Precautions before starting the engine
Always check that your handbrake is up and your gear stick is in neutral before you start the engine. If your car is in gear it will lurch forward as you turn the ignition key and will not start properly. It is always best to check the handbrake is up before doing this so that the car does not roll if you need to put the gear into neutral to start the engine.
Four items need to be checked when the driver gets into the car. Check that the doors are closed, the seat is set properly so that you are comfortable and can reach all the controls safely, set your mirrors so that you have a good view behind you & to your sides, and last but not least, put your seat belt on. Although you as the driver are legally only responsible for passengers aged under 14, it is more prudent and safer to check that ALL passengers are wearing their seat belts.
Build up an understanding of where the different controls of the car are located and how & when to use them properly. This will include how to use your pedals & hand controls as well as knowing how to put on wipers, lights and making use of the heater/demister systems.
Moving off and stopping procedures
Topics covered include standard moving off, hill starts, downhill starts, angle starts and combinations of the above. The procedure of POM is introduced, an acronym standing for (P)reparation (O)bservation and (M)oving Off!
The MSM (Mirrors, Signal, Manoeuver) routine is introduced for parking.
How and when to change gears and the use of gears at different speeds and in different situations. One of the most common causes of failing a driving test is not using the appropriate gear for the speed and situation you are driving in. This will all be covered in detail.
The technique used to keep the car moving very very very very…(you get the idea) slowly. This technique is used when doing the various manoeuvers such as the turn in the road exercise, reverse corner, reverse park and bay park. It is also used in any slow traffic situation such as meeting other cars on a narrow road or when emerging from a junction with a poor view.
Steering / Road Positioning
A basic control item but essential to being a safe driver. Over the years I have taken on many pupils from other instructors and have been shocked at the poor control that some of them have with respect to their steering. The classic example that I always use with regards to this is an old friend of mine who contacted me re his driving test. He said to me that he had just failed his driving test on about 7 different serious faults. I thought “wow!”, none of my pupils have ever done that badly!
Within five minutes I knew what his weakness was (it was actually quite obvious). He couldn't steer the car! Steering accuracy is essential to ones confidence as a driver. We spent 20 minutes sorting out his steering technique in a car park and immediately all the serious faults which he had on his driving test were all improving.
Poor steering technique has a knock on effect on many aspects of driving. It affects your positioning on approach, how much clearance you may be giving to other vehicles,, whether your confident about going into the gaps in traffic when waiting at junctions (which results in undue hesitancy), cