Why would I check my mirror? I’ve already been there.
Let’s face it; we tend to look at ourselves in the mirror. It’s not really about being vain. It’s more like wanting to know that you look presentable without having any food still stuck in your teeth. Some people check the mirror to see if their hair is still looking good. I don’t have that problem any longer. But there’s still another reason to look in the mirror, especially while driving.
Many drivers check their rear view mirror as they drive but maybe not often enough. A good way to determine if you’re checking your mirror often enough is to count between checks. A good measurement is checking your mirror between 5 and 8 seconds. Some people say 10 seconds is good too. That’d fine, but to judge that time you should count to yourself and make a conscious decision when to check your mirror. This time frame is roughly one city block. And you may be asking; what could go wrong in one city block that makes me need to check my mirror? Good question.
For each block you travel you’re also going through intersections. After checking your mirror, a driver may pull out from that intersection and approach you from behind. Checking your mirror often will keep you up to date with what’s happening behind you. You’ll also be able to tell if the vehicle behind is gaining on you. When I ask my students that I’m teaching at Young Drivers of Canada, they’re pretty good with knowing that the image of the vehicle behind gets larger in the mirror if they are gaining on you.
Other times to check your mirror would be before and after turning. You want to see if a cyclist is coming up on your side before you make a turn. Perhaps another driver is trying to sneak beside your vehicle to make that same turn. Checking the mirror after the turn allows you to see what’s behind you, now that you’re on another road. One of the least times many drivers check their rear view mirror is while stopped. Most drivers tend to look around at most anything… except the mirror. If you need to move out of the way for an emergency vehicle or to avoid a rear crash, you’ll need to check your mirror often while stopped.
Now that we’ve talked about the rear view mirror, let’s talk briefly about the side mirrors. One reason to use your side mirror is to help you reverse into a parking space. Your side mirror can help you spot how close your vehicle is getting to that smaller parked next to you. Another reason can be seen from this photo. The cyclist approaching from the side is distracted with their cell phone. Checking the side mirror lets me know it’s not safe to pull out. If I don’t check and the cyclist is distracted, a crash could happen.
Checking the side mirror can be beneficial if a larger vehicle is directly behind you and completely fills your rear view mirror. The side mirrors can give you added views to what may be approaching from behind. For example, if you wanted to change lanes and a large transport truck was tailgating you, drifting slightly toward either side of your lane will allow you to see behind you through your side mirror.
Speaking of a large vehicle behind you, let’s say you’re stopped in traffic and a large vehicle is stopped behind you at your bumper. Since it may be difficult to see through that vehicle to know what’s approaching from behind them, you could be involved with the most commonly reported collision in North America – the rear crash.
Once you notice the larger vehicle is approaching from behind, you could begin to creep forward and drift to either side of your lane. Once you’re in that position, you’re now able to see through your side mirror to know if you need to get out of the way of a multiple vehicle collision. In order to be able to creep forward, you should leave extra space in front while stopped. More information of that technique can be found here.
Regardless of why you’re using your mirrors, make sure you are. I once had a licenced driver as a student who wasn’t checking their mirrors at all. When I brought it to their attention, they replied; “Why would I check my mirror? I’ve already been there”.