It has happened to every driver at one time or another; another vehicle hiding in your blind spot when you are trying to change lanes. Even when no crash results, your heart pounds from the adrenaline rush of the close call.
Help in preventing these all-too-frequent near misses is available in the form of a small orange icon that appears on the side mirrors of the 2010 Buick LaCrosse. The aptly named Side Blind Zone Alert system uses radar-equipped sensors to provide an extra set of “eyes” to monitor the vehicle’s side blind spots.
How prevalent are blind spot incidents? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says improper lane changes are a factor in up to 85 percent of all crashes.
“The blind zone technology system enables the car to see where it is difficult for the driver to see,” said Kent Lybecker, a GM active safety systems engineer. “This technology makes lane changes safer because it alerts driver’s to vehicles that otherwise might escape their vision.”
If the Side Blind Zone Alert system detects a vehicle in the adjacent lane, the system will illuminate a symbol on the side view mirror alerting the driver to a potential collision. If the driver activates the turn signal in the direction of the detected vehicle, the symbol will flash. Otherwise it remains illuminated until the other vehicle has left the blind zone.
The system uses alternating radar beams that sweep outward from the vehicle, covering a zone of about one lane wide on both sides of the vehicle. The zone also extends back approximately 10 feet from the rear of the vehicle for an added layer of protection.
The LaCrosse is one of 27 new vehicles to be named a Top Safety Pick for 2010 by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The award recognizes vehicles that do the best job of protecting occupants in front, side, rear and rollover crashes based on Institute testing.
Although Side Blind Zone Alert is intended to help drivers avoid lane change mishaps, the driver still needs to turn to check blind zones manually before changing lanes.