Mirror mysteries solved

Many pupils struggle with mirror use mainly because of a full understanding of why they need to be checked. There is a direct relationship between what you see ahead and how you respond to what you see ahead is effected by what is behind you. I will cover this in more detail later.
So what does the Highway Code tell us about the mirrors?
Rule 159
Before moving off you should

  • use all mirrors to check the road is clear
  • look round to check the blind spots (the areas you are unable to see in the mirrors)

Rule 161
Mirrors. All mirrors should be used effectively throughout your journey. You should

  • use your mirrors frequently so that you always know what is behind and to each side of you
  • use them in good time before you signal or change direction or speed
  • be aware that mirrors do not cover all areas and there will be blind spots. You will need to look round and check.

You can see that the rules are very simple and you can easily apply them. My advice always follows ‘Must, should, could’
In the Highway Code;
‘Must’ is a legal requirement and will be highlighted in red.
‘Should’ is something you really need to do
And ‘could’ is something that it ‘may’ be wise to do depending on the situation or circumstances.
Let’s apply this to moving off as an example;
• You SHOULD check your centre and right hand mirror (if moving off to the right)
• You could check your left hand mirror depending on where you are parked.
So, why MUST you check your centre and right hand mirror? Normally I would ask this of a pupil and I am sure you would give me the answer. Hopefully you agree you need to know what is behind and as the car will be moving to the right, what is to the right.
You COULD check your left had mirror. This is a ‘could’ because it really depends on the circumstances. Every situation is different and only you as a driver will know if you give it thought each time. This cause much confusion with instructors with many saying you MUST check all around and some saying not. I bet you could give me scenarios when you would and would not need to.
As a driver you will now know what is in front and what is behind so now you can decide if it is safe to pull out. Of course rule 161 also says check your blind spot, what blind spot do you think you MUST check and what one COULD you check?
Whenever the car moves to the right or left the same rule applies. For right moves or turns you must check the centre and right and for left you must check the centre and left. You could also check the opposite mirror depending on circumstances.
Changing speed either slowing or going faster requires a MUST for the centre mirror. Ok so you get into the habit of this because, well you’re driving instructor tells you to do it but why do we need to really.
Let’s take a traffic light scenario on green, you check your centre mirror and you see nothing at all. Now what would you do with your speed? You can maintain your speed. Why? What might happen? Well the green light might change so you have to stop. Can you? Well yes because you know there is nothing behind you so you could maintain your speed.
Let’s look again but this time a vehicle is very close, now you will need to ease of the gas a little. Why? Because if you have to stop this time it could be dangerous so by coming off your gas the car behind will need to start braking slightly earlier, if the light changes they are already on their brake pedal so everything is safe.

How often should you check your mirrors?

I have heard many instructors over the years saying, every 2 seconds, 3 seconds and other stuff yet again our answer lies in the Highway Code. The Highway Code say’s ‘frequently’. Well ow often is frequently? I am sure if I asked you what that means you would give me a good answer. Would you check more frequently in busy areas? On the motorway or in country lanes, would it be more or less? Every situation will be different and you will soon get a natural feel for what is required. Do not worry with specific times but a rough rule; the more you change speed or direction the more you are likely to check your mirrors.

Simple recap

Remember to check you mirrors whenever you are changing speed or direction.
Check your mirrors frequently

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