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Driving tips

How to use your mirrors effectively

It's one of the first things you learn when you start driving lessons. Every time you need to change how you're driving in reaction to a road situation, you follow the same process:

  • Mirrors: check the rear-view and appropriate side mirror
  • Signal: indicate the direction you're taking either with your car position (when overtaking a bicycle, for example) or indicator, allowing for what you see in your mirrors
  • Manoeuvre: make your move smoothly and decisively while you know it's safe

So far, so memorised. But...

Are you just going through the motions?

Often you'll see a junction coming up and be so busy deciding which way you're going and what gear you should be in, you'll just flick your eyes towards your mirrors and back.

You're looking because that’s what it says in the book but are you making intelligent decisions based on what’s back there? If not, you're in the dangerous habit of what instructors and examiners call 'driving on rails'.

When and why you should use your mirrors:

  • Before moving off to check it's safe to pull out into traffic
  • Before signalling to check you won't confuse a driver behind you
  • Before any change of direction including turning, overtaking and changing lanes
  • Before any change in speed to make sure other drivers have time to react
Remember: Side mirrors are convex (curved outwards) so things look further away than they actually are!

If what you're about to do could interfere with anything that other road users (including pedestrians) are doing, you need to check your mirrors.

Learn what hazards to look for: if you're preparing to change lanes, is someone too close behind you or about to overtake?

Observe, plan, react

1. Decide what you are going to do

2. Observe who will be affected by what you are going to do

3. Let everyone know what you are going to do

4. Do it!
 
Now you've check in on your mirrors, take a look at how you should be using your car lights.

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Honor joined ingenie in 2014 and is in charge of words on the Young Driver's Guide and blog. Her first car is a Peugeot 206 cabriolet, which is a very sensible choice for the British climate. Follow her on .