Adjusting Your Mirrors Correctly

Adjusting Your Mirrors Correctly

Don't assume that modern car door mirrors adjust themselves or you could be putting your life and others at risk. You need to adjust all three of your rear view mirrors so that you get the widest view possible while keeping your blind spots to a minimum. This is particularly important on multi-lane highways where you may have to keep tabs on lanes on both sides.

Many drivers do not turn their outside mirrors out far enough and simply duplicate the same scene in all three mirrors. Rule of thumb: If you can see even a glimpse of the sides of your car in your outside mirrors they are turned too far inwards.

Adjusting Your Mirrors Correctly

Before you drive away - After entering your vehicle, the very next thing on your agenda should be adjusting your seat and steering wheel, fastening your safety belt, and adjusting all three of your rearview mirrors.

  • Get comfortable - Adjust your seat so that you are high enough to see the road, yet can still reach all of the vehicle's controls. Many newer vehicles feature tilt and telescoping steering columns to help you get more comfortable. Some new Ford Motor Company products (Ford, Mercury, and Jaguar) offer electrically adjustable foot pedals that allow short, medium, and tall drivers a comfortable driving experience. If you don't have adjustable seats, and are still sitting too low, you should use a seat cushion, or better yet, have your mechanic raise your seat permanently. Do this before putting on your safety belt.
  • Interior rearview mirror - The positioning for the inside rearview mirror is fairly obvious; you should be able to see out of the rear window from the driver's seat. Be sure the day/night switch found on most rearview mirrors is in the day position during daytime operation. The night setting reduces the headlight glare from cars behind you and helps you see better.
  • Auto-dimming rearview mirrors - If you drive at night, you've undoubtedly experienced it - annoying and often dangerous glare from the headlamps of vehicles traveling behind you. While normal rearview mirrors are equipped with a day-night switch, automatic dimming mirrors darken to reduce glare from the headlamps of vehicles approaching from the rear. The brighter the glare, the darker the mirrors become, making nighttime driving safer. About 10% of vehicles sold in the US are currently equipped with this valuable safety feature. Usually auto-dimming mirrors can't be ordered separately and are only available as part of expensive luxury group packages.
  • Be aware of the SUV glare - In addition to other hazards posed by sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and trucks, their headlights are usually mounted at the same height as most normal car's rearview mirrors. When an SUV travels behind a car, the glare from its headlights is reflected off these mirrors directly into the driver's eyes. Dr. Alan Lewis, president of the New England College of Optometry, has done extensive research on the effects of glare. He found that during nighttime driving, headlight glare from vehicles traveling behind you can temporarily blind you, increasing your reaction time by up to 1.4 seconds, even after the source of the glare is removed. The time it takes to stop your vehicle, or to avoid someone in the oncoming lane, is doubled if you succumb to temporary glare blindness.
  • Exterior rearview mirrors - As for the side view mirror or mirrors, most people adjust them so they can see the side of the car on the inside edge of the mirror. If you adjust your mirrors using those criteria, are you aware of the huge blind spots that you've created? (Now is the time to take another look at the animated diagram at the top of the page.) Consider the view when the side view mirrors are set up as just described. Essentially, you have created "tunnel vision" to the rear. Your side view mirrors overlap much of what your inside rearview mirrors sees and you've also created blind spots. What in the solution to tunnel vision and blind spots? Simply adjust the side view mirrors just beyond the point where you could see the side of the car on the inside edge of the mirror. With this setup, you almost completely solve the blind spot problem. It takes a little while to get used to, but it is an improvement. Some quick tips: For the driver's side mirror: Place the side of your head against the window, then adjust the mirror until the side of your vehicle comes into view. For the passenger's side mirror: While sitting in the driver's seat, lean to the right so that your head is in the car's centerline. Adjust the mirror until the side of your vehicle comes into view.

You are now ready to begin your journey safe in the knowledge that you won't have an accident while trying to adjust them while you're driving.

Backing up - Most of us don't think twice about backing our vehicles out of a parking spot or driveway. We should, thousands of children are killed or seriously injured every year by inconsiderate drivers who "just didn't see" them. A quick walk around your vehicle before getting in and backing up is an easy way to help prevent a catastrophe. Even after a walk-around, double check all three of your mirrors before you put your vehicle in reverses. Be extra cautious in inclement weather as small children can slip on ice and snow, becoming lodged underneath a vehicle's tire. A good friend of mine accidentally ran over his young daughter in exactly that situation. She's been in a coma, on a ventilator for the past five years. Take great care in parking lots, residential neighborhoods, and especially near schools and playgrounds. Don't think it can't happen to you!

