1. Eyesight & Licence
Our Instructor will check that you comply with the basic requirements that are required by law before you sit behind the wheel of your tuition car on your first lesson.
You must be able to read in good daylight, with glasses or contact lenses if you wear them, a motor vehicle number plate from a distance of 20.5 metres (about 67 feet). Number plates with a narrower font, such as the new style number plates introduced in 2001, should be read from a distance of 20 metres (66 feet). If you are unable to read the number plate at the prescribed distance, your Instructor will ask you to make an appointment with an Optician for appropriate professional advice; you may require glasses. In any event, it is your ability to read the number plate which will determine whether or not you are considered competent to pass this section of the driving test.
Driving any vehicle carries with it legal requirements, and you must satisfy some of these before you begin to drive on the public road. Others apply after you start to drive. You Instructor will want to see your provisional licence to make sure that it is valid and that it covers the type of vehicle you are about to learn to drive. If you are unable to produce your licence on your first lesson, your Instructor may, at his or her own discretion and upon your assurance that you actually hold a provisional licence, conduct your lesson on the understanding that you will bring your licence for checking at the earliest subsequent opportunity. Until your licence is checked your Instructor is unable to score you more than 5 points on this part of the syllabus (assuming you pass the eyesight check).
2. Cockpit and Controls
Whenever you drive to a strange car, (and your Instructor’s car will always be “strange” because someone else will have been driving it immediately before you), you must make certain adjustments to ensure that it is safe for you to drive it.
This “Cockpit drill” will include checking that all the doors are secure, that the Seat is correctly adjusted for you, that the Steering wheel is set at the appropriate distance and angle for you, the Seat belts are correctly adjusted and comfortable and that the Mirrors are properly set for your normal driving position. You should also make sure that you have enough Fuel to be able to complete your journey.
The Controls on modern vehicles are relatively straightforward. Each control requires a particular skill, and using them together effectively and safely takes time to learn. However, the functions of each are easy to remember. Your Instructor will cover:Hand controls, Foot controls, Switches and Other controls.
3. Starting precautions
After you’ve checked your Cockpit drill and you’ve settled comfortably in the driving seat, you will need to begin the drill for starting the engine. This will involve checking that the handbrake is fully and correctly applied and that the gear lever is in the neutral position. You might find it necessary to use the accelerator a little as you operate the starter, although this will depend on the make and model of your vehicle.
The Starting precautions should be followed before any occasion that the engine needs to be started or restarted, particularly after you have stalled the vehicle. Very often, a pupil will not fail their driving test for having stalled, but a test failure will almost inevitably result if the pupil fails to perform the correct Starting precautions.
4. Moving off from flat
Your Instructor might be teaching you in either a petrol or diesel car. In both engine types, the more you press the accelerator (“gas”), the more fuel goes to the engine, the more power is generated and the higher the engine speed.
Getting to know the right amount of pressure to put on the accelerator takes practice and, when moving off, you will need to co-ordinate the release of the clutch with just the right amount of gas. Too little, and the engine stalls. Too much, and the vehicle can surge forward.
The steering wheel should normally be controlled with both hands. For best control in normal driving you should place your hands in the “ten to two” or “quarter to three” position, whichever is most comfortable. You should avoid resting your arm on the door as this can restrict your movement and keep both hands on the wheel unless you are changing gear or working another control with one hand.
When turning the steering wheel you should avoid crossing your hands. Except at low speeds this can reduce your control and can cause an accident. Your Instructor will expect you to feed the rim of the steering wheel through your hands and to vary your hand movements according to the amount of lock you want. This is called the push-pull technique.
6. Use of gears
The gearbox contains the gears which control the relationship between engine speed and road speed and it is the gear lever which enables you to change from one gear to another. As you speed up, you should change up to the higher gears, each one giving you less gear force but more road speed. Your highest gear provides least force but usually has the widest range of speeds. The flexibility of modern engines and the efficiency of braking systems and gearboxes often makes it unnecessary to change into every gear when changing up and down the gearbox.
7. Stopping & basic MSM
Safe and controlled braking is vital in good driving and you must be able to slow down gradually and smoothly. If you anticipate properly, you’ll seldom need to brake fiercely and good anticipation will give you time to brake progressively over a longer distance. When stopping, you must only do so in places that are safe, convenient and legal. The drill for stopping is always the same (except in an emergency) and it is seldom necessary to change down when you’re stopping normally.
