How do you set up your mirrors?

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  1. Smart_Driver says:

    Great article on the mirror debate. It’s exactly how I do it, a tiny sliver of the car in the door mirrors. Why? Because I then haven’t created a blindspot between the rearview mirror and the door mirrors. As stated in the article, this could be enough to mean you have missed a motorbike for instance.
    When trainers state that by increasing the view to the right/left, and eliminating any view of the car, you now don’t have to check over your shoulder, what they are saying is we are now going to create lazy drivers. Checking my blindspot saved me from a crash last month, on the motorway, as a driver thought it was smart to position himself in that area.

  2. Anna Schuler says:

    I read this earlier today, and still need to think more about what I am doing with my mirror setup. This is a great topic Scott.
    I used to set my mirrors the way you suggest here.
    Three years ago I attended a saftey meeting put on by a commercial vehicle insurance carrier.
    Because I pull a 48′ flatbed trailer I need a constant visual on my load and tarp securement, so I would keep my mirrors in to see a sliver of the side even in my peripheral vision. I like to check the mirrors every 8 seconds.
    They told me to adjust the mirrors out untill I could see the lane next to me, or the on ramp, and to lean my body and head out to one side or the other in order to see my load. They said that driving 11 hours a day, this movement of my head and eyes would keep me more alert, and allow me too see more of what was behind and approaching from other lanes.
    I can’t see anything directly behind me unless it casts a shadow.
    What do you all think?
    I’m going to be thinking about this all week, and about what I’m doing, and how I might improve.
    My spot mirrors do great for the blind spots, I’m really wondering about my main mirrors now.

  3. e p training says:

    Interesting article. Agree with Smart Driver on this subject.

  4. Mike Matheson says:

    I have done quite a bit of experimentation with this, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the side mirrors need to be pushed out further. I used to try and see a sliver of my own car to have a frame of reference, and this worked well. But I tried angling them out further and came up with some extra advantages.

    It takes a little getting used to not seeing part of your car. However, when I was teaching driving, on the very first lesson we showed the student that there were areas at the front, back and sides of the car that could not be seen. We all get accustomed to this and the brain takes over.

    The same goes for the side mirrors. At first, I pulled up beside a parked car on a side street and positioned my vehicle to mimic where I would be with another car in my blind spot. I then moved the mirror out until the parked car came into view. Then I repositioned my car and had the parked car in my blind spot again. Again I adjusted the mirror. I eventually came to the point where the blind spot was virtually non-existent because the automobile beside me was either in the rear view mirror or the side mirror.

    I did some further testing in real conditions during both city and freeway driving. It was necessary to tweak the position of the mirrors a bit and, as mentioned earlier, there was some discomfort at the beginning when I could not see my own car in the side mirror. That quickly went away, however, and I found there was an added advantage on highways with 3+ lanes since I could now see cars two lanes over changing into the lane beside me.

    The only caveat seems to be the potential for overconfidence in the mirrors. With an expanded view, I would be afraid that drivers might trust their mirrors TOO MUCH and neglect to still do a blind spot check — something that is ALWAYS going to be necessary no matter how you set up your mirrors.

    • Side mirrors should not show your car because it unnecessarily limits your field of vision. Pushing the mirrors farther out effectively eliminates the blind spot (though you still need to check your blindspot for cars entering from two lanes over)

      Popular opinion has led to widespread improper use of mirrors (showing your car).

      I disagree with this article because it is trying to maintain an old habit that has been regularly challenged in recent times. There is no need for you to see your own car, potential crashes from behind can be seen from your inside rearview.

  5. Kate says:

    Hi Scott,

    I just came across a video from the American Automobile Association, CarFit Program. They use a slightly different method for adjusting the side mirrors and the rear view mirror. It’s called the B.G.E. Method.

    I’m finding that with age and arthritis, turning my neck to right is a bit difficult. Also, if you have a very tall or large person sitting in the passenger seat, it blocks a good portion of the back rear window (especially a smaller car).

    Your advice?

  6. Astraist says:

    The best method of adjusting mirrors depends on the car. The interior mirror should in any case show the entire rear window.

    The driver’s side mirror should be opened so that the silver of the car just disappears out of view. Opening it so the silver shows is too narrow, but opening it so you put your head against the glass to see the silver is too wide.

    The passenger’s side mirror is where it changes from car to car. In some cars it is symmetrical to the driver’s side mirror and should be adjusted likewise. In others, however, it is smaller and requires a wider adjustment, so you have to turn your head almost 90 degrees (or place it in the middle of the cabin) to see the sliver.

    Adjusting side mirrors to show silver provides a sense of “orientation” because you can see the edges of your own car. However, such a “hint” is usually only needed in “precision maneuvers” like reversing, in which case slightly tilting the head or the mirrors (which you would have to do anyhow) would do.

    While constant mirror checks, gentle shoulder checks and other means help eliminate blind spots, but these do not reduce the need for maximum coverage via the mirrors, on the contrary.

  7. Mike Matheson says:

    I have to disagree. As per your response, I tried parking in front of a truck with different mirror placements … and seeing down the side of my own car presented no advantage at all. You may have angled the mirrors out too far … don’t forget, it takes some experimentation to find where to position the mirrors for the greatest coverage.

    I taught people to see part of their own car as well, thinking that the reference point was necessary. But one of the books I read about advanced driving techniques way back then stipulated that the mirrors should be angled all the way out. I dismissed this without even bothering to try (my mind was already made up!)

    I eventually did try it and found that having the mirrors all the way out was uncomfortable and didn’t really eliminate the blind spot. So I abandoned it and went back to the way I had been teaching my driving students.. However, I revisited the idea several years later with an open mind … and, as outlined, I found that the truth was somewhere in between. You really don’t need to see your own car to use the side mirror most effectively.

    I think we CAN both agree that the mirror check alone will not give you the needed information when pulling away from a parked position — a blind spot check is vital to see if there are any cars, cyclists or pedestrians coming from a driveway across the street.

  1. May 11, 2013

    […] Having the side mirrors angled so you can see down the side of your vehicle can also help you leave a parked position. If you’re parked on the street and have a large vehicle parked behind you, your rear view mirror is useless as all you can see in it is the parked vehicle. If angled correctly, you can use the side mirror to see if there’s a vehicle approaching from behind. This will give you the needed information to pull away from the curb safely. Having the mirrors angled much further away from the vehicle won’t allow you to do that. ( ) […]

  2. January 19, 2014

    […] Read here what a Young Driver’s instructor thinks about this. […]

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