Know your car: The Mirrors

The mirrors are literally the eyes in the back of your head! They give you wider vision and show you what´s going on around you. There are 3 mirrors in the car; the rear view mirror and the 2 wing mirrors.


The rear view mirror is a flat mirror and shows you what is going on directly behind you. As the mirror is flat the reflection you see is TRUE, so the object you see is of actual distance and size. To set the rear view mirror hold the plastic casing of the mirror and adjust it so that it frames the 4 sides of the rear window without having to move your head too much to view. Try to avoid touching the mirror itself when adjusting as fingerprints on the mirror can blur the reflection.


The 2 wing mirrors are convex mirrors, which mean they are curved and allow you to get a wider vision on each side of the car. However, the objects you see in these mirrors are NOT true and they can appear to be further away than they really are. On your next driving lesson, whilst stationary, take a look in your rear view mirror and find an object that you can also see in one of your wing mirrors – notice the difference in distance and size?

As a result you should always check your mirrors in pairs – the rear view mirror and then either / or both of the wing mirrors. This should give you an accurate account of what is behind or to the side of you at any time.

Use of Mirrors

We MUST check our mirrors BEFORE we:

  1. Change direction and / or signal
  2. Change speed
  3. Approach a hazard
  4. Open the doors

Change Direction

To make sure that the space we are wishing to move into is clear and safe we need to check in our mirrors. This is BEFORE we turn a corner, turn right, emerge from a junction, change filter lanes or even move out from around a parked vehicle – BEFORE we change our direction in any way. In particular you need to look out for bikes filtering through at traffic lights and motorbikes overtaking you. It is important that you check your mirrors first and THEN signal as you may see something that stops you from changing direction. If you were moving off and you signalled without actually looking then any car approaching would think that you hadn´t seen them and would believe you were about to pull out in front of them. Reversing is also dangerous and you must check to see what´s going on around you BEFORE you start to reverse. There may be people crossing behind the back of the car or vehicles emerging out of the junction you are about to reverse into. Most importantly you need to act on the information you see in your mirrors. At filter lanes for example if you see there is a car already in the filter lane you can´t just force yourself over, you may need to slow down, let the car pass and then move over.

Change speed

You MUST check your mirrors BEFORE you move off, slow down or stop. Moving off is very dangerous and you need to check all around BEFORE you move into the road. If you see a vehicle approaching you can safely move out once the vehicle has passed. Parking your vehicle is also a dangerous manoeuvre and you can´t just stop the car! By checking in your mirror you will be able to see who is following you and give them plenty of warning about your intentions, signal in good time and start to slow down.

It is important to know you who is around you when you are about to accelerate also. If you are on a single carriageway and the national speed limit applies and there is oncoming traffic, it is important to make sure that no-one is about to overtake you as you start to increase your speed. This could start a very dangerous chain of events. Likewise though before you´re about to slow down you need to see how close the vehicle behind you is, you may need to brake more earlier to give the car behind more time to slow down. Sometimes the traffic lights change just as you are approaching them and you need to make a quick decision as to whether to stop or to proceed. By checking your rear view mirror on approach you will be able to see how closely the vehicle is following you, if the vehicle is too close to you it may actually be safer and wiser to proceed through the amber traffic light but if there is no one behind you then you should be able to stop.

Approach a Hazard

Situations develop all the time and you need to be prepared and ask yourself what if? What if that person steps out on to the road? What if that bus moves away? Pedestrians, animals, other road users; such as cyclists, delivery trucks, bin trucks buses and so on can all cause potential problems and by keeping an eye on what is behind us we can plan better for the things that happen in front of us.

Open the Doors

Always check the area behind you BEFORE you open the car doors otherwise you could cause a serious accident.


Whilst the mirrors help you to see what´s going on behind you they do not give you the 360° vision you really need. The area not covered by any of the mirrors is called the blindspot area. It is important then that when you are doing potentially dangerous manoeuvres such as moving off, reversing, merging into a traffic flow, overtaking or changing lanes at speed that you check over both your shoulders through the windows. Anything not covered by your mirrors should be visible through one of your windows.


The image above shows a yellow car in the process of overtaking us, and our field of vision out of the mirrors. The light blue band is an area that is only covered by the rear view mirror. The green bands are areas covered by both our rear view and wing mirrors. The pink bands are areas that are purely covered by our wing mirrors and the red bands are not covered by ANY mirror and are our blindspot areas.

The yellow car therefore could easily be missed by us if we did´nt look over our right shoulder into the blindspot area.