Using your mirrors on the road - Most drivers rely on their rear view mirrors for two things, backing up, and changing lanes on the highway. Not checking your blind spots - those areas just outside the field of vision - can have disastrous effects when merging onto the highway or changing lanes. One of the ways you can protect yourself is to make sure your vehicle's side and rearview mirrors are positioned for maximum road view. If all three of your mirrors are aligned correctly you should be able to see a vehicle leaving your rearview mirror seamlessly transfer to one of your side view mirrors without any delay. Vehicles present that aren't visible in your mirrors are the ones you need to worry about. Drivers with good peripheral vision will see them when they check their side view mirrors. However if you rely solely on your interior rearview mirror, you're asking for trouble. Thousands of accidents occur each year because people changing lanes fail to see a vehicle that is right next to them. Diligent use of all three of your rearview mirrors should prevent you from getting in another driver's way or cutting them off. A good guideline for deciding when to move into the passing lane or back into the traveling lane is to make sure that you can see the headlights of the vehicle you're passing in the rearview mirror.

Fig: Muth Signal MirrorsMuth Signal Mirrors - Muth Mirror Systems has introduced an innovative accessory for vehicles that helps drivers to ensure the safety of their family. Signal Mirrors use high intensity lights to change ordinary exterior rearview mirrors into safety features that command attention. When a turn signal is activated, a flashing chevron appears in the corresponding side mirror to alert drivers in the blind spot. The mirrors appear as regular rearview mirrors when the turn signals are not activated.

Many accidents are caused by lane-changing, freeway merging or front-to-rear pileups. Signal Mirrors are at the eye level of adjacent vehicles and are more noticeable than conventional tail lights. With the increased popularity of trucks, SUVs and mini-vans and the use of those vehicles for towing, the signal from a side mirror may be the only indication drivers a few car lengths back have of the intentions of the vehicle ahead. Tail lights may be hidden by these taller vehicles or by what is being towed.

The LED display used in Signal Mirrors lights up faster than regular incandescent lamps in tail lights. This accounts for a difference of 17 feet at 65 m.p.h. By alerting drivers in the blind spot of the vehicle equipped with Signal Mirrors, those drivers have additional reaction time to avoid a collision.

Unlike the adjacent drivers who see a highly visible lighted display, the driver of the vehicle equipped with Signal Mirrors sees a subtle tell-tale display. This reminds the driver the Signal Mirror is activated.

As you browsed 'Adjusting Your Mirrors Correctly' you may find interest in following articles . . .


Your 'too wide' pictures is actually probably the correct way to set them. You don't need to have overlapping coverage between rear and side; you just need to eliminate a blind spot big enough for a car to hide in. Your 'correct' picture probably creates a new blind spot between what the sideview sees and what your peripheral vision sees.

Here's how to set them:

For my notes

After reading the above mentioned comment and the suggested blogspot, I find that they are exactly the same!!!
The correct picture does not show the side of the car!!

In both the correct and too wide pictures, as well as the suggested blog, the side of the car is not seen. My point is that you need a more precise way to set them than 'adjust until you can't see your own car.' You actually need to adjust them a bit further out than that.

The diagram above, showing the slight space between points of vision is very deceptive. Although I agree, rear view for the rear, and side view for the side lanes, not side of the car, to say the space is not large enough to allow a car be missed, leaves out the possibility of a motorcycle. Though there should be minimal overlap of mirrors, they do need to cover the entire field of vision.

I agree they are exactly the same!

Having reviewed the subject of mirror adjustment, I have come up with conclusions:

1. The mirror adjustment as shown in the article -- is correct. The explained manner of adjustment -- wrong. The original adjustment is done as I have formerly mentioned: A Person standing a few metres behind the car's corner should be seen at both the outisde edge of the center mirror and the inside edge of the respective side mirror. In any cars, this means the mirrors are adjusted like explained in the article. In others -- not nessecarily.

2. With this setting we have a slight overlap between three fields of vision: The rearview mirror, the side mirrors and the peripheral vision of the driver when he looks to the side mirrors. This way, even if the rearview window is not fully seen (due to tall persons seating behind, etc...) or when the peripheral vision is narrow or the rearview mirror is somewhat neglected, the driver still has no blindspots ore atleast a minimum of them.

3. This mirror adjustment eliminates blindspots so that no car or bike can fully dissappear. Althogh the sides of the car are not seen, a scooter or bicycle cannot dissapear in the area not covered. The side of the car is only nessecary in very tight situations of parking, in which case the driver can lean his head over/readjust the mirrors/use mounted convex mirrors. We obviously drive forward more than we do backwards, and the speed, traffic and hazards involved in driving forward are greater, thus we will not adjust our mirrors in a manner than serves us while parking, but works poorly on the highway!

4. Another claim I have heard about adjusting your mirrors more closely is that the tail is used as a reference point should the mirror be knocked out of adjustment. However, with mirrors set this way, the driver can check the adjustment easily in several ways:

The first, to see when the edges of the car come into view: In most American cars, the edge of the car is only seen when the head is leaned against the glass/center of your car as described above. Second, to see how cars and bikes in traffic go around us without losing eye contact through the mirrors.

