the A-spot of the 2006 model is double this. Top performers include the Toyota Corolla Verso, BMW 320 and Peugeot 307 - all of which have a blind spot of less than 2m. At the other end of the scale, the Cherokee and the Land-Rover Freelander both measured over 4m. The research found that the average A-spot for a family hatchback measured 2.2m, the same as a full-size motorcycle.

Nigel Doggett, managing director of Autoglass, who commissioned the report, claims that a blind spot has been created which thousands of motorists simply aren't aware of. "It is crucial for drivers to check that nothing is hidden from view behind the A-pillars, both for their own safety and that of other road users," he says.

Autoglass has recommended that drivers check the size of their car's A-spot, and be vigilant when on the road for hazards that might be hidden by the obstruction - particularly pedestrians and cyclists.

Roadsafe, the safety campaign group, is calling for the Government to create an A-spot taskforce to conduct further research and educate drivers and driving instructors about the issue. They are also looking to update car manufacturing guidelines on A-pillars, which have not changed significantly since 1977.

Roadsafe director Adrian Walsh said that the taskforce would "call together experts in the field on the engineering and human behaviour side". It would include figures from the motor industry and government agencies, including the Driving Standards Agency. Walsh said that the problem had been recognised by manufacturers, and he expected them to take the lead in finding a solution. "Manufacturers are looking at alternative designs, including stronger and transparent pillars."

Two months of research was undertaken by the MIRA, whose measurements were based on a distance between car and object of 23m - the stopping gap required when travelling at 30mph. Below are the results for the 20 cars tested.

The best and worst models and their blind spots

1. Audi A4 0.3 metres

2. Peugeot 306 0.6m

3. Ford Fiesta, 1998 1.2m

4. Toyota Corolla Verso 1.2m

5. BMW 320 1.7m

6. Mercedes CLK 1.8m

7. Ford Focus 2.1m

8. Toyota Prius 2.2m

9. Ford Fiesta, 2006 2.4m

10. VW Beetle 2.5m

11. Porsche Boxster 2.7m

12. Vauxhall Vectra 2.7m

13. VW Golf 2.7m

14. Ford Mondeo 2.7m

15. Seat Leon 2.9m

16. Vauxhall Astra 2.9m

17. Ford Focus C-Max 3.4m

18. Citreon Xsara Picasso 3.7m

19. Land Rover Freelander 4.1m

20. Jeep Cherokee 4.5m

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