Wide-Angle Side Mirrors: Useful or Annoying?

Ford-fiesta-side-mirror
Each year, more and more gadgets are added to the equipment lists of new cars. But it's not just gadgets. Simple features, such as extendable sun visors and wide-angle side mirrors, are also popping up. I’m all about the former, but the verdict is still out on the latter.

I started noticing the wide-angle side mirror trend last fall when I drove the redesigned-for-2012 Honda CR-V. These mirrors seem to be everywhere, including many Ford vehicles and my last test car, the Ford Fiesta.

On the Fiesta (above), the side mirrors house a separate, smaller mirror in an upper corner. It's a slightly domed square that provides a wide-angle view, like a fisheye lens. They’re similar to ones you can buy at the local car-care store that stick onto regular mirrors.

The CR-V's wide-angle mirror (below) is limited to the driver's side. It's more convex — an entire quarter of the mirror is angled for a wider view. And it's actually part of the mirror itself; it doesn’t look stuck-on.

In both cars, I found the standard added mirrors distracting and disorienting. 

2012-honda-cr-v-mirror
Every time you glance at the side mirrors, it takes an extra beat to figure out the view. Also, the wide-angle mirrors use up valuable space on an already small surface, especially with the Fiesta's tiny mirrors.

Sure, these mirrors help eliminate blind spots, but wouldn't setting your mirrors correctly do the same thing? The Cars.com editorial staff recently took a defensive driving class at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Ill., and learned some tips:

  • Most people adjust the side mirrors so they can see the side of the car, not realizing this creates big blind spots.
  • Instead, adjust the mirrors so that the side of the car is just out of view, decreasing the size of your blind spots.
  • For the driver's side, lean toward the window, and the side of the car should come into view. Lean a little toward the center of the car to adjust the passenger-side mirror accordingly.
  • If the side mirrors are set correctly, a car that passes you should move from the rearview mirror to the side mirrors, without disappearing in a blind spot.

Related
Sun Visors That Come Up Short
Different Methods Can Conquer Blind Spot
More Safety News on Cars.com

Comments 

Bob

+1 to this article. Convex side mirrors would be unnecessary if people set their mirrors correctly.

Chris K

I agree that most people don't set their mirrors up correctly, but I'd love a convex mirror anyway. It's impossible in my car to set my mirrors so all three give complete coverage of cars that have not yet drawn even with me, so a convex mirror that covers even 60 degrees would be very useful to me.

I'd prefer a thin horizontal strip of convex at the top of the mirror, because that would allow the least amount of image distortion, and I also don't tend to need much vertical space on my mirror.

Lance

I learned in driver's training how to adjust mirrors as described and can see all cars approaching from rear and then on either side with just a glance right or left. Absolutely no blind spots in any car/or truck I've owned.

My concern is how do these new convex additions affect people that did have their mirrors adjusted correctly? Personally, I'd rather have a choice but if no choice I'd rather stick with my old flat mirrors and just adjust them correctly in the first place.

turrboenvy

I have one of them (like the CRV) on my 2003 Saab. I have my side mirrors set correctly and still find it quite useful. It took a little getting used to, but I find it useful.

Matt C.

I have them on my truck. Once I got used to them I started to use them all the time, especially when my rear view mirror view is blocked by what ever I might be hauling.

J

For myself, I preferred seeing a little bit of my vehicle's body so that I can more accurately assess the distance between the objects in the mirror in relation to my vehicle's position.
In order to compensate the blind spot issue, I have a mirror extender to mount on the rearview mirror.
Who is to say that is a wrong thing to do?

Garry

I was taught to look over my Shoulders in the Blind Spots. I drive a Van and sometimes those small economy cars like to hide there. I have my Mirrors adjusted to take advantage of as much of the Road behind me as possible, but I do still rely on (Aftermarket) Convex Mirrors to an extent. I Believe it to be a great addition, but unnecessary. Though I have seen others Crouching to look into their Review Mirrors to see in their Blind Spots.

jenn

I have these mirrors on my Fiesta, and I don't like them. Maybe I need to be trained how to adjust them correctly, but I'm all about the perfectly functional yet traditional mirrors. I think the reaction time is slowed trying to comprehend the wide angle mirror, or having two mirrors to read.

Greg

I've been driving buses for 28 years and have instructed new drivers for 12 years. Having both flat and convex mirrors is second nature to me and I've installed convex mirrors on all my cars for 25 years, no matter the size. One of the mistakes I see most people make is also being made by the automakers - the convex mirror should be close to the body to show a wide-angle next to the vehicle, not mounted on the outer edge of the mirror. I'm in agreement with J - you should be able to see a small slice of the body in the mirror to provide a reference to what you're seeing in the mirror. Between the flat and the convex, a driver should only have to rock slightly forward or to one side to clear the blind spots. Properly adjusted, a driver should be able to get a sense of what's around them at a glance. Using convex mirrors will take some getting used to, but in the long run will cut down on accidents and near misses.

My husband & I share one car and my sister travels frequently. This summer she loaned me her Fiat 500 convertible for a few weeks. I found the mirrors annoying at first - but once I got used to them I loved them. The Fiat is a great little car, but with the top down the blind spots are huge - the extra mirrors completely compensated for this.

Wein

Proper convex mirrors should be standard equipment on all cars. However, the factory mirror in some new cars not very practical, as they don't show you complete view, with convex mirrors you don't have to turn your head over your shoulder to confirm objects next to you. Lots of accidents happen because drives make illegal lane change because they thinks it's clear.

Udo Schweizer

The CR-V's wide-angle mirror — an entire quarter of the mirror is angled for a wider view.
This has been a standard on all cars in Europe for many years. Most useful.

CTMechE

I have to agree with Jennifer Geiger on this one, especially after driving a newer CR-V recently. I can understand why people feel the need to see their own car in the mirror, but it is not necessary. Anyone who has been driving a car for more than a few weeks shouldn't need a frame of reference looking in a rear view mirror. It should be pretty evident what you're looking at. And since most of the time you check blind spots is on a highway or multi-lane road, you'll have lane lines that make it obvious. If I'm parallel parking or backing into a parking space, I'll move my head if I really need to see the flanks of my car.
I have an S2000 that has zero over-the-shoulder visibility when the soft top is up, and I have no problems checking blind spots with proper mirror positioning.

I actually find it annoying that some cars side mirrors don't angle outward as much as I'd like.

Move your mirrors outward, people. You'll get used to it quickly, and you'll minimize your blind spots without having to check two different parts of the mirror.

And while we're at it, people should look in thieir mirrors more often so that there's minimal chance someone will sneak into a blind spot without you knowing in the first place.

I'd argue that it's awareness, not visibility, that's the root cause of most lane-change accidents.

responder

For the blind spot free setting with standard mirrors, on the drivers side, actually rest your head against the window and then adjust the mirror so you can see the side of your car. For the passenger side mirror, physically move your head to the center of the car, and adjust the passenger side mirror so you are looking down the side of the car. Finally always remember to check your main rear view first before looking at the side mirror. If there are no vehicles in either mirror you are clear to change lanes. As mentioned above to test how this works, settle down in the right lane of the freeway and drive the speed limit. As cars come up in the left lane, you'll first see them in the main center rear view mirror and as they move up on the side of your car, the image will shift to the side mirror. There will actually be a moment or two when you can see the car in both mirrors. Just remember, a quick glance to the main mirror first, then check the side mirror. No more nasty surprises, and no more rear ending the car ahead of you as you look over your shoulder to check the blind spot.

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