Flying shards of glass from car side mirrors pose real danger for drivers

ATLANTA — Your car’s side view mirror helps you see what’s around you while driving, but it could possibly damage your eyes if that glass shatters.

“It hit me so hard where I seen stars,” said Abdul Jones. He was driving home from work on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Southwest Atlanta when a car sideswiped him in May 2017.  The impact shattered his side view mirror, shooting shards of glass through his open driver’s side window and into his eye. “The pain was just indescribable,” said Jones.

Two years and five surgeries later, he still can’t see out of his left eye. Jones suffers severe headaches and has trouble walking. “I have double vision, so I see two of everything. I just have to pick out which one is real,” said Jones. “You’d never think of the side mirror being a projectile just waiting to explode in your face.”

Channel 2's Craig Lucie went to Marietta Wrecker where he received permission to demonstrate the difference between a windshield shattering and a side view mirror shattering.  The windshield broke into pieces but didn't become a projectile. The side view mirror broke, and shards of glass flew at the driver's seat and into the back seat.

Car windshields are made with laminated glass known as safety glass. It is made of two pieces of glass with a thin layer of vinyl between them that is laminated together. It is designed not to fly apart if broken, reducing your risk of getting hurt. But side view mirrors are not made with safety glass.

Dr. Yousuf Khalifa is the Chief of Ophthalmology at Grady Memorial Hospital and is treating Jones. “Six or seven weeks later I’m hearing story after story, I’m like hey wait a second this has come up a couple of times. Let’s go back and look through the past couple of months and sure enough if was there,” said Dr. Khalifa.

He found three people were treated at the hospital between May 5, 2017 and July 10, 2017. Dr. Khalifa and three other doctors published a study in the July 2019 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association Ophthalmology.

“What should happen in an ideal world is that the regulations require that glass breaks in a way that doesn’t shatter and threaten the integrity of the eyeball,” said Dr. Khalifa. The study recommends requiring safety glass in side view mirrors in all new cars sold in the United States. It also suggests applying an adhesive film similar to a screen protector on a cellphone on older cars to prevent eye injuries.


Channel 2 emailed the study to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  NHTSA emailed us this statement:

“The agency does not currently have any rulemakings on its regulatory agenda that would target ocular injuries caused by outside rearview mirrors in motor vehicle crashes.”

Jason Levine, the Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety, says more data is needed but it’s very concerning. “It’s really one of these things that it’s not clear how often it’s happening, but if it’s happening to you it’s a really serious, dangerous situation,” said Levine.

“They should have the same tamper proof glass in the side mirrors, so it don’t shatter and cut your eye or cut you,” said Jones.

In addition to the three cases at Grady Memorial Hospital, the doctors found reports of nearly fifty injuries from side view mirrors. But the doctors think they are under-reported. They hope that federal safety regulators will require car makers to use safety glass in side view mirrors to prevent them.