If you have a narrow driveway or garage, you’ve no doubt cursed your car’s side mirrors more than once. And how often do you use the passenger side mirror anyway? Many of us have wondered if life would be easier without it.

It’s a regularly asked question, and there are some cars (normally sports cars) that only come with one side mirror.

Before you decide to pull off the mirror for good, let’s check with the laws are in Australia. They vary slightly from state to state, but they’re all pretty consistent.

Related:

Is it illegal to drive barefoot?

Is it illegal to drive in thongs?

Is it illegal to eat while driving?

Is it Illegal to Drive Without a Side Mirror in Australia?

If your car is manufactured with two side mirrors, then it’s illegal to drive without either one of them. There are a variety of rules for vehicles of a particular age, weight, and purpose. Even so, it’s always illegal to drive without at least one side mirror, normally the driver’s side mirror.

Here are some other, more specific rules around wing mirrors:

  • Side mirrors need to be in good working order to avoid fines and pass a roadworthy inspection.
  • If a car was built with two side mirrors (as most modern cars are) then it must be driven with both side mirrors present and functional.
  • At least one rear-vision mirror must be fitted to vehicles built before 1975. Unless you’ve got a weekend ‘drive in the country’ classic, this probably doesn’t apply to you. After 1975, at least one rear-vision mirror must be fitted on the driver’s side.
  • Wing Mirrors must be fitted to both sides of vehicles over 3.5 tonnes Gross Vehicle Mass.

The good news is wing mirrors do come in handy when you’re driving.

View of the sunset from the side view mirror of a car while driving down the road. Shallow depth of field. Great image for illustrating blind spots.

Is it illegal to drive without a side mirror overseas?

Generally speaking, Australian wing mirror laws are in line with those of other English-speaking countries.

In the UK, it’s illegal to drive without side mirrors if your car was constructed with them. Regardless, you must always have a driver’s side mirror as well as the internal rear-facing mirror.

If the passenger side mirror is broken or the glass is smashed, UK drivers can still legally drive with the other two rear mirrors intact. However, it’s not advised and could result in attention from the authorities.

In the USA, laws vary according to states. As an example, California requires all cars to have two rear vision mirrors (including the internal mirror). One of those two mirrors must be on the driver’s side.

Across the globe exceptions tend to be in countries with seriously tight traffic jams, or an economic need to build ultra-economy cars. India is one example, where those more pressing needs tend to win out over stricter regulation.

Here’s a simple rule of thumb. If a car was built with two wing mirrors, then it’s probably illegal to drive without them.

Is driving without two side mirrors dangerous?

If you’re used to driving with side mirrors and suddenly don’t have them, the answer to this question is obvious, and helps explains why it’s illegal to drive without them. You might not notice how much you use mirrors until they’re gone!

One glance is usually all it takes in any of your three rear-facing mirrors to be sure you’re driving safety. Without rear-facing mirrors you’ll need to twist in your seat to see what’s going on. That could spell trouble if you need to change lanes, park, or reverse.

So yes, not having side mirrors can be dangerous, whether it’s illegal to drive with them or not. They represent your best defense against blind spots when used correctly.

A well dressed man in the front of a GoGet car with the orange wing mirror visible - is it illegal to drive without a side mirror

What are the benefits of having two side mirrors?

Wing mirrors reduce the need for over-the-shoulder checks, let you maintain forward vision while checking blind spots, and increase visibility of what’s behind your car.

The key is to make sure they’re set correctly. For both the driver and passenger side mirrors, adjust the angle so you can only see a tiny sliver of the back of your car, opening up clear vision of the road beside and behind you.

If the mirrors are too far in, you’ll only see your car. But if they’re too far out you won’t see what’s happening near you, like a cyclist approaching.

While you should always still do a quick shoulder check to reduce blind spots when changing lanes, adjusting both mirrors makes it much easier, not to mention safer.

Will it always be illegal to drive without side mirrors with new technology?

In the near future, whether it’s illegal to drive without side mirrors might become a moot point. Most cars now come with reversing cameras, or with parking and lane-change sensors. Early self-driving technology is already being installed in cars, which does these jobs automatically!

In Japan it’s now legal for cars to be manufactured without side mirrors, as long as they’re replaced with cameras and video feeds. In the USA, reverse cameras are already mandatory in all new cars, which is the first step towards dropping the requirement for side mirrors.

Side mirrors are responsible for more than just scrapes on the fence, after all. They create aerodynamic drag and can actually contribute to blind spots when used incorrectly. They can also be a danger to cyclists, add wind noise, and make you feel like that huge truck is closer than it is!

Most of the world hasn’t taken the futuristic step of Japan yet, but replacing wing mirrors with technology could have some benefits. It would give you a wider view and eliminate blind spots, with screens positioned in front of you.

With no wing mirrors sticking out aerodynamics would be improved, which would lead to better fuel efficiency. Plus, you can only imagine the innovative car designs of the future, without protruding ‘wings’.

A wing mirror with an orange sunset in the background provides line of sight behind the car

For now? Keep calm and check your blind spots.

You’ll need to stay friends with your side mirrors for now. It’ll be a while before it’s legal to drive without them.

Wing mirrors are still a cheap and mostly idiot-proof way to prevent accidents. Plus unlike technological solutions, wing mirrors don’t need power and have zero delay.

For now, it is illegal to drive without side mirrors. But be thankful – they probably help you much more than you realise.

 


This post shouldn’t be regarded as legal advice. Check that this information applies to your circumstances by speaking with your local road authority.