It’s important to be aware of everything that is going on around your vehicle – not just in front of it. Mirrors help us to easily see what is going on. But just when should you look at your mirrors? This post explains how often you should check your mirrors.

How often should you check mirrors when driving?

You should check your mirrors roughly every 5 to 8 seconds. This includes your rear view mirror (to check what is going on behind you) and your side mirrors (to check what is going on either side of your vehicle).

When driving at speed it’s worth checking your mirrors more frequently as incidents can occur more rapidly.

How do you check mirrors while driving

The order in which you should check your mirrors is this: 1) rear view mirrors 2) side mirrors 3) back to the road ahead.

Your mirrors should be set up so that you can check them at a glance from your normal driving position. If you have to lean forward or lean to the side to get a clear view, your mirrors are set up incorrectly and you should take the time to carefully adjust them.

Be wary that your mirrors do not show everything that is going on around your vehicle – there are times when it can be worth turning your head for a long look and looking behind you to see what is going on in blind spots (such as behind the back pillar of your car).

Use the Mirror-Signal-Maneuver (MSM) approach

You should always check your mirrors when carrying out a maneuver. This could include turning at a junction, changing lanes or parking at the side of the road.

The Mirror-Signal-Maneuver (MSM) approach is useful to remember as it reminds you exactly when to check your mirrors. It involves three simple steps: checking your mirrors, signalling and then making the maneuver.

If you’re moving your vehicle to the left, start by looking in your rear view mirror and then look in your left side mirror. Then put on your left signal and carry out the maneuver to the left.

If you’re moving your vehicle to the right, start by looking in your rear view mirror and then your right side mirror. Then put on your right signal and carry out the maneuver to the right.

Use triggers

Another easy way to remember when to look at mirrors is to use triggers. There are four triggers to remember:

  • When you want to turn, exit a road or join another road.
  • When you want to change lanes or road position (i.e. when parking).
  • When you’re braking
  • When you’re about to accelerate

It’s important to look at your rear view mirror and side mirrors when turning or changing lane to make sure that no vehicle is coming up beside you (a car may be trying to overtake or a bicycle may be coming up the inside – checking your mirror allows you to stop the maneuver if this is the case)

It’s important to look at your rear view mirror and side mirrors when braking to make sure that no vehicle is coming up too fast behind you (if a vehicle is following you fast and close, you can brake more gradually to give them enough time to react so that they don’t slam into the back of you).

It’s important to look at your rear view mirror and side mirrors when accelerating to make sure that no vehicles are in the process of overtaking you (if a vehicle is overtaking, you can then ease off the gas so that they can overtake you safely).

Enroll for defensive driving lessons

Checking mirrors is basic practice learned early on as a driver. Unfortunately, many experienced drivers get into bad habits of not checking their mirrors. These bad habits can be hard to get out of. This is where a defensive driving lesson can come in use – it can teach you to react to incidents as a driver – including checking your mirrors – so that you’re safer and more confident. If you think you could improve your mirror usage, consider one of these lessons.

Conclusion

Checking your mirrors should be part of your visual scan as you travel down the roadway. Even when driving on an open road without changing speed or direction, it’s worth still checking your rear and side mirrors just in case an incident is occuring behind you or beside you that you need to react to. Mirrors should be checked at different rates depending on where you are, how fast you’re going and what you’re doing – MSM and the four triggers are useful ways to remember when you should be checking mirrors. Make sure to turn your head and look over your shoulders for those times when you need to see what is going on in your blind spots – you shouldn’t rely wholly on your mirrors.