Using mirrors while driving

Driving tips

How to use your mirrors effectively

It's one of the first things you learn when you start driving lessons. Whenever you need to change how you're driving in reaction to a road situation, you follow the same process:

  • Mirrors: Check the rear-view and appropriate side mirror
  • Signal: Signal the direction you're taking with your indicator, allowing for what you see in your mirrors
  • Maneuver: Make your move smoothly and decisively while you know it's safe

So far, so memorized. But...

Are you just going through the motions?

Often you'll see a junction coming up and be so busy deciding which way you're going, you'll just flick your eyes towards your mirrors and back.

You're looking because that’s what it says in the book but are you making intelligent decisions based on what’s back there? If not, you're driving unresponsively, in what we like to call ‘zombie mode.’ (It’s not a good mode to be in, frankly.)

When and why you should use your mirrors:

  • Before starting out to check it's safe to pull out into traffic
  • Before signalling to check you won't confuse a driver behind you
  • Before any change of direction including turning, overtaking and changing lanes
  • Before any change in speed to make sure other drivers have time to react
  • While parking especially if you’re backing into a spot
  • Before getting out of your car to be sure that you don’t open your door into a cyclist
You should be glancing at your mirrors every 5 to 7 seconds as you drive.

If what you're about to do could interfere with anything that other road users (including pedestrians) are doing, you need to check your mirrors.

Learn what hazards to look for: If you're preparing to change lanes, is someone too close behind you or about to overtake?

Remember: Side mirrors are convex (curved outwards) so things look further away than they actually are!

Don’t forget to shoulder check

Part of using your mirrors wisely, is being aware of what they might miss. Turn your head and look over your shoulder to check your blind spots, especially in heavy or fast-moving traffic.


Honor joined ingenie in 2014 and is in charge of words on the Young Driver's Guide and blog. She started learning to drive last year, at the age of 24.