Mr Instructor K53 Driving School

Learner's and Driver's Licensing the trusted way!

How often should you check your rear view mirrors when driving?

How often do you think you should check the rear view mirrors (interior centre mirror and exterior side mirrors)?  Would you believe me if I told you that you that checking your rear view mirrors every 5 to 8 seconds is ideal?

Well, it's true.  It is just as important to know what's happening on the road behind you as it is to watch the road in front of you.  Also check your mirror before you slow down, before and after turning or changing gears and while stopped.  This will keep you informed of what's approaching you from behind.  Often it might be a better idea to rather keep driving, change a lane, etc. to avoid being involved in a rear end crash.

Also check your mirrors before you are about to pass an intersection.  If someone should drive through their traffic light or stop sign from your left or right-hand side, do you know what is happening around your vehicle to allow you to take an immediate course of action?

Checking the mirrors has a lot to do with short term memory.  If you glance in the mirror, do you really remember what you saw?  Not really.... but you would have noticed if there was another vehicle close to your vehicle and that's the point.  It allows you to make better informed decisions when driving.  Remember that you should not stare into the mirrors, i.e. take your focus off the road in front.  Only use them as a quick reference.

Do you use the rear view mirrors to see who may be coming up beside you as well?  For example, the driver you just saw in your mirror who is driving in the next lane to yours may be entering your blind spot (a blind spot is where another vehicle disappears from your mirrors but cannot be seen in your peripheral view yet). Once you check your mirror again, you need to recognize if they aren’t visible any longer. Where did they go? Did they turn off that road, or are they hidden within your blind spot? Short term memory needs to be used so you can remember what you saw and respond accordingly.

Having the side mirrors angled to see down the side of your vehicle can also help you change lanes, leave a parked position, etc.  If you have a large vehicle parked behind you or driving behind you, your interior rear view mirror is useless, as all you can see in it is the large vehicle.  If your side mirrors are angled correctly, you can use them to see if there's a vehicle approaching from behind the large vehicle.  This will give you the needed information to change a lane or pull away from the pavement safely.  Having the side mirrors angled much further away from your vehicle won't allow you to do so, as you won't get an accurate picture.  Set up your side mirrors to see a sliver of your own vehicle and the rest should see what's next to your vehicle.  Set the side mirrors at eye level (when you look into the side mirror you should see a bit of the road surface and the road behind you, showing other vehicles).  This will usually allow you to see past that larger vehicle behind you and see if another vehicle is approaching too fast from behind.  This will give you the information and time needed to avoid a rear end crash.

After completing a turn is also a good time for a mirror check. I’ve seen drivers make a turn onto a busy street with other drivers approaching quickly from behind them. If they checked their mirrors immediately after turning, they would see the drivers approaching from behind and could respond by speeding up to avoid slowing down the traffic flow. Using the information that is seen through the mirror is equally as important as checking the mirror. Why check the mirror if you aren’t going to use the information as a driver?

Keep yourself safe and check your mirror frequently to help you make decisions while you're driving.  Sometimes you will be in a situation where you will have to make a decision and respond in a split second and when this happens you should already know what other traffic surrounds your vehicle...

Remember:  check those mirrors every 5 - 8 seconds!