Proper Mirror Adjustment and Usage for Safe Driving

Written By | Doreen Almirol | 20+ years CA DMV Licensed Driving Instructor


Effective use of mirrors is a fundamental skill for any driver, contributing significantly to situational awareness, safety, and overall driving confidence.

In this article, we’ll explore the importance of proper mirror adjustments before driving and provide insights into how to use mirrors effectively while driving for a safer and more enjoyable journey.

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1 | Proper Mirror Adjustments Before Driving

Adjust the Rearview Mirror

  • Start by adjusting the rearview mirror to provide a clear view of the road behind you.
  • Position it to frame the entire rear window without unnecessary overlap with the sides of the car.

Adjust the Side Mirrors

  • Begin with the driver’s side mirror. Position it outward until you can barely see the side of your car.
  • Sit in your normal driving position and adjust the mirror to minimize blind spots, usually the area next to your back tires.
  • For the passenger side mirror, position it similarly. Lean slightly to the right to adjust, ensuring minimal overlap with the rearview mirror.

Eliminate Blind Spots

  • Properly adjusted mirrors should eliminate or minimize blind spots, the areas around your car that are not visible in the mirrors or through the windows.
  • Regularly check and adjust mirrors to account for changes in seating position, passengers, or different driving conditions.
Adjusting mirrors

2 | Proper Mirror Usage While Driving

Frequent Mirror Checks

  • Develop a habit of checking your mirrors regularly, at least every 5-8 seconds.
  • This habit enhances situational awareness and allows you to anticipate potential hazards or changing traffic conditions.

Mirror Use During Lane Changes

  • Before changing lanes, check your rearview mirror for vehicles approaching from behind.
  • Glance at the corresponding side mirror and check your blind spot by looking over your shoulder briefly.
  • Ensure it’s safe to change lanes before signaling and executing the maneuver.

Monitoring Traffic Behind

  • Keep an eye on the rearview mirror to monitor traffic conditions behind you.
  • Check for approaching vehicles, their speed, and any emergency vehicles that may require you to yield or pull over.

Parking and Maneuvering

  • Use your mirrors when parking or maneuvering in tight spaces.
  • Check for obstacles, pedestrians, or other vehicles to ensure a safe and precise parking experience.

Adjusting for Glare

  • Use the rearview mirror’s day/night adjustment feature to reduce glare from headlights behind you, enhancing visibility during nighttime driving.

Side Mirrors for Lane Discipline

  • Maintain proper lane discipline by using your side mirrors to gauge your position within your lane.
  • Ensure that you can see the lines on the road in the side mirrors to stay centered.

Mirror Use During Turns

  • Before making a turn, check your side mirrors and rearview mirror to be aware of vehicles approaching from behind.
  • This awareness helps in executing turns safely and smoothly.

Proper mirror adjustments and usage are integral to safe driving practices. By adjusting your mirrors correctly before driving and incorporating regular mirror checks into your driving routine, you enhance your ability to make informed decisions, reduce blind spots, and navigate the road with confidence.

Make mirror adjustments a part of your pre-drive routine, and remember, a quick glance in the mirror can make all the difference in ensuring a safe and enjoyable journey. Safe travels!

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