Mirrors: Vision and Use

The mirrors along with the car windows are for the taking in of information. You need to know what is happening behind you and to the sides. This is in order to be safe and to know when to offer information to other road users. The process of using your mirrors will along with your field of vision increase your knowledge of what is happening behind you and to the sides.
To make proper use of your mirrors
To get the best use from your mirrors we must be able to:

  • Use as part of your driving routine
  • Understand different sorts of mirrors
  • Know how to adjust them
A good mirror habit will stand any driver in good stead. If you are aware of what is happening around you, you are in a position to start dealing with it.
Mirrors in MSM driving routine:
Adjusting mirrors

Mirrors are often referred to as the third eye. Their purpose is not just to make you aware of what is happening behind you. But also to be aware of what might be trying to move round you.

You are affected by what is behind you. For instance an amber traffic light will mean stop if you can do so safely. But if the car or worse still the lorry behind you is to close it will normally be better to keep going.

Note the other person may be in the wrong but it’s still down to you to avoid the accident.

Another example might be you are in a narrow road and about to give way. Checking your mirror shows another car behind you that would still be blocking the road if you stopped. So you would find a different space.

If you are about to turn and you see that you have a bike to your side it will be safer to wait.

You should use your mirrors every time that you change speed or direction or might have to change speed or direction. So look up ahead, see what’s happening and then check what’s happening behind you.

Most people check out what is going on around them when they are out and about. This might be looking in reflections to see who’s behind them or it could be looking around when going into a strange pub. The point is you check. Do the same in your car.

Having seen something, do something. Give a signal if that helps. Adjust your position or speed if that’s needed. You need to know what is going on around you to be safe!

Types of mirrors on your car:
types of mirrors

There are a number of different types of mirror surface:


This is a true picture of what you are seeing. This is the type of mirror you have indoors. In your vehicle it is your interior mirror.


This is curved outwards so it gives a wider field of view. but makes things seem smaller. It is normally used as an outside or side mirror. They make vehicles seem further away than they really are. But they also make the speed of approach of following vehicles seem slower than it actually is.


The surface changes for the purpose of increasing the field of vision. It will go from flat to convex and these are normally used as a side mirrors. The flat bit will be nearest the door and give a true picture. The curved or convex bit will give a wider field of view.

You will normally have 2 types of vehicle mirror.

The interior or rear view mirror which is flat to give a true picture of what is happening behind you. And the exterior or side mirrors which are curved to give a better view of what is happening behind you.

Rear view:

This is swivel mounted to allow adjustment to suit the driver. This will also allow for accidental knocking. There will also be an anti-dazzle position. If when you look at it, everything seems a bit dark you probably have the anti-dazzle on.

Side mirrors:

These are normally situated on the door: or the `A` pillar of modern cars. But older vehicles would have had them further forward on the wing. Which is why they are sometimes called wing mirrors. They are spring mounted to allow for being hit by other cars.

Depending on the manufacturer they can be: flat, convex or aspheric. A vertical line on the mirror will indicate a change of perspective i.e. from flat to convex. There may also be a warning that vehicles in the mirror are closer than it appears.

How to adjust them:
Adjusting interior mirror

They are for looking behind you. Mirrors are part of any driving routine.

They should always be kept clean and adjusted for the individual driver.

When adjusting they should be held on the edges. This is so as not to distort the image with finger prints.

When adjusting the interior mirror:

  • The top edge should run along with the top edge of the rear windscreen.
  • The edge of the mirror nearest the driver should run down the edge of the rear windscreen that is behind the driver. This is to be aware of overtaking vehicles.

When adjusting exterior mirrors:

  • The edge of the mirror nearest the side of the vehicle should just show the sides of that vehicle.
  • The horizon should in the middle of the mirror to give a long view to the rear.

Properly adjusted wing mirrors will help with manoeuvring particularly reversing into parking spaces and when you have things either side of you.

Using your mirrors properly should be part of your driving routine. You need to know what is happening around you. But also how to act safely based on what you’ve seen.

You need to be able to:

  • Set your mirrors up properly
  • Understand the difference in how near or far someone is in your rear or side mirrors
  • Use them as part of your driving routine
Further Reading:

The Highway Code Rule(s): 161

Driving The Essential Skills: Section(s) 4

The Story Of The Car Part 7: Mirrors


What’s in the driving syllabus?

Click on a topic below to get started.
Please note this syllabus should be used with a professional driving instructor.


Cockpit Drill

Safety Checks

Controls and Instruments
Moving Away and Stopping
Safe Position
Mirrors Vision and Use
Anticipation and Planning
Use of Speed
Other Traffic
Dual Carriageway
Motorway Driving
Country Roads
Pedestrian Crossings
Turning the Vehicle Around
Emergency Stop
Independent Drive
Fuel-Efficient Driving
Passengers and Loads