Regardless of your driving experience, you must make the Mirror – Signal – Manoeuvre routine an integral part of your driving. You will need to check the speed and position of traffic behind you, consider whether a signal is necessary and, if it is, give it in good time and only then carry out a manoeuvre which involves any change of speed or position.
8. Moving off downhill
This routine is simpler than moving off uphill because the weight of the vehicle helps you to move away. Your aim is to prevent the vehicle from rolling forward down the hill whilst moving away.
The most effective and easiest method is to select the appropriate gear (possibly 2nd gear, if the gradient warrants it) then keep the car safe on the footbrake whilst releasing the handbrake altogether. After checking all round observations, you can co-ordinate the release of the footbrake and clutch smoothly as the vehicle starts to move.
There may be other methods that can be employed and they are equally acceptable if the manoeuvre is carried out under control. Don’t forget that drivers coming downhill will need more time to slow down or stop so you must leave a large enough gap before pulling away.
9.Moving off uphill
To effectively complete this exercise you should co-ordinate the use of accelerator, clutch and handbrake together. You should allow a safe gap in any traffic because your vehicle will be slowing away up hill and building up speed.
Controlling the handbrake and clutch will require good timing. If you release the handbrake too soon, the vehicle will roll back. If you hold the handbrake too long or you bring the clutch up too quickly or too far or if you don’t use enough gas, the vehicle will stall.
Your Instructor will help you practice the steps necessary until you’ve mastered the technique.
10. Moving off at angle
Using the same drill as moving off straight ahead, extra consideration should be given to the angle that you are moving out and how far it will take you out into the road. Your decision will depend on how close you are to the vehicle or object in front and how wide the vehicle is ahead as well as consideration of the oncoming traffic.
This manoeuvre will probably require you to move off more slowly than if you were moving off straight ahead, so you should give extra observation and pay particular attention to pedestrians and, if you are steering around a vehicle, allow room for someone to open a door.
11. Turn in the road
The secret of this manoeuvre is to keep the vehicle moving slowly whilst steering briskly. Before you turn you should make sure that you have chosen a place where you have plenty of room and there is no obstruction in the road or on the pavement. All round observation is essential throughout the manoeuvre and give way to passing vehicles.
Your Instructor will explain the precise method to follow with each of the stages of the manoeuvre but you need to bear in mind that close control of the clutch is essential and that you must take into account the camber of the road which can dramatically alter the speed of your vehicle as you cross the road.
12. Reverse to the left
Reversing is not difficult to master, it just needs practice until you become confident. Your vehicle will respond differently in reverse gear; you can’t feel the car turning with the steering as you would in forward gears, and you have to wait for the steering to take effect. The secret is to ensure the vehicle moves slowly enough. This way the steering movements will have the greatest effect. You should avoid turning the steering wheel while the vehicle is stationary (dry steering). It could cause damage to the tyres and increased wear in the steering linkages.
Your Instructor will explain on your lessons how to approach and take up an appropriate starting position and how to sit, how to steer and what to check during the manoeuvre, but, as a general rule, you should keep the clutch pedal at, or near, the biting point virtually throughout the manoeuvre.
You should keep the vehicle moving slowly enough by making proper use of the accelerator, clutch and brakes (the precise combination of the controls will depend on the slope of the road). You will have to relate the position of the rear nearside wheel, just behind the back seat in most cars, to the edge of the kerb and try to keep that wheel parallel to the kerb. You can start to turn left as the rear wheels reach the beginning of the corner and, as a general guide, you should be able to follow the kerb as it disappears from view in the back window and reappears in the side window. Bear in mind that the amount of steering needed depends on how sharp the corner is but remember to keep the vehicle moving slowly.
You must keep a good lookout throughout the manoeuvre, but particularly before you start to turn as the front of your vehicle will swing out and present the greatest hazard to any passing traffic. Remember to check all blind spots before you start to turn and if any other road users are likely to be affected by your actions you should pause until it’s safe to continue.
When you begin to see into the side road, be ready to straighten up the steering wheel. When there’s a kerb in the new road, you can use the kerb to help you determine when to take off the left lock. You should aim to keep the vehicle about the same distance from the kerb as when you started and parallel to it.
