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‘Objects appear closer’ because it’s all about shape

All passenger vehicles have side mirrors with a safety warning engraved on them, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” When you turn and glance behind you, you notice an object in the mirror is definitely further away. However, your driver’s side mirror has no distortions at all. Why is this the case? 

The mirror on the passenger side is not like the mirror in your bathroom.  The passenger side mirror has a convex mirror. A convex mirror has a curved surface that bulges towards you. This curvature in the mirror causes it to reflect light differently. When light is reflected in this manner, the image that is displayed is distorted. Convex mirrors help reduce drivers’ blind spots by presenting a wider field of vision. The driver’s side mirror is flat and depicts a more accurate view of what’s directly behind you with a narrow viewpoint. 

While driver side mirrors show you objects around the same distance as your vehicle, the convex mirror reflects a larger area and has a smaller blind spot. The side mirror has the drawback of giving you a false distance, while the driver side mirror portrays a more accurate one. The flat mirror and convex mirror combination has been the United States standard for many years and serves to be beneficial for a safer driving experience. Always remember to check your mirrors, but never forget that the mirrors do not substitute checking over your shoulder.