Mirror Signal Manoeuvre

You may have already heard of the driving routine Mirror Signal Manoeuvre or MSM for short as it’s frequently used when teaching someone to drive.

Although MSM appears a simple procedure to apply whilst driving, this routine is in fact used during many aspects of driving and is used, or at least should be used much more frequently than it is.

Whilst the Mirror Signal Manoeuvre routine may not be directly taught by instructors as much these days, it is still a fundamental part of learning to drive. Now frequently replaced with MSPSL routine, the ‘Manoeuvre’ part of MSM has become PSL or Position Speed and Look to enable a more comprehensive understanding of the word Manoeuvre.

During a driving test, the examiner will expect the MSM procedure to be followed throughout and as this is the single most important driving routine, failure to do so will almost certainly result in a failure.

If continuously and correctly used, this driving routine will not only increase your chances of passing the driving test, but will provide a much safer driving career for the future.

Mirror Signal Manoeuvre
Mirror Signal Manoeuvre

Mirror Signal Manoeuvre routine

Although the information below may seem obvious, vast amounts of accidents would be prevented if all drivers followed the MSM routine. The mirror signal manoeuvre routine must be used:

  • before moving off
  • just before signalling
  • before any change of direction including turning left or right, overtaking other vehicles or cyclists and changing lanes
  • before any changes in speed. This also includes an increase of speed as a vehicle may be trying to overtake you as you gain speed. More importantly however is when slowing or coming to a stop either in traffic or parking up


Essentially, checking the mirrors seems a simple process of looking into the centre interior mirror, followed by the door mirror of the direction you are going. What can be an issue for learner drivers however, is to actually take note of what is in the mirrors.

As the MSM routine is a routine, it can become just that and result in a failure to correctly decipher what is happening in the mirrors. It’s important to look for potential hazards. This can include vehicles driving closely behind you, vehicles approaching quickly from behind, motorcyclists and cyclists. Potential hazards may require further mirrors checks to eliminate the possibility of turning into actual hazards.

If approaching a situation where you need to stop or slow down, special actions may need to be taken. A vehicle driving too closely behind, may require that you gently slow your car down earlier than usual to provide the driver behind with more reaction time to slow down. A vehicle approaching quickly behind may require that you slow down slightly later than usual (if possible) to allow the driver with a greater stopping distance.

Motorcyclists and cyclists can often be in the habit of pushing forward past slowing vehicles to reach the front of a queue. Such potential hazards require that you use all the mirrors to establish their location and checking the blind spot is extremely important. The blind spot is often required after the mirror checks. The blind spot should be checked before changing direction when:

  • there are motorcyclists or cyclists close by
  • you are overtaking on a dual carriageway or motorway
  • you wish to change lanes
  • you wish to change lanes or direction when any potential hazard may be obscured by the blind spot

Note: Regardless of any articles detailing techniques employed for setting the cars mirrors to eliminate the blind spot, this must never exclude a physical check of the blind spot for the above circumstances. Extra mirrors claiming to cover the blind spot may increase rear and side observation, but must not replace a physical check of the blind spot. This can lead to a false sense of security and habitual driving that may result in a lack of safe observation when the mirrors are not set or blind spot mirrors are not installed. It will also fail a driving test.


Signals should be applied to the direction you intend on taking. MSM is a process of order with each component depending on the previous one taken. Signals depend on what you see in your mirrors. A potential or actual hazard located in your mirrors may result in you having to alter your intended route and not apply a signal. It’s therefore important that a signal is applied immediately after the mirrors. If there is a delay, the mirror sequence must be repeated.

Signalling must be applied in good time. Signalling too late may not provide vehicles behind with enough time to react if you are intending on slowing or stopping the car. Signalling too early can give the impression you are taking a turn sooner than the actual turn you intend, or that you are parking up, leading to confusion. If parking up, ensure you do not signal before a junction.


The manoeuvre part of MSM can be many things from roundabouts, junctions, changing lanes or parking up to mention just a few. The manoeuvre part is often extended into Position, Speed and Look making MSPSL to further aid learner drivers.

The MSM routine (or any routine) is a guide only and is used to aid learner drivers for remembering a safety procedure. You should always be prepared to alter the MSM routine depending on circumstances. If driving in an area with potential hazards, pedestrians or cyclists for example, you may need to check the mirrors and blind spot once again before committing to the manoeuvre.

Also, always be prepared to alter your speed or destination even at the very last moment. Cyclists, pedestrians and other vehicles can be unpredictable and a good driver should try to predict a potential hazard. These can only be predicted by all round observation and in plenty of time. Of course not every potential hazard can be predicted and this can turn into an actual hazard. The next stage is an accident.

Driving test examiners often refer to learner drivers driving on ‘rails’ by following routines like a robot. Although it is important to understand the fundamental reasons why these routines are used, an ability to change or alter a routine at any given moment is the key to not only passing the driving test, but to help reduce the possibility of accidents.


  • Driving routines
  • POM – Prepare, Observe and Move
  • DSSSM – Door, Seat, Seat belt, Steering and Mirrors
  • SCALP – Safe, Convenient, and Legal Position
  • MSPSL – Mirror, Signal, Position, Speed and Look
  • LADA – Look, Assess, Decide and Act

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