Mirror, mirror, on the wall, how do I adjust my rear-view mirrors?

Do you remember your first driving lessons? You probably had to do a series of checks and setting adjustments before you were given the keys to the vehicle.

Once we get our licence, however, we tend to take shortcuts. How many of us can say that we take the time to carefully adjust our rear-view mirrors when we get behind the wheel?

This routine, which takes but a few seconds, is critical for reducing blind spots and preventing accidents. Don’t know how to do it anymore? We’ve put together a little tutorial to refresh your memory.

Rear-view mirror ABCs

Did you know that in Quebec all cars must have interior and exterior rear-view mirrors, the latter on the driver’s side? Rear-view mirrors on the passenger’s side are recommended, but not mandatory.

These rear-view mirrors must be:

  • Clean and not cracked
  • Solidly attached
  • Installed in the right place

If your interior rear-view mirror is broken, you can have one installed on the exterior, on the driver’s side of your car.

Best practices for adjusting your rear-view mirrors

Before adjusting your rear-view mirrors, make sure that your seat is properly adjusted.

You should be able to easily reach the brake and accelerator pedals with your legs slightly bent, without changing position in the seat. Your right thigh should not touch the wheel when you move your foot from the accelerator to the brake pedal.

To adjust the backrest, sit back in the seat and put your hands on the wheel. Similar to your leg position, your arms should be slightly bent. If the car is driven by more than one person, adjust the headrest as well. The middle of the headrest should be at eye level.

Once the seat is adjusted, check that it’s locked in place and be sure to buckle your seatbelt!

How to adjust the interior rear-view mirror

There’s no doubt your kids are charming, but when you’re driving, don’t use the interior rear-view mirror to admire them. You should be watching traffic at all times when you’re at the wheel. Set your rear-view mirror so that you can see the vehicle driving behind you.

How do you know if it’s properly adjusted? You should be able to see the entire rear windshield in the rear-view mirror. You must be able to see the radiator grille and headlights of the vehicle behind you (provided, of course, that the driver is maintaining the recommended distance between cars) and the side of the vehicle in the right lane.

A little tip to avoid a hefty fine: Get rid of the tree-shaped car freshener, furry dice or old mask hanging from your mirror. A little-known law, Section 442 of the Highway Safety Code, stipulates that:

“No person may drive a road vehicle or ride a bicycle if a passenger, an animal or an object is so placed as to obstruct the driver’s view or to interfere with the proper handling of the vehicle.”

But your wallet shouldn’t be your first concern, but rather your safety and that of your passengers. So avoid hanging any objects on the rear-view mirror that could obstruct your vision (and maybe damage your reputation.)

How to adjust the exterior rear-view mirrors

Driver’s side

Support your head on the door window and adjust the rear-view mirror so that you barely see the back of your vehicle.

Here’s a trick: From the driving position, you should be able to see the handle of the backseat door in the lower right corner of the exterior rear-view mirror.

Passenger’s side

Lean your head to the right toward the centre of the car. Set your rear-view mirror so that you can just see the back of your car.

Here’s a trick: From the driving position, you should be able to see the handle of the backseat door in the lower left corner of the exterior rear-view mirror.

Those pesky blind spots

Even if you adjust your mirrors to the nth degree, your rear-view mirrors only give you a partial picture of your surroundings. Some areas around your car remain out of your field of vision. They are referred to as “blind spots.”

Every vehicle has blind spots

All vehicles have blind spots. The longer the vehicle, the bigger the blind spot area. In general, blind spots are located on the left side and back right side of the car. Before getting behind the wheel of a new or rental car, find the blind spots. To do this, ask someone to stand at the sides and at the back.

When and how can a blind spot be found?

You should be able to check your blind spots while maintaining your cruising speed. Here are situations when you need to check blind spots:

  • Changing lanes
  • Turning at intersections
  • Backing up
  • Leaving parking spots
  • Opening a car door
  • Passing another car

To check a blind spot, without changing your body position, rapidly turn your head to look over your shoulder on the side you want to check.

Routinely checking your blind spots and carefully adjusting your rear-view mirrors can help you avoid accidents, as well as the resulting insurance claims.

To learn more:

Consult the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) website.
Consult the Highway Safety Code