Mirror observations and blind spot checks

Struggling with mirror and blind spot checks? Don't worry - driving instructor Chris Bensted is here to help in this episode of the Driving Instructor Masterclass


By Marmalade Author

Updated on Jan 25th, 2021

Up there with ensuring your car is safe to drive, and having the right insurance in place, one of the most important parts of safe driving and avoiding accidents is being aware of your surroundings. We do this by checking our mirrors (and blind spots). Between 2017 – 2018, checking mirrors when changing direction came in 2nd of the top 10 reasons as to why people failed their driving test. Insufficient observation at junctions and not using mirrors effectively when changing direction accounted for 368,047 test failures during this time* – that’s a lot of people not passing for something really simple – but don’t worry, we’re here to help!

In this episode of the Driving Instructor Masterclass, Chris Bensted is going to talk you through mirror observations – giving you top tips and advice on checking those mirrors to ensure you aren’t marked down for this on your test. Check out his handy video below!

How to adjust your car mirrors

In order to adjust your mirrors correctly you need to do the following:

  1. Sit in the driver seat and ensure the seat and steering wheel position is comfortable for you. You need to have clear and easy access to the gear lever and be able to reach the pedals comfortably.
  2. Gently move the rear-view mirror so you can see directly out the middle of the back of the car without moving your head. The goal is that you’ll be able to quickly glance up and see what is happening behind you, without having to move your head or body
  3. Locate how you move the door mirrors. Some cars will have electronic buttons meaning you can control both door mirrors from the driver’s side. Other cars have small levers on each side, with are using to manually move each mirror
  4. Adjust the driver’s side mirror first. Again, sit in the comfortable position you have found and move the mirror to ensure you can clearly see the road next to you and a small sliver of the car
  5. Next you need to adjust the passenger door mirror. Again, you should be able to see part of the road and the space outside as well as a small sliver of the car. You may need to switch to and from the passenger and driver’s seat to do this, or ask a friend to move it for you whilst you check the positioning from the driver’s seat
  6. And you’re done! Sit back in the driver’s seat and make sure you can see clearly out of all the mirrors you have adjusted and amend if not. You’ll need to ensure the mirrors are checked every time you get in the car, and are moved should your seating position change before you set off

Which mirrors do I check and when?

Using your mirrors regularly is an essential part of driving safely. You must be aware of what is happening around you, so you can make decisions based off this. Which mirrors you use will depend on your situation on what you plan on doing next

Before any manoeuvre, you should always check your mirrors – including:

  • Pulling away: Check your internal mirror to see what is going on behind you, check all the outside mirrors and check your blind spot
  • Changing lanes: Check the interior mirror, then all outside mirrors and the blind spot of the direction you’re going
  • Overtaking: Check all your mirrors, especially the right wing mirror to ensure the path is clear. You also need to check your right side blind spot
  • Turning left: Check the interior mirror to see what is behind you before turning, then your left door mirror. You should also check your interior mirror once you have performed the manoeuvre
  • Turning right: Check the interior mirror to see what is behind you before turning, then your right door mirror. You should also check your interior mirror once you have performed the manoeuvre
  • Slowing down/Stopping: Check your interior mirror to see what is behind you before slowing down or stopping. Someone following you too closely may fail to stop when you start to brake. Checking your mirrors means you may have to slow down more gently if there is someone too close to you
  • Opening doors: Check your mirrors and blind stop before opening your car door – there may be other cars/pedestrians around and you may have to wait for them to pass

Where are the biggest risks to not checking your mirrors?

You’ll most likely forget to check your mirrors in your driving test because of the nerves – it can make you forget even the most basic of skills. It may be easy to think that there are no real consequences of not checking your mirrors but when you’re driving, they’re essential and not checking them correctly can be fatal. Swapping lanes in front of another car, are braking harshly without checking who is being you, not checking your blind spots etc, can all lead to collisions either with other road users or pedestrians. Whilst this is unlikely to occur in a driving lesson (your instructor or accompanying driver will be keeping a good eye out), when you’ve passed your test and you’re on your own, doing these checks yourself is essential. Make sure you show you're able to check your mirrors and blind spots yourself on your test and we're sure you'll pass! 

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