5. With this mirror adjustment, there is no point in looking over your shoulder and behind. By peeking towards your mirrors or by leaning your head slightly sideways, you recieve the nessecary information. A shoulder peek to the side, rather than a shoulder check behind.

This setting is too wide. The correct setting is such where the edges of the car disappear from the mirror on the driver's side, and slightly more opened in the far end of the car.

You check to see that a person viewed in the very edge of the rear-view mirror, is spotted on the inside edge of the respective side mirror.

i found this site while doing some research on night driving. I just wanted to ask, really? There are really that many opinions and discussion on mirror adjustment? I mean really? Come on, you're kidding right?

In my opinion, adding small blind spot mirrors to your existing sideview mirrors is the way to go (make sure to get high quality ones). This in ensures you have no blind spots, even if your adjustment is slightly off. I'm surprised industry hasn't just required such mirrors to be part of the original manufacturer's design....this would eliminate all blind spots.

On a side note, most peformance driving schools will tell you to adjust your sideview mirrors slightly wider than what you show in your 'normal' view. This helps eliminate the blind spot where the car is just shy of your peripheral vision.

As a professional, I totally agree with the philosophy of turning your side mirrors out to where the side of the car is not visible. I, professionally speaking, do not endorse the use of convex mirrors glued to the surface of the planar (flat) mirrors due to numerous safety concerns addressed by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. The bottom line, regardless of how you use your mirrors, is to, without fail, do your
headcheck. Never trust the mirrors 100%.
The mirrors are safety equipment and should be adjusted properly to be used properly.

The best article I've seen on this. The picture paints a thousand words!

The first thing I do when I get in my car is check my mirrors. Although I know they are in adjustment I like to make sure. It's just a matter of safety.

The first thing I do when I get in my car is check my mirrors. Even though I know they are adjusted right I like to make sure. It's just a matter of safety.

I was looking for thumb rule but you don't have it

I have the final answer to the subject of mirror adjustment and blind-spots. We have several fields of vision around our car:

1.The area directly behind our car and to the sides is covered by the interior mirror. Say, hours 4-7 O'Clock.

2. The areas to our left and right and behind is covered by the side mirrors. Say, hours 4-3 and 7-9.

3. The area to our front and to the sides is covered by our peripheral vision.

Our peripheral vision coverage changes from person to person and it is usually slightly bigger than 180 degrees, and more when we tilt our head slightly to look in the mirror (which also gives us a better view through the mirror itself) and even more so when we do a "shoulder check."

When our mirrors are "closed up" as to see the sides of our car, our side mirrors show us a relativelly small coverage of what is directly behind us but not so much to our sides, basically overlapping with our interior mirror. True, this has the advantage of being able to see behind in spite of obstructions like head restraints and passengers, and it's better for parking - but there are other solution for those issues.

The idea is to open up the mirror so they only overlap as little as we need them to be with the interior mirror. This means that we still don't miss anything (Except for a few centimeters besides our car - too little for anything to fit there), but we see much better to our sides.

If we get it just right - we should be able to see cars and bikes within a lane's width to each side - first in the interior mirror, than overlapped between the interior mirror (near it's edge) and in the side mirror (near it's edge) and than in the side mirror and THAN in the side mirror and our peripheral vision, never fully in between the two and in the blindspot!

The solution is to open the mirrors according to an object behind which should use as a point of reference: If you can see a small object like a person standing five-six feet behind you in the rightmost corner of the interior mirror and the leftmost corner of the right door-mirror, than you got the overlap just right.

In most cars, I've found that you need to open the driver's side mirror untill you just CAN'T see the edge of your own car, and open the passenger's side mirror as described in the article. If you wish to see behind and there's something obstructing your view through the interior mirror - just tilt your head slightly.

However! The blind spot does not vanish completly! It can still often hide a small bike, scooter or cycles, especially if they place themselves across the lane when you are in the center of farside of the other lane, or when they move over from the third lane or from the shoulder of the road. Even when the object is seen in the mirror or peripheral vision, you might get a glimpse of too little of it to actually realize it's there.

The solution for this blindspot:
1. Check the mirrors frequently (eight to ten times per minute as a rule of thumb) so you always know what's around you.

2. Tilt your head gently when you check your mirrors to move over. Check both the interior mirror and relevant exterior mirror.

3. Change lanes late, after signaling in advance and move over as gradually as possible - while taking at least one more glimpse at the interior mirror.

4. Before moving over - make a quick shoulder check. You don't need to turn your head around, just cock it slightly to the relevant direction (30-45 degrees) and quickly back straight before moving over. You can also get a similar effect by leaning forward when you check the mirror.

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