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Driving You Crazy: Why don't most people know how to set their side mirrors?

Tilt it the right way so you can see the lane
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Posted at 7:09 AM, Dec 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-30 09:11:09-05

Tim from Littleton writes, “What is driving you crazy? Most people do not know how to set their right side mirror. Tilt it all the way out so you can see the lane next to you. Not your fender.”

Most car experts agree with you, Tim, but most drivers like to see the side of their car in their side view mirror.

I was reading a paper by The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) where they suggest the outside mirrors should be adjusted so far outward that the viewing angle of the side mirrors just overlaps that of the cabin’s rearview mirror. That seems really far out there. They say this can be disorienting for drivers used to seeing the sides of their own car in the side mirrors. The SAE says when correctly positioned, the mirrors negate a car’s blind spots and eliminates the need to glance over your shoulder to safely change lanes. They say the only problem is getting used to it.

The SAE writes that the rearview mirror should be used to keep an eye on what is coming up from behind, while the side mirrors reflect the area outside the view of the inside rearview mirror. That is why they recommend the angle to be so wide out there. They say drivers who have switched to the wide approach swear by it, however, some drivers can’t adjust to not being able to see their own car in the side mirrors.

MORE: Read more traffic issues driving people crazy

AAA makes this suggestion to adjust the driver’s side view mirror -- place your head against the left side window and set the mirror so you can just barely see the side of the car in the mirror’s right side. AAA says to adjust the passenger’s side view mirror, position your head so that it is just above the center console. Set the mirror so you can just barely see the side of the car in the left side of the mirror.

AAA says with these settings, you will have almost seamless visual contact around your vehicle, which can help you detect the presence of nearby drivers. For example, when being passed by a vehicle in the lane to your left, you will see it progress from the rearview mirror, to the left side mirror and then to your side vision.

Personally I try to follow these guidelines like you, Tim, but I sure do miss seeing the side of my car in the side view mirror.

Denver7 traffic reporter Jayson Luber says he has been covering Denver-metro traffic since Ben-Hur was driving a chariot. (We believe the actual number is over 20 years.) He's obsessed with letting viewers know what's happening on their drive and the best way to avoid the problems that spring up. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter or listen to his Driving You Crazy podcast.