ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — If you can see your car in your side view mirrors, you’ve probably been adjusting them wrong your entire life.

Your vehicle’s side and rearview mirrors are designed to give you a multi-view of the road behind you while minimizing blind spots.

Experts say that if you have to look over your shoulder to see if someone is in your blind spot, you have your mirrors set incorrectly.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Authority (NHTSA), it could also be dangerous, as it means you’re taking your eyes off the road.

According to the NHTSA, here is the correct method of properly adjusting your side mirrors:

  • First, from your seated position behind the wheel, set the driver’s rearview mirror so you can see the entire back window.
  • Second, lean your head so it rests against the driver’s side door window, and adjust the driver’s side mirror so you can just barely see the left side of your car. You don’t want to see too much sky or too much road.
  • Third, lean your body into the center of the car, so your head is aligned with the center console or the center of the rearview mirror, and look over at the passenger side mirror. Adjust that mirror so you can barely see the right side of your car.

Now, when you sit back in the normal driving position, your mirrors should be properly adjusted.

This may take some getting used to, as you may initially think that your side view mirrors are turned too far out. That’s ok, experts say, emphasizing that you don’t need to see your car in your rearview mirror (you will have to take it on faith that your car is actually there); it’s more important to see cars in your blind zones!

Blind spots

The way the system is designed to work is this:

  • A car comes up behind you. You should be able to see the car in your rearview mirror.
  • As the car passes you, before it leaves your view in the rearview mirror, it should appear in your side mirror.
  • As the car continues to pass, it should appear in your peripheral vision before it leaves the side mirror.

According to the NHTSA, this multi-screen mirror setup will eliminate blind spots while driving.

The agency says the proper way to change lanes is to first look at the rearview mirror for vehicles approaching the car, then glance at the right or left outside mirrors to see if a vehicle is in a blind zone.

Some new cars are equipped with blind spot sensors, devices that project a warning in the physical mirror when an object is in the vehicle’s blind zone, but experts say blind spot warning sensors are just an extra precaution if you have your mirrors adjusted correctly.

The NHTSA says about 840,000 side-to-side collisions each year, resulting in approximately 300 deaths, are caused by blind spot errors while driving.