Q: What is a Rear View Mirror?

December 17, 2013 12:53 PM

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All cars come with a rearview mirror. However, drivers may not be sure to which mirror the term refers or how to properly use it. Rearview mirrors increase driver awareness, which results in heightened safety. For the sake of this article, we will limit the use of the term "rearview mirror" to the interior mirror that you use to look through the rear window of your car to see what's going on behind your vehicle.

Most cars have a rearview mirror affixed to the windshield. This mirror is adjustable so that drivers of different heights can move it to be able to look into it. It is intended to be used in concert with the exterior side-view mirrors, but not as a substitute for turning your head to look directly at where you're going. Rearview mirrors have been standard equipment for cars since 1914, and they may have been used on some horse-drawn carriages.

Most rearview mirrors have a night setting as well as a day setting. At night, others cars' headlights, particularly high beams, may be reflected directly into the driver's eyes, creating temporary blindness. Rearview mirrors solve this problem by allowing the driver to use a night setting that reduces glare. On some models, the driver tilts the mirror up, causing headlights to be reflected through a filter so that they are not as blinding. Some rearview mirrors feature automatic dimming of reflection at night. These mirrors use photosensors to gauge the level of light being reflected from the mirror. If the level of light is too high, the mirror automatically adjusts itself to dim the reflection.

Rearview mirrors are designed to enhance car safety. However, some vehicles like sports cars, vans, and even sedans can have a large trunk enclosure or a small rear window that limits the view of the road when looking into the rearview mirror. For this reason, these vehicles may have rearview cameras instead. These cameras are usually mounted to the rear bumper and project images to drivers so they can see small children or other obstacles when backing up.

It's important for drivers to use their rearview mirrors, especially when moving a vehicle in reverse gear. Rearview mirrors can also aid in changing lanes. When used in conjunction with the side-view mirrors, they can help motorists see oncoming traffic in adjacent lanes. It should be noted that using all of a vehicle's mirrors does not preclude the driver from needing to turn and look for potential problems.

Motorist should make sure they can look into the rearview mirror and adjust it as needed before beginning to drive, especially before shifting a vehicle into reverse. Rearview mirrors can help prevent accidents by allowing motorists to see what is behind them. If your car's mirror is broken or missing, it should be replaced as soon as possible.

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