One of the biggest gripes about caravanners is that so many don’t use extension mirrors when towing. Every time this comes up on Facebook or the caravan forums, there is a small percentage of posters who adamantly believe they do not need them and refuse to use them. Many more who apparently share this view can be seen on the roads every day. During some of our recent trips, the number of caravanners we saw without extension mirrors fitted to the tow vehicle was astonishing.
When you ask these people why they believe they don’t need them, they come out with a range of reasons. Some will say they have a camera on the back of their van that displays a view of the rear of the van on a small TV screen. Other will say their standard mirrors are wide enough for them to see along the side of their van. The truth is, neither of these reasons are valid.
Before I go into the reasons why, there is one unescapable fact that everyone must understand. If you tow a caravan or large trailer 2.5m wide with anything smaller than a large American pickup truck, the Police will book you for not having them. I’ve seen this myself at the recent police operation in Newmerella. No excuse was entertained.
Now the reason why this is the case is simple. The Australian Design Rules (specifically 14/02 – Rear Vision Mirrors) lay out a set of very complex and exhaustive requirements that all vehicles must comply with and this includes a field of rear view vision that includes an area 20m behind the mirror and perpendicular to the side of the vehicle at the furthermost point. The distance out from the perpendicular that the driver must be able to see varies depending on the type of vehicle but for vehicles like the ones we drive, the distance is a minimum of 4 metres. The following diagram explains the principle:
With a trailer fitted, it looks like this:
You can read through the rules if you like but by sticking to the general idea presented in these diagrams, you will be legal. The reality is that, if you were to be pulled up for an inspection, no officer is going to measure this distance. What they are going to look for is that they can see your mirrors fully when driving behind you. If they can’t see the WHOLE MIRROR, you will likely be pulled over and booked.
What the police want to see is that you have made an attempt to comply with the regulations. That means to have given yourself every opportunity to have sufficient vision to cover any traffic to your sides that may be in your way should you want to change lanes or merge into traffic.
As with many of these myths, there is an element that always perplexes me when it comes to driver attitudes. When you spend the many thousands of dollars on the tow vehicle and caravan, why would you not spend a few dollars on a set of towing mirrors for the additional safety they provide? To me its false economy, or sheer laziness, not to do so.
This myth is well and truely busted…!