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Signaling a change for the better in auto safety

If you’re over 30, chances are that as a child you rode in at least one vehicle that didn’t have seat belts or head restraints. Anyone older than 20 almost certainly remembers cars that didn’t have airbags or daytime running lights.

If the latest campaign by vehicle safety advocates comes to fruition, your children will one day drive autos with Signal Mirrors as standard equipment.

Every 84 seconds, a lane-change or merging accident occurs, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

Signal Mirrors, which signal turns and lane changes with flashing lighted chevrons behind the glass in a vehicle’s side mirrors, improve visibility and safety on increasingly crowded, visually cluttered highways, say advocates and motorists who are already using the mirrors.

“Researchers are in the preliminary stages of gathering data on the mirrors’ influence on safety,” says Kristi Lawrence of Muth Mirror Systems, the company that manufactures the Signal Mirrors. “But a growing body of evidence and user testimony makes a compelling argument for the safety benefits of the technology.”

Kevin Greenwald, a motorcycle officer with the Sheboygan, Wisc. police force, is a believer. “In terms of motorcycle visibility, the mirrors dramatically raised the bar,” Greenwald says.

“The attention-getting signal mirrors alert drivers not only on either side of me, but also to the rear, that I’m about to change my position in the traffic pattern,” he says. “Numerous times, motorists with whom I would have had potential near-collisions in the past, now react to the illuminated mirrors and give me the space I need to abruptly maneuver.”

For George A. McCright of Mission Viejo, Calif., the safety benefits are undeniable. McCright, who travels some of the nation’s most heavily trafficked roads in Orange County, Calif., points to a specific instance when he needed to change lanes on the notorious Interstate 5 and 405 interchange, which is eight lanes wide in parts.

“I had to merge to the right to exit,” McCright says. “With my right Signal Mirror flashing, traffic could easily see that I needed to move over and readily backed off to allow me to safely do so.”

Currently, Ford, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Nissan, and Toyota offer the Signal Mirrors as either standard equipment or as optional upgrades on select models.

The mirrors can also be added after-market to many makes and models cars, trucks, or motorcycles. Lawrence sees a parallel in the mirrors’ current level of availability and automakers’ gradual acceptance of airbags.

“Only a handful of automakers offered airbags as optional equipment in the first years of the technology,” says Lawrence. “As evidence grew that airbags saved lives, motorists embraced the technology, and in 1998 federal law required all new cars to be equipped with dual airbags.”

Outfitting a vehicle with after-market Signal Mirrors, however, is much easier than retrofitting a car with certain other aftermarket accessories, Lawrence notes. “While we do recommend professional installation because the mirrors connect to the vehicle’s electrical system, mechanically savvy consumers are capable of doing the job themselves.”

To learn more about Signal Mirrors, visit www.muthco.com, or call (800) 844-6616.

Editor’s Note: Signal and Signal Mirrors are registered trademarks of K.W. Muth Company, Inc.

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