Using Mirrors While Driving
You should check the mirrors are set as part of your cockpit drill before every journey. You should also check that the mirrors are undamaged. They should give you the best possible view of what is around you. You should not have to move your head much to see out of the mirrors once you are sat in your driving position.
Checking your mirrors regularly is vital if you are to become a safe and considerate driver. Knowing what is around you at all times will help you decide what to do if a hazard starts to develop in the road ahead.
You should check your mirrors to evaluate the speed and position of other road users, both behind and to the side of you. Regular checks will enable you to judge whether a vehicle behind you is gaining on you or just keeping a safe distance. Judging the speed and distance of other vehicles around you takes time and practice.
The Interior Mirror
The interior or rear view mirror is a flat piece of glass that gives you a true image of what is behind you. Youshould set it so your rear window is framed within the mirror, so that you can see as much as possible out of the back window.
You would normally check this mirror before you check the exterior mirrors, as it gives you the best view of what is behind.
There is a setting on the interior mirror called the anti-glare. If a vehicle behind you has bright lights you could be dazzled by them at night. The interior mirror has is a switch you can flick to reduce the amount of glare from traffic behind you.Remember to switch off the anti-glare once the vehicle is no longer behind you.
Exterior Door Mirrors
The exterior, or door mirrors are slightly curved pieces of glass. The fact they are curved means they give you a slightly wider image, so you can see more of what is to the side of you. The curvature makes the image seem smaller than the image in your interior mirror. If you sit in a car you can check this by comparing the size of the image in the different mirrors. A car will seem slightly smaller in the door mirror compared to the interior mirror.
Which Mirrors To Check When Driving
The mirrors you use should be linked to the manoeuvre you are about to do. For instance, if you were to be turning right you would first check the interior mirror, followed by the mirror on the right. If pulling up on the left you would check the interior first, then the left mirror.
Using the mirrors in this way will help you assess what is around you, well before you start to change position or direction.
When To Use The Mirrors
You should use the mirrors regularly to keep up to date with the situation around you. Use you mirror particularly before
- D – changing direction i.e. turning or emerging
- O – overtaking a moving vehicle or passing one that is parked
- O – opening your car door
- S -signalling
- S – changing speed i.e. slowing down or speeding up
- S – stopping normally
- H – on approach to any hazard
On your driving test your driving examiner will be looking to make sure you are using your mirrors frequently. Do not just check every five seconds or so, check your mirrors for the reasons above.
Acting Sensibly On What You See
Depending on what you see in your mirrors you may need to change your mind about what it was you were about to do. If there is someone following you closely, you may need to slow down earlier on approach to any blockage or hazard in the road ahead.
When you see what is behind you should ask yourself
- Is the vehicle behind a safe distance?
- Is it getting closer?
- What might it do?
- Can I do this manoeuvre safely?
You should check your mirrors well before the hazard or manoeuvre you want to do. The mirror check is the first part of anything you do in the car when driving along. Remember, Mirrors, Signal, Manoeuvre.
Blind spots are the areas around you that you cannot see from your normal seating position when in a vehicle. This could be areas blocked by things like the frame of the windscreen, or could be an area behind you that is not visible in the mirrors.
Larger vehicles have large blind spots. A van with no interior mirror would have huge blind spots behind it, which could mean you would not be able to see small vehicles directly behind you if you were driving a van.
The most common blind spot is the one to the side of you that you cannot see in your mirrors. You should check over your right shoulder before moving off, to ensure that there is no one in your blind spot before you move out to the right.
The blue area of the picture below is what you can see in the mirrors. The grey area is the blind spot.
Be aware that smaller vehicles like motorbikes may not be visible but could still be there. It is a lot harder to see motorbikes and cyclists so don’t just move your head around, actually check that there is no one in your blind spots.
You can buy add-ons for your mirrors that help reduce the size of the blind spot area. These extra mirrors will not totally eliminate the blind spots so you should always check.
You should avoid looking over your shoulder when you are on the move, especially on faster roads, as you will be moving forward and looking backwards. Things can change very quickly and you may not see something develop in the road ahead.
If you are merging with traffic you should look to the side and use your mirrors frequently to judge the gap. A glance to the side is acceptable when moving along and regular use of your mirrors should be enough to keep you up to date with what is around you.
Other Drivers’ Blind Spots
Avoid driving in other drivers’ blind spots. One example is if you are on a road with more than one lane going in the same direction, you may be driving next to someone who does not know you are there.
If a large truck wants to change lanes, they may pull over into your lane without seeing you. Position your vehicle just behind or just ahead of any other vehicles when you are driving on multi-lane roads in heavy traffic.