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New driver told not to use mirrors

Hi folks,
My wife recently started taking driving lessons, and her instructor has told her not to use her mirrors, even during lane changes. He insists that she should be turning her head all the way to check behind her, even during lane changes. We live in MA, and he has said that this is necessary because the RMV might fail her driving test if she “uses her mirrors too much.”
I have never heard anything like this before, and it strikes me as dangerous; I would never do a lane change this way. However, I did once hear a caller on the show say she “got in trouble” for using her mirrors too much on her driving test. So, is there any truth to this? Or should we be looking for a different instructor?

Sounds like an over compensation. It’s difficult to tell when some is using their mirrors during a test, easier if you see them turn their head. The instruction should be to always do both. The instructor probably can’t use mirrors himself and does feel confident on how to use them. Usually it’s laziness as using mirrors is a separate skill altogether. If mirrors weren’t necessary, they would not be put in the most obvious places.

IMO, one of the most essential pieces of safety equipment is power mirrors.

Yep, instructor’s overdoing it. It’s better to do both, with SMOG:
S = Signal
M = look at Mirrors
O = look Over your shoulder to the lane you moving into
G = Go

Note to self: just take the long way to VT through NY state from now on.

Seriously, that person should not be allowed to drive, let alone teach others.

I think the main point is that the driver should turn his or her head to check for cars in the blind spot before changing lanes. I’ve been run out of a lane more than once by drivers who don’t do this.

As for using the mirrors, the driver should be checking the mirrors frequently enough while driving to already be aware of whether or not other cars are nearby, although of course they should be checked again as part of changing lanes.

I was taught exactly as texases mentioned. Mirrors are there to be used but not to be solely relied upon. How hard is it to glance over your shoulder as a last verification step?

I’d be willing to bet it’s as dagosa mentioned, if you are moving only your eyes to look in mirrors, they may assume you’re not looking at all. And for a beginner driver, checking twice is probably a good thing…

In part from the MDOT driving test.
In addition to judging a customer’s overall driving skills, the examiner will note how well the customer follows general good-driving procedures, including whether he/she:

  1. Uses good driving posture, with both hands always placed properly on the wheel
  2. Drives in the proper lane and looks carefully and signals properly before changing lanes
  3. Maintains enough distance between his/her vehicle and the one ahead of him/her
  4. Always drives at safe speeds to comply with speed limits and varying traffic conditions
  5. Properly yields the right-of-way
  6. Is generally aware of his/her actions and particularly those of other drivers
    RE: #2
    It looks like the examiner will expect the driver to turn and look. My guess, the instructor wants to be sure the new driver has developed the habit of looking. It sounds like the instructor is teaching to the test.

Unless you have bad blind spots, like in a van, minivan, or SUV, looking over your shoulder covers more real estate than looking at the mirrors. You should use the mirrors to keep track of the cars around you, so when you are ready to change lanes, looking over your shoulder should confirm what you already know, that the space next to your car is empty.

If you drive a van, minivan, or an SUV, your blind spots might be bad enough that your mirrors are the only way to check the area next to your car, and if that is the case, you should install round fish eye mirrors a corner of each side view mirror to expand your view.

The important thing is to get in the habit of looking over your shoulder. It will save your butt in a car, and it will save your life on a motorcycle. Once you have developed good habits, you can use both your mirrors and look over your shoulder.

The way I drive, I look at my mirrors when I am thinking about changing lanes, but I look over my shoulder after I’ve signaled. Actually, you should be checking your mirrors routinely, even if you’re not planning to change lanes.

In short, I think that driving instructor is an idiot. When you’re head is swiveling around to all sides because you don’t use your mirrors, you’re taking your eyes off the road in front of you, which seems pretty dangerous to me.

Agree with the others that instructor is wrong.

Here’s a great method for asjusting mirrors to eliminate blind spots. I heard it from Tom and Ray a while back and have used it ever since, and it is far superior to the way most of us were first taught.

is the school nuts, i was tought keep your eyes moving left-right-up-down and keep it up.

I go so far as to say ‘Find a new teacher!’. While they may be trying to ensure she passes the test, they’re teaching a BAD habit that could last a lifetime.

Thank you all for the great responses. I remember my driver’s ed being much more thorough, and definitely taught better mirror technique, so your responses validate my feelings. I don’t like what this guy is teaching either. What’s scary is that we did do a lot of research, and this guy had fantastic online reviews. Not sure what’s going on there, but it seems a little fishy.
Also appreciate jesmed’s mirror technique and will try that out.

Before criticizing the instructor, is it possible that he/she actually told your wife that the mirrors should not be “relied upon” [meaning solely] to see what’s beside and around her? Could she have misunderstood or misquoted?

IMHO the driver should do everything possible to see everything around him/her routinely a part of safe driving, and especially before making any changes in lane or direction. That incliude the use of mirrors AND looking. Perhaps drivers that are failed fail because they use ONLY the mirrors, and that truely is insufficient.

Good question, but she definitely did not. Also, some of the people who did have negative reviews online also complained about the “no mirrors” rule that he uses.

“No mirrors” makes no sense. The point is, you check mirrors first, with minimal head motion required. If you see another car in the mirrors, you don’t change lanes.

But if the mirrors are clear, THEN you turn your head and look.

It sounds like the instructor is trying to impress on his students the importance of turning your head to see what’s in the blind spot, but that’s what you do AFtER you’ve checked in the mirrors.

However, if you have set your mirrors to eliminate blind spots as described in Tom & Ray’s article, once you do it correctly and learn to trust it, you never have to turn your head again.

Sounds like teaching to the test, rather than defensive driving. Lots of things will get points removed in the driver’s test that are defensive, like stopping to far past a stop sign so you can see traffic. You should be looking in the mirrors an average of every 7 seconds, and the mirrors will not cover the blind spot, only turning your head will do that. People seem to love to ride in other people’s blind spots so you have to do both.

Sounds like lousy instruction to me. When you drive a truck or a bus, sometimes the outside mirrors are your only hope. I adjust my mirrors by Tom and Ray’s method, with slight tweaks for the size of my particular car and mirrors. If this is done properly, blind spots are nearly eliminated.

You should glance to the side to make absolutely sure you’re not merging into another car, but turning your head to the rear and searching while going 65 MPH isn’t real smart.

If you set the mirrors according to the link in jesmed’s post, there is not blind spot and you don’t need any fisheye mirrors. It works. Some of us have limited mobility as we age and it is necessary to rely on the mirrors, but if you can turn your head, you should do that also.

I have to respectfullly disagree that “it works” can be made as a blanket statement. All vehicles are different. In many, like mine, it does not work. Besides, no matter how you adjust the mirrors, it is never a good idea to rely solely on the mirrors…or, for that matter, solely on turning your head. And if you build reliance on just one method or the other into your driving behaviors, there just may come a dark & rainy night when you’ll wish you’d done both. Dark & rainy nights are the “acid test” for visability in potential blond spots.