13. Major to minor MSMPSL
When turning right or left from a major road into a minor road you must follow the MSM PSL routine. This involves checking your Mirror to assess the speed and position of vehicles behind then Signal clearly and in good time. When carrying out the Manoeuvre you will need to Position your vehicle correctly and in good time then adjust your Speed as necessary. Finally, you must Look for traffic when you reach a point from which you can see and assess the situation, decide to go or wait and act accordingly.
When turning left, you should keep well to the left throughout the turn. When turning right, you should keep as close to the centre of the road as is safe, taking into account any parked vehicles or obstructions on the right-hand side of the road and the affect the position you take up will have on oncoming vehicles.
If the road has lane markings you must use the correct lane for the direction you intend to take, and move into it as soon as you can. In one-way streets you must move into the right-hand side of the road as early as you can before turning right.
14. Minor to major MSMPSL
A junction is where two or more roads meet. Junctions are hazards where there is a greater risk of an accident occurring so you should treat them with great care, no matter how easy they look. How you approach a junction depends on what you intend to do and, usually, road signs and markings indicate priority. (Where no priority is shown at a junction you must take extra care.)
At every junction you should use the MSM PSL. The manner in which you approach a junction may vary according to what you might want to do. For example, the procedure to cross a major road going straight ahead may be slightly different to emerging into a major road by turning right. Your Instructor will cover the various permutations on your driving lessons, but on your test, (and, obviously, during the course of your driving career), you will need to show that you understand the subtle differences necessary in dealing with the different layouts and road procedures.
15. Reverse parking
This exercise makes use of the vehicle’s manoeuvrability in reverse gear to park in a restricted space. Remember, while you’re carrying out this manoeuvre, you could be a hazard to other road users. You should keep a particular look out for pedestrians, oncoming vehicles and passing traffic.
Good all-round observation is essential throughout this manoeuvre and you must not start the manoeuvre if you’re likely to endanger other road users. Other drivers might not be aware of your intentions, so before you pull up at the place you’ve chosen to park, remember to carry out the MSM routine. On lessons, your Instructor will teach you a technique to follow which will help you understand the basic principles of how to carry out this manoeuvre competently and accurately. As with most of the other manoeuvres you will have to master the secret of a successful exercise is clutch control.
16. Reverse into a bay
You will have to learn to reverse your vehicle into a limited space or bay, as though you were parking between two vehicles in a car park. You must firstly check that there’s enough space for you to centre your vehicle and enough room for you to open the doors to exit the vehicle safely. Unless other cars are badly parked, you’ll nearly always find it best to reverse into a parking space so you will have a better view when you drive away, especially with back-seat passengers or at night.
As with all reversing exercises, you must moves slowly so the steering has the maximum effect and gives you good time to make corrections. On your test, you will be expected to ensure that your vehicle is squarely parked between the white lines inone space.
17. Adequate clearance
Where you need to pass a stationary vehicle or other obstruction, you must leave enough room so that you are able to stop safely if the need arises.
In most instances, a metre or a car doors’ width might be a sufficient distance to leave, but you must bear in mind that the distance will always be relative to the speed at which you are travelling and your own competence at handing the controls. Thus, the closer you have to pass the obstruction, the slower you must drive. It stands to reason that, there will be occasions where you will have to pass quite closely to a potential hazard and you must only do this whilst travelling at such a speed that you know you can stop safely.
18. Give way & holdback/Meeting traffic
Where the road ahead narrows and there is oncoming traffic you will need to carefully assess whether or not it will be safe for you to pass through the gap at the same time as the oncoming traffic. You should only do this if you do not cause the other traffic to alter speed or direction otherwise you should wait at a position prior to the gap and allow the oncoming traffic to have priority. This is especially true if the oncoming traffic is a long vehicle which may need additional space to manoeuvre through the gap because of its increased size.
A competent driver will always aim to keep up with the flow of traffic. (This is, of course, subject to remaining within the parameters of the speed limit, the restrictions of the vehicle he or she is driving and the general road and traffic conditions.) However, you will be expected to promptly accelerate up to the speed of the traffic of any new road you join and to maintain that speed for as long as it is safe and appropriate to do so.
