Is it Illegal to Drive Without a Side View Mirror?

Number and Location of Rearview Mirrors

Under the California Vehicle Code, every vehicle registered in the state (except for motorcycles) is required to have at least two rearview mirrors. One of these mirrors must be on the vehicle’s left-hand side (driver’s side). The other mirror can be located anywhere so long as the driver has a clear view of the highway at least 200 feet behind their vehicle in both mirrors.

Vehicles that are registered out-of-state and motorcycles must have at least one rearview mirror that allows the driver to see 200 feet behind them on the roadway.

What are the Penalties for a Mirror Violation in California?

Violating rearview mirror provisions under California law is an infraction that is punishable by a fine. The base fine associated with a rearview mirror violation is $25, but every jurisdiction is allowed to add their own penalty assessments on top of this fine. Most mirror violations are likely to be $200 or more.

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State Rear and Side View Mirror Laws

Side and rearview mirror laws vary from state to state across the nation. 

And even as the federal statutes mandate that all new vehicles must have all three mirrors, the number of mirrors you must have before hitting the road differs from state to state. 

In Alabama, you can drive on the road as long as your car has at least one mirror that’s placed in a way that doesn’t interfere with other road users’ space. 

Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, and New York are some states that require all vehicles to have both side-view mirrors and the rearview mirror.

States That Require Both Left and Right Side Mirrors

In some states, all vehicles must have both side mirrors 

  • Missouri 
  • Nebraska 
  • New Jersey 
  • New York

Some states require vehicles whose structure makes it difficult to use the rearview mirror to have both side mirrors. These vehicles include buses and towing trucks.

Here’s a list of the states that require both side mirrors on buses and towing vehicles 

  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oregon

States That Require at Least One Mirror

Here’s a list of states that don’t have strict laws on your vehicle’s mirror placement. 

It’s legal to drive as long as one of the two side mirrors or the rearview mirror is in good condition.

The states are as follows:

AlabamaMontana
ColoradoNevada
DelawareNew Hampshire
FloridaNew Mexico
HawaiiNorth Dakota
Idaho Oklahoma
IllinoisPennsylvania
IndianaRhode Island
MaineSouth Carolina
MinnesotaTennessee
MissouriWest Virginia
Wisconsin

States That Require at Least Two Mirrors

Some states require that all vehicles on their roads have either both side mirrors or one side mirror and the rearview mirror. 

Here’s a list of the states

AlaskaLouisiana
ArizonaMaryland
CaliforniaWashington
KansasWyoming
Kentucky

States That Require All Vehicles to Have a Rearview Mirror

Some states require a rearview mirror in all vehicles in addition to either one or both of the side view mirrors.

ArkansasNorth Carolina
IowaOhio
MissouriOregon
NebraskaSouth Dakota
New JerseyVermont
New YorkVirginia

Can I Drive My Car Without a Driver Side Mirror?

As mentioned earlier, the legality of driving without a driver's side mirror depends on the state you live in, similarly to driving without a front bumper. Several states require a car to have at least two side mirrors to ensure functionality. In contrast, other states allow the drivers to drive with one side mirror as long as it is complemented with rearview mirrors.

Some states require the left side mirror to be installed so that the driver's view of the highway is at least 200 feet (60.96 meters) clear. This driver's mirror also ensures that you have a clear view of other vehicles approaching from the left, rear side, or blind spot. So, having a rearview mirror is always critical, similar to when changing lanes.

Safe driving with no mirrors

Now that we have the warnings out of the way, let’s touch on the “how to” part of the question. The answer is “with great caution.” Remember that without mirrors, you don’t have an easy way to see behind or beside you. In a pinch, you can attach a blind spot mirror to the housing of the damaged driver side view mirror and enhance your safety somewhat.

Changing Lanes or Turning: Any time you want to turn left or right, or change lanes in those directions, you will need to physically turn your head over your shoulder and make sure you thoroughly check for other drivers. Also, make sure to check your blind spots carefully.

Behind You: Without a rearview mirror, you have no way to see behind the car. You can check by turning your head over your right shoulder and looking back, but limit this if you’re driving forward. It’s never a good idea to physically turn around while driving – accidents happen in far less time than it takes you to turn, observe, and then turn back again.

The bottom line is this – don’t drive without mirrors unless it’s a true emergency. Even then, drive with extreme caution and have your mirrors replaced immediately.

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’.

Other State Laws

Don’t forget – Many states have laws on light bars, headlamp colors, turn signals/wheel flare reflectors, and other “gotchas” you should be aware of.  Drop a comment below and let us know what odd state laws you have to abide by and we’ll keep our Jeep Mirror Laws post updated!

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Byron Miller I’m a 40 something father of two girls who loves the mountains, still plays in the sand and enjoys being in the great outdoors. The mountains are always calling my name. “Wilderness is a necessity” – John Muirrockchucksummit.com

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