Using information from mirror checks
How often do you think you should check your rear view mirror? Would you believe checking the rear view mirror every five to eight seconds is ideal? It’s true! It keeps you up to date with what’s happening behind you. If you also check your mirror before you slow down or speed up, before and after you make turns and while stationary, it will keep you properly informed with what’s approaching you from behind.
Checking the mirror has a lot to do with short term memory. If you glance in the mirror, do you really remember what you saw? Do you use it 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 from yours may be entering your blind spot. 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. Many people forget what they’ve seen in their mirrors. Experts have tested this theory many times with experienced drivers; not just novices. The standard test is for the assessor to notice the driver checking the rear view mirror, then to cover it up with a hand and ask them what was behind them.
More times than not they can’t remember, and they often look into their side mirror to answer the question.
So, why can’t they answer accurately, right away? Why did they check their mirror if they didn’t get any information from it?
Improving your short term memory is very important if you’re going to use the mirrors more effectively. There are many cognitive training programs out there that can help you improve your short term memory and remember more things while driving.
It would most likely be a good investment of time and money if we all made efforts to improve our cognitive skills. Having the side mirrors angled so you can see down the side of your vehicle can also help you leave a parked position. If you have parked on the road and have a large vehicle parked behind you, your rear view mirror is useless as all you can see in it is the parked vehicle. If angled correctly, you can use the side mirror to see if there’s a vehicle approaching from behind. This will give you the needed information to pull away from the curb safely. Having the mirrors angled much further away from the vehicle won’t allow you to do that.
As to mirror checks, some drivers really do check their mirrors within that ideal 5 to 8 second frequency, while others need to improve the frequency of their glances. Maybe they thought it was every 5 to 8 minutes!
So, check mirrors:
• Before setting off
• Before changing speed (on approach to a speed limit change, for example)
• Before and after a manoeuvre
• Every five to eight seconds as part of a regular sequences of glances immediately ahead, far ahead, down to the speedometer and in all the mirrors
We have all seen drivers making turns onto busy roads 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? These suggestions would not only help you, but help the other road users around you.