When joining a new road or traffic layout, you will be expected to take prompt advantage of any opportunity that presents itself to join the flow of traffic without causing that traffic to slow down or change direction. To do this, you must be able to assess the speed of the traffic on the new road and recognise an appropriate gap as it approaches. Many learners fail to appreciate that it is the gap they are looking for and instead seem to become mesmerised by the fact that there is other traffic approaching.
20. Traffic lights
Traffic lights have three lights which change in a set cycle. As well as knowing what that cycle is, you will be expected to know what each of the colours or combination of colours means when it shows.
For most learners, dealing with the green light is the most challenging (all the other lights or combination of lights requires you to slow down or stop or already be stopped). Green lights should be approached in the same way as you would approach any other junction. You should keep your speed down and be ready to stop, especially if the lights have been green for some time. Never speed up to “beat the lights”.
You will need to pay particular attention for green filter arrows in a traffic light as this means you can filter in the direction the arrow is pointing, even if the main light is not showing green.
21. Pedestrian crossings
People on foot have certain rights of way at pedestrian crossings, but are safe only if drivers stick to the rules and do the right thing. Brake lights cannot be seen by pedestrians at the crossing or oncoming traffic, so if you’re the leading vehicle you should consider using an arm signal when you’re slowing down or stopping.
Drivers must be familiar with the various types of pedestrian crossing and the rules and advice which applies to all types of crossing. Additional rules apply for different types of crossing.
You must always look well ahead to identify pedestrian crossings early and look for the flashing yellow beacons, traffic lights, zigzag markings etc. Use the MSM routine and keep your speed well down.
In any traffic situation there are some things that are obviously going to happen, as well as some things that might happen. To anticipate is to take action when you expect something will or might happen and you can anticipate what might happen by making early use of the available information on the road.
Traffic conditions change constantly and you need to check and re-check what’s going on around you and be alert all the time to changes in conditions, and think ahead. The degree to which you need to anticipate varies according to those conditions. You must read the road ahead to anticipate what might happen and you will need to assess the movement of all other road users, including pedestrians, on the whole stretch of road you are travelling on.
You should bear in mind that it’s easier in light traffic to anticipate what other drivers might do. It is more difficult on a busy single carriageway, dual carriageway or motorway, where their options are greater. You must watch smaller details in built-up areas where traffic conditions change rapidly and observe other road users’ actions and reactions.
23. Emergency stops
In the emergency stop exercise you will be expected to keep both hands on the steering wheel and avoid braking so hard that you lock any of the wheels. You should not touch the clutch pedal until just before you stop as this will help with braking and stability.
Even when stopping quickly you will be expected to follow the rule of progressive braking – pushing the brake pedal harder as the vehicle slows down to a stop. There will be no need to signal, you will need both hands to control the steering and there is no need to make a special point of looking in the mirror. Unless you’re moving off again straight away, you should put the handbrake on and the gear lever into neutral but, when you do move off again, you must remember to look all round.
Your Instructor will give you the opportunity to practice emergency braking at different speeds to judge the correct pressure, taking into account road and traffic conditions. He or she will also advise you of the slightly different routine for emergency braking if you have ABS brakes.
24. Use of mirrors
Using your driving mirrors regularly and sensibly is vital to good driving and learning to judge speed and distance of vehicles behind you takes time. Your use of the mirrors should be linked to the manoeuvre you intend to make and the type of vehicle you are driving. Normally, you should always use the interior mirror first, followed by the exterior ones but your use of the exterior mirrors will depend on the manoeuvre and the situation.
You must always use your mirrors well before you approach a hazard, slow down, change direction or begin any manoeuvre as well as before moving off, signalling, changing direction, overtaking, stopping or opening your car door.
It is also important to use the mirrors early enough to allow other road users time to react to any signal you need to give, and the use of your mirrors to check their reaction.
25. Use of signals
Signals are normally given by direction indicators and/or brake lights, although there are occasions when an arm signal can be helpful.
Signals are given to help or assist other road users (including pedestrians). They should be given in good time and for long enough to allow other road users to see the signal and act upon it. It therefore follows that use of signals is very closely associated with proper use of the mirrors.
A competent driver will also consider whether a signal is necessary before moving off, pulling up or passing stationary vehicles and will not signal carelessly, wave pedestrians across the road, fail to cancel their signal after their manoeuvre is completed or mislead other road users with their signals
Roundabouts allow traffic from different roads to merge without necessarily stopping. Before you enter a roundabout, you normally give way to any traffic approaching from your immediate right, however, you should keep moving if the way is clear.
