Q: When was the right side mirror first used and when and why was the warning changed to "objects in mirror may be closer than they appear"? Which leads to another question: Why do they say "may" when that is how it was made?
R.F., Grayslake, Ill.
A: According to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR 571.111, S5.4.2), "Each convex mirror shall have permanently and indelibly marked at the lower edge of the mirror's reflective surface, in letters not less than 4.8 mm nor more than 6.4 mm high, the words 'Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear.'" We don't know how "may be" sneaked in there. We are also not sure when the first right outside mirror appeared, but the left outside mirror became standard in the 1960s. We do know why objects appear larger: Convex lenses bend light. It is like looking through the wrong end of binoculars. Legend has it that the first rearview mirror was simply an ordinary, handheld, household mirror.
Q: When will the national motor vehicle safety folks recognize the significant number of accidents caused by the blinding headlights that have become popular in the last few years? The glare from headlights is particularly blinding. Additional lamps like fog lights should not be used as supplementary headlights. If they are, they should automatically turn off when opposing traffic comes in range. Am I the only adult driver that sees this as a problem?
A: Our eyes begin to degenerate at around 40 years old. As we age, glare becomes more of an issue. According to AAA: "Senior drivers can face substantially increased risk, because of decreased visual distance and sensitivity to the contrast between darkness and bright lights along roadways. Difficulties like these are the most common reasons older drivers limit or regulate their own driving. Many senior drivers also find they just don't need to be driving at night as often as they used to and primarily drive during the day. This can result in driving under less stressful conditions, too. If you cannot avoid driving at night, there are several ways to manage the risks." AAA offers these tips:
• Adjust your speed to the reach of your headlights. Do not "overdrive" your headlights by driving at a speed that wouldn't allow you to stop for an obstacle at the far reaches of your headlights. Compensate for reduced visibility by decreasing your speed and increasing following distance to four or more seconds behind the car in front of you.
• Keep your eyes moving. Do not focus on the middle of the area illuminated by your headlights. Watch for sudden flashes of light at hilltops, around curves or at intersections, because these may indicate the presence of oncoming vehicles.
• Look at the sides of objects. In dim light during reduced visibility, focus on the edges or outlines of objects. Your eyes can pick up images more sharply this way than by looking directly at the object.
• Wear good sunglasses on bright days and take them off as soon as the sun goes down. After steady daytime driving, rest a while before you begin driving at night.
Bob Weber is a writer, mechanic and Master Auto Technician.