The design rules that apply for vehicles sold in Australia are always being updated and the design rules for mirrors on motor vehicles were changed a while ago to adopt the European rules, which allow a choice of either flat or convex mirrors on both sides of the vehicle.
Convex mirrors are curved mirrors that give a “compressed” view rather than a flat view. As a result, they cover a wider field of view and objects in the mirror appear smaller. This minimises blind spots but also creates the illusion that things in the mirror are further away.
These mirrors can take a little bit of getting used to, especially for those used to flat mirrors – but it is just a matter of becoming familiar with the characteristics of a convex mirror.
Convex mirrors have been fitted to the passenger side of vehicles in Australia for many years, sometimes accompanied by the warning “Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear”, with no evidence that they cause a safety problem. These types of mirrors have also been in use overseas for many years and we are not aware of any reports of increased crash risk due to their use.
The RTA Road Users’ Handbook states that “before you change lanes, give your signal in plenty of time, check your mirrors and look over your shoulder for other vehicles”. The “head check” is necessary to ensure it is safe to change lanes – drivers should not depend on their mirrors alone.
Convex mirrors are becoming more common on new cars and it is likely they will soon be standard across the market. So, when purchasing a new or used vehicle, be sure to read the vehicle owner’s handbook to become familiar with the operating aspects of the vehicle and the equipment fitted.
Have you driven a vehicle with convex mirrors on both sides? Do you find convex mirrors safer or more dangerous?