In a few cases, traffic on the roundabout has to give way to traffic entering. Look out for “Give Way” signs and road markings on the roundabout. Some roundabouts have traffic lights (sometimes part-time) which determines priority.
You must always use the MSMPSL routine on approach and always look well ahead for the advance warning sign. Your Instructor will brief you on your lessons as to the correct approach procedure when dealing with the roundabouts in your area.
Because overtaking can put you on a collision course with traffic from the opposite direction, it’s one of the major causes of accidents. Overtaking at the wrong time or in the wrong place is extremely dangerous so it’s vital to choose your time and place carefully.
Before overtaking you must be certain you can return to your side of the road safely, without getting in the way of vehicles coming towards you or the vehicle(s) you are overtaking. Learning to judge the speed of the vehicle you are overtaking is very important as overtaking takes time and may take longer than you think.
Your Instructor will help you understand the differences in overtaking stationary and moving vehicles, uphill and downhill, large vehicles and small vehicles and throughout your driving career you must follow the MSM procedure to ensure safe overtaking technique.
28. Drive at high speeds
You must be able to drive at high speeds on motorways and dual carriageways, subject always to the limitations of the law and the road and traffic conditions.
Driving at high speed demonstrates your confidence and ability to handle your vehicle under conditions where the feel and responses of your vehicle will be completely different than they would be at other times, for example, when dealing with road junctions or manoeuvring.
Your Instructor will be able to advise you as to how to handle your vehicle under controlled conditions and, as part of your driving lessons, you will be taken into faster flowing traffic and taught the extra techniques you must master. Learning to handle your vehicle at higher speeds will also form part of our PassPlus course which you may consider doing after you’ve passed the DSA practical driving test.
29. Reverse to the right
This is a useful manoeuvre where there isn’t a side road on the left, or you can’t see through the rear window, or your view to the sides is restricted, for example, in a van or loaded estate car. For this manoeuvre you will need to make good use of the mirrors and make a proper assessment of the side road as you pass it.
Throughout this manoeuvre you must keep a particularly good look out for other road users, particularly pedestrians about to cross the road behind you and vehicles approaching from any direction. This is because you will be manoeuvring on the “wrong” side of the road and you will need to take particular care when returning to the correct side of the road after you have completed the exercise. Remember that your “blind spot” will now be in a completely different plane than it is usually.
30. Narrow/one way roads
The usual rules for positioning will be varied slightly when you are driving in a narrow road or one way street. When turning right normally you would position just to the left of the centre of the road. This would allow traffic behind you to overtake you safely on the left and continue on its way. However, in a narrow road there will not be enough room for traffic to overtake on the left no matter how you position, so you should keep to the left (even when turning right into a side road) and allow the maximum amount of room to oncoming traffic. Naturally, this will increase the delay to the traffic travelling behind, but as there is likely to be less traffic on a narrow road in the first place, any inconvenience will be minimal and unavoidable.
When turning right in a one-way street, as there is no traffic coming towards you it is appropriate that you position on the right side of the road when turning right thus allowing traffic behind you to proceed on its way.
31. Road signs/markings
You’ll recognise traffic signs easier if you understand some of the basic rules and the shape and colour of the main groups. You should familiarise yourself with these groups and their meaning, some of which may be covered on your theory test.
Markings on the road give information, orders or warnings. They can be used with signs on posts or on their own. As a general rule, the more paint, the more important the message.
Your Instructor will test you on your knowledge and understanding of both road signs and road markings during the course of your lessons.
32. Ancillary controls
Generally, for details information and guidance on the ancillary controls you would refer to the vehicle owner’s handbook. During the course of your lessons, your Instructor will explain individual ancillary controls to you as they are needed, some of which may peculiar to that particular vehicle.
33. Tell me – Show me
At the start of the driving test your examiner will ask two “Tell me – Show me” questions from a pre-set combination which can be viewed via our Links page. If you fail to answer either one or both questions correctly, this would be assessed as 1 driving fault and would not therefore constitute a reason for failing the test in its own right. This test will be included inside the existing time limit for the practical test which means less time spend out on the road.