Worsening car blind spots

FRESNO, Calif.

Consumer Reports tests cars for blind spots and says the new designs are making things much worse. It's a problem not only in traffic but also in driveways and parking lots.

Wide rear pillars and smaller back windows make it especially hard to see out the back, even when you turn your head around. More than 200 people die every year in accidents by drivers who did not see them, and many of those are children.

Consumer Reports tests rear visibility and finds that some cars are seriously lacking it, especially for drivers who are short.

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

More and more cars have the option of a built-in backup camera, which can really help improve rear visibility -- and you don't have to buy a luxury vehicle to get one. Consumer Reports tested cars that cost under $20,000 that have a back-up camera.

But be aware that some cameras, particularly those in the rear-view mirror, are small. And others don't display fast enough to see what's behind you before you back up. Although any camera will help, an ideal one 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. Consumer Reports says even if your car has a camera, don't rely on it alone to make sure there's no one behind your car before you back up.

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