teen driver fixing her rearview mirror

How to Properly Position & Use Car Mirrors

Mirrors aren’t a major discussion point when learning how to drive or when taking your driver’s test, and yet they are the main cause behind merge and lane-changing accidents. Sometimes they are talked about, but often the wrong instructions are provided.

If your mirrors aren’t positioned properly, you could have huge blind spots, big enough for a truck to fit into. Luckily, you can eliminate blind spots completely by learning how to properly position and use your vehicle’s mirrors.

Are your mirrors positioned correctly?

How to Properly Position Vehicle Mirrors to Remove Blind Spots

Many drivers think that they should be able to see the side of their car when driving. While you may have a better view of the area right next to your car, your side-view mirror should show you what’s in the lane next to yours. You should not be able to see the side of your car while driving.

Following these steps will eliminate most, if not all, of your vehicle’s blind spots; however, you may still have a blind spot. After adjusting your car mirrors to the correct position, check to see where your blind spot is.

DRIVING SAFETY: Mirror adjustments will improve your ability to see the road, however, it should not replace checking over your shoulders for traffic. You should always glance over your shoulder when merging, changing lanes, or making any lateral movement.

  1. Adjust Your Seat

Before adjusting the vehicle’s mirrors, make sure you are sitting in the proper position for driving. Refer to your owner’s manual if you don’t know where your seat adjusters are located.

Move the seat forward and back, and up and down (if your car has this adjustment option). You should be able to comfortably reach the gas pedal, brake pedal, and if necessary, the clutch pedal.

Once you have adjusted your seat, buckle your seatbelt before positioning your mirrors. This ensures you are in the same position as when you are actually driving.

DRIVING SAFETY: Always buckle up when driving.

  1. Adjust Rearview Mirror

Check the rearview mirror positioning every time you get in the car and every time you change seat adjustments. Since vehicle vibrations can cause the mirror to move in small increments, you may also need to adjust the rearview mirror after you start driving.

DRIVING SAFETY: Only make rearview mirror adjustments when the vehicle is stopped. Check your rearview mirror every time you time you get in the driver’s seat.

When using this mirror, you want to be able to see as much of the back window as possible, using only your eyes, not your head. Sit in your normal driving position and adjust the rearview mirror in small movements until you can see clearly out of the back window.

For drivers taller than 6 feet: You may want to flip the mirror upside down. This can raise the bottom edge of the mirror a few inches, helping to eliminate a major blind spot.

What you should see:

  • The road behind you.
  • The horizon line.
  • A little space above the horizon line.
  • Try to see the entire rear window.

Do not angle the mirror so you can see more of one side of the road. If you are trying to see more of one side of the road, use your side-view mirrors. The rearview mirror should show a straight, even image of the back window.

DRIVING SAFETY: Check your rearview mirror every 5-8 seconds. By constantly referencing your rearview mirror, you’ll know who is passing you, who has already passed you, and who is acting sporadically or dangerously behind you. Check your mirrors often!

  1. Adjust Side-View Mirrors

You don’t want to see the side of your car; you want to see the car in the lane next to you. Adjusting your side-view mirrors in the following fashion will show you more of the lanes next to you.

Driver’s Side Window:

To adjust the driver’s side-view mirror, lean your head over to the driver’s side window until it makes contact with the glass. From there, adjust the driver’s side-view mirror until you can barely see the back corner of the car.

Passenger’s Side Window:

To adjust the passenger’s side-view mirror, lean the same distance toward the passenger’s side window (about as far as you can lean comfortably) and adjust the side-view mirror the same way—make sure you can see a little bit of the back corner of the car.

Side-View Mirror Adjustments:

Once you have adjusted your side-view mirrors this way, sit back in a normal position and make small changes from there.

Set your mirrors so that as soon as the passing car disappears from your rearview mirror, it shows up in your side-view mirror. You may need to make some small adjustments to get everything lined up.

This new position may take some time getting used to, but hopefully it greatly expands your vision of the road and eliminates all of your blind spots!

How to Properly Use Your Mirrors 

  • Look in your mirror every time you stop or start, pass a car, turn, merge, switch lanes, pull over.
  • Check your rearview mirror every 5-8 seconds.
  • Check your mirrors every time you get in the driver’s seat and readjust (if necessary)
  • Use your mirrors more often in irregular and high-traffic situations. The mirrors will help you navigate a difficult driving situation.
  • If you have an anti-glare function on your rearview mirror, consider activating it at night to reduce the glare effect from headlights behind you.

Remember M.S.M.O.G.

When changing lanes:

  • Mirror (rearview mirror)
  • Signal
  • Mirror (side-view mirror)
  • Over your shoulder
  • Go 

With these settings and instructions, you shouldn’t have any blind spots. Test your blind spot while driving to see if cars transition seamlessly from your rearview mirror to your side-view mirror.

Always check the mirrors before driving. You never know if they have been moved or if you were sitting in a different position since the last time you drove.

Remember, even perfectly positioned mirrors sometimes cannot eliminate all blind spots. Make sure you look over your shoulder before making any lateral moves.

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