Use of Mirrors

One of the top reasons for failing a practical driving test is the inappropriate use of mirrors, or a general lack of observation by use of the mirrors.

There’s little point in using your car mirrors if they’re not set up correctly. You’ll need to set the mirrorsĀ so that you have the maximum view within the mirrors to the rear and side of the car. Advice on setting up your mirrors can be found in the mirror adjustment and setting the mirrors tutorial.

Think of your car as being contained in a safety bubble. This bubble can only exist if you know what is going on around you at all times. Safety checks and correct use of mirrors creates this bubble.

If you know where and what other road users and pedestrians are doing, you are able to constantly adjust your driving to keep the bubble intact.

For example, if you see in your mirrors a motorist is driving dangerously close behind you, you can increase your following distance to the vehicle in front. This will increase your stopping distance allowing you to slow down sooner and to allow for the vehicle behind to stop in good time. Mirrors will allow you to locate cyclists and motorcycles is busy areas that often appear from nowhere.
Use of Mirrors

Blind spots in the mirrors often need to be checked, often at a similar time to the mirrors. Read the driving blind spot tutorial for further information.

This tutorial will cover the correct use of mirrors of which will aid in you maintaining safe driving for life, but will of course provide essential skills enabling you to pass the driving test.

When to Use Car Mirrors

Use car mirrors randomly whilst driving, though not to excess as the main priority is always the direction of travel. Random use of mirrors depends largely on what’s going on around you. For example a quiet, high speed ‘A’ road will require far less random mirror checks than a busy road with high traffic density, cyclists and pedestrians.

There are many occasions however, that using your mirrors should not be random, but compulsory. In terms of a driving test, you will need to know when to use the car mirrors for:

  • Opening car doors
  • Moving off from a stationary position
  • Signalling / indicating
  • Change of direction
  • Change of speed

Opening Car Doors

This may or may not be relevant during your driving test as it depends where you park your vehicle Though if not applicable, it will apply after your test. Look into your right-side door mirror before opening your door to ensure there are no oncoming vehicles, cyclists or pedestrians that may be approaching. It is also worth checking the right-side blind spot to ensure that it’s clear. Remember for future reference, take your passengers into account. If carrying children, they often don’t check before opening doors.

Moving Off From a Stationary Position

A lack of effective use of mirrors before moving off fails a good amount of driving tests. The minimal checks before moving the car off should be from the main interior mirror to the right door mirror, followed by the right blind spot and finishing again in the right mirror. If all is clear, go without delay. If there is a delay for any reason, you must perform the checks once again before moving. For further information, see:

Signalling / Indicating

Mirrors must always be checked before signalling and in good time. Typical faults can involve, looking in the mirrors and signalling at the same time, signalling before using the mirrors, inappropriate signalling, for example where a signal may cause confusion. There are routines that can help with getting this correct. These are:

It’s equally important to act upon what you see in your mirrors before signalling. If for example you wish to turn right but a cyclist is preventing you from doing this, you may decide not to take that turn and proceed ahead. You will therefore not signal.

Change of Direction

Mirrors must be checked before changing direction. Effective use of mirrors include:

  • Left and right turns – using the MSM or MSPSL routines set out above. Remembering a final glance into the left side mirror before committing to the turn to ensure motorcyclists or cyclists are not present.
  • Changing lanes and overtaking – appropriate mirrors and blind spot must be checked before changing lanes.

Change of Speed

You’ll need to know what’s going on around you before a change of speed. Know how close a vehicle is behind you before slowing down. For example, if a vehicle is following closely and you slow down too quickly, it may not give them time to react. Or, if you intend on accelerating and another vehicle is attempting to overtake you, this could leave them in a vulnerable position due to oncoming traffic.

6 thoughts on “Use of Mirrors”

  1. Hello again
    We’ve heard this many times from our instructors, mirrors (appropriate side) then signal. What if there’s a car or others vehicle visible in the mirror? Do we not signal then, consequently we don’t follow the original intended direction.
    Thank you.

  2. Hi Mo,
    Yes, you’re right. So we look in the mirrors initially to see if it’s safe to carry out the manoeuvre (also check the blind spot if necessary), then based on what we see in the mirrors, a decision is made whether to carry out the manoeuvre and signal, or take a different route. An example might be that if you intend on taking an exit off of a roundabout and see another vehicle in the lane you are intending on taking, you’d not signal off and instead carry on round the roundabout.

  3. John Dickinson

    How long does it typically take to check mirrors? Meaning, how long are you not actually looking out of the windscreen?

  4. Hello John,
    In terms of learner drivers, it varies on the individual in terms of processing what’s going on in their mirrors. Obviously what’s going on ahead is essential when the vehicle is moving, so getting that time down is important. Aiming for under 1 second per mirror is where we need to be. If you’re checking two mirrors, then almost 2 seconds of not looking ahead is a long time, so choosing the correct time to check your mirrors is important. If there’s a lot going on, then you can break the mirror checks up with looking what’s going on ahead and alternating mirror checks. It’s all about reacting to individual circumstances, but equally important is to actually process the information you see in the mirrors and being able to deal with it appropriately.

  5. Andrew

    Which mirrors should be checked while you’re driving along a straight road? The random checks on a quiet A road, as you put it.
    Is it a sweep of all three, just the rear view or alternate between each one to ensure you’re watching ahead enough?

  6. Hi Andrew,
    Generally just the rear view mirror, simply to keep yourself updated on what’s going on behind.

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