How to Properly Use Your Vehicle’s Mirrors

A mirror is a very powerful tool. Mirrors let you see yourself the way others see you. They also give you a view of other things that you couldn’t normally see, such as the road behind you.

Your vehicle comes with three rear-view mirrors. The first gives you a center view, and the other two show you what is happening on either side of the car. To get the most use out of your mirrors, you need to learn how to adjust and use them properly. Well-aligned mirrors will give you the highest amount of visibility possible, but it’s up to you to learn how to make the most of your vision. Being aware of everything around you is an important element of defensive driving, but just like anything else, it takes practice and a willingness to learn.

How do You Adjust Your Mirrors for Optimal Visibility?

1. The Center Mirror

Sit in a comfortable position in the driver’s seat, and adjust the center mirror until you get a full view of the road behind you. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t have to move your head or body to use the mirrors. You should only have to glance with your eyes.

2. The Right Mirror

A well-adjusted right mirror should give you a view of the edge of the car when you lean over into the center console. Be sure to double check your view from a normal seated position before you begin driving.

3. The Left Mirror

Lean your head against the driver-side window, and adjust your left mirror until you can barely see the back end of your car.

How Often Should You Check Your Mirrors While Driving?

Experts recommend that you check your mirrors before you slow down and every time you make a turn. It’s also a good idea to check them while you’re sitting in traffic. You never know when an out-of-control car might come barreling up behind you, and keeping an eye out could allow you enough time to move out of the way.

No matter what the situation, you should also check your mirrors at least once every five to eight seconds. This might seem like a lot at first, but once you get into the habit, you won’t even notice yourself doing it. This brings us to the next important point: It’s not only about line of sight. It’s about being aware of what you’re looking at.

Are You Staying Alert and Avoiding Distractions?

Well-adjusted mirrors won’t do you much good if you’re distracted while driving. It’s obvious by now that texting while driving is extremely dangerous, and rowdy passengers, loud music, GPS systems, in-car movie players and interesting roadside spectacles all can be major distractions. However, zoning out on your own and getting lost in thought are common issues as well.

Every time you check your mirrors, try to remind yourself of the importance of defensive driving. A little daydreaming is unavoidable, but paying attention should be an active work in progress. Do your very best to stay aware and alert no matter what situation you’re in. Try to avoid fretting about a bad day at work or fight with your spouse while driving. You probably won’t remember these problems five years from now, but the effects of a car accident can last forever.

Are Your Mirrors Clean?

Your external mirrors will build up dirt at various rates depending on the weather where you live. Warm and dry environments often result in a layer of dust, and heavily forested environments create a lot of pollen in the spring and summer months. Light rains cause spatter marks, and snow and ice obviously cause many visibility issues. It’s always a good idea to check your mirrors for visibility before you start your car.

Do You Understand Your Blind Spots?

Having perfectly clean and well-adjusted mirrors will not offer 100 percent protection. The areas beside your car are always going to be hard to see, which is why checking over your shoulder before you change lanes is a crucial task. You don’t want to be responsible for running another car off the road. Check your blind spot every single time!

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About the Author:

James Hunt is a contributing writer for and is heavily involved in the automotive industry. You can always connect with James on Google+