Is it illegal to drive without a passenger side mirror?
July 12, 2008 4:46 PM   Subscribe

Is it illegal to drive without a passenger side mirror?

I have a 2-door 2001 Honda Civic with a missing passenger side mirror. I will be driving across the country to the NY/NJ area soon, and I'm worried that I may be pulled over because of this damage. Do the laws differ from state to state on this, or are they uniform? I have had no trouble in California or Arizona.
posted by Four-Eyed Girl to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total)
No. As long as you have a driver's side mirror and a windshield mounted rear view mirror.

In fact passenger side mirrors are often not installed by the manufacturer on cars designed for some showroom stock racing as a way of reducing weight and drag.
posted by Mitheral at 5:03 PM on July 12, 2008

In at least one state I've lived, the motor-vehicle laws specified that all cars must have all the safety equipment that was originally installed at the factory. A passenger-side mirror might fit into that category.

(It used to be that manufacturers would also leave off the side mirror on cars which were designed to be as cheap as possible. I don't know if that still happens, though.)
posted by box at 5:23 PM on July 12, 2008

make sure you have an unobstructed view out the back through your rear-view mirror; if you are pulled over for some other reason (i.e. speeding), the officer may flag this as an additional violation. Any time I've driven long long distances, there's usually enough crap in the back that the rear view is somewhat blocked.

Can you get this fixed before driving? It shouldn't be that expensive (compared with the gas), and a junkyard will probably have the part for 25 bucks. It would probably make for a more comfortable / safer drive.
posted by jenkinsEar at 5:43 PM on July 12, 2008

NJ Title 39:

39:3-71. Mirrors
Every motor vehicle shall have rear view mirrors so located and angled as to give the driver adequate rear view vision. Every passenger automobile manufactured after January 1, 1965 and registered in this State, shall be equipped with an interior mirror and an exterior mirror on the driver's side. On and after January 1, 1965, every commercial motor vehicle registered in this State, other than a trailer or semitrailer, shall be equipped with an interior mirror and an exterior mirror on the driver's side, except that every such vehicle so constructed or loaded as to obstruct or obscure a rear view from an interior mirror shall, in lieu of an interior mirror, be equipped with an exterior mirror on the side of the vehicle opposite the driver's side. The director may by regulation establish other mirror requirements for special or unusual types of vehicles. Any person operating a motor vehicle without the equipment prescribed by this section shall, on conviction, be fined as provided in Revised Statutes 39:3-79.

So unless your interior mirror is obstructed, you aren't legally required to have a passenger side mirror. But on a personal note, I think it's highly unsafe to drive without one, and well worth fixing.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 5:48 PM on July 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think I heard that this is the reason that it's illegal to pass people on the right. They're not required to have a passenger side mirror, so they might not be able to see you.
posted by zixyer at 5:54 PM on July 12, 2008

In at least one state I've lived, the motor-vehicle laws specified that all cars must have all the safety equipment that was originally installed at the factory. A passenger-side mirror might fit into that category.
That's the law in NY. You don't NEED to have a third brake light, or a license plate light, or a passenger side mirror... but you won't pass inspection if any of them are broken and they came with the car.
Not sure about tickets, but I'd imagine they could ticket you if it was something that could prevent you from passing inspection.
posted by Kellydamnit at 6:20 PM on July 12, 2008

I don't know if it's illegal, but it's a safety item, so it seems worthwhile to fix it. You can do it for $25 (plus the price of the screwdriver you'll need to install it, or a 1/2 hour of shop time at your local garage.)
posted by drmarcj at 6:28 PM on July 12, 2008

My first car was my mom's old 1990 Honda Accord which, for some reason, didn't have a passenger mirror. The mirror wasn't missing-- that's how it was when she bought it, new (a google image search of the vehicle seems to suggest that most of them had mirrors). But before the car was retired, it had traveled through just about every state east of the Mississippi, without a single problem regarding the missing mirror.

That was in the '90's, though. I don't know if laws have changed since then.
posted by Kronoss at 6:47 PM on July 12, 2008

My old 1989 Toyota Tercel did not have a passenger side view mirror. It was the bottom trim line. I never had any problem, even when I moved from Illinois to Massachusetts, which has strict safety inspections. I miss that car--it turned on a dime and got 45-50 mpg on the highway, and 30+ in city driving.
posted by brianogilvie at 6:52 PM on July 12, 2008

I used to drive a car with a busted passenger side mirror, without problems.

That said, this does seem like a good excuse for a cop to pull you over, especially if he thinks you might have something worth looking into. So, you know, if you're planning on ridin' dirty or doing other illegal-type activities, it'd definitely be worth getting it fixed. Otherwise, it's probably just a (minimal) safety issue.
posted by SuperNova at 8:41 PM on July 12, 2008

It's probably not illegal--it wasn't standard until relatively recently. But we have gone through a lot of vintage hobby cars, and one of our first tweaks is always to track down a passenger-side mirror, either a vintage one or a repro, which are pretty common for popular car models. They're easy to install or to have installed, and you're talking about a matter of thirty bucks or so. Probably a lot less for the car you're talking about--check junkyards/Pick N'Pulls in your area.
posted by padraigin at 10:28 PM on July 12, 2008

I dont think Honda would sell a car for the US market that doesnt have a passenger mirror if it were illegal to do so. My own Honda civic also did not come with a passenger mirror. You're not going to get pulled over based on state.
posted by jak68 at 11:55 PM on July 12, 2008

I used to have a car with no passenger side mirror, and people used to ask me if it broke off (in Chicago, narrow streets meant lots of mirror KIAs).

But really, I think it was normal until 1980 or so to have only one mirror. By 1990 or so it was normal to have both. But it's still not required.

Still, if it's actual damage, it's pretty easy to fix. I'd do it. I doubt you'll be pulled over randomly because of it, though.
posted by dhartung at 11:59 PM on July 12, 2008

It's only illegal for you to drive without the mirror if your driver's license has a specific restriction on it, at least in Pennsylvania. I wear glasses and only see out of one eye, so my permit (never got my license) said I needed to have both mirrors on the car and to be wearing corrective lenses in order to legally be driving the vehicle.
posted by sascha at 2:23 AM on July 13, 2008

If the area where the mirror mounts is still attached but with no mirror there, most auto parts stores have a variety of shapes in stock for about $6 - $10. They mount quickly with double stick tape in a few minutes. If your exact mirror isnĀ“t available, you can use a slightly smaller one. Trace the mirror mount area on paper and take it into the store.
posted by yohko at 7:07 AM on July 13, 2008

My mirror and all attaching mechanisms are missing due to a semi passing into my lane & hitting the passenger side of my car. I'll need to get the whole thing replaced, and due to the advice here, I'll go ahead & replace it.

Thanks for the help!
posted by Four-Eyed Girl at 9:05 AM on July 13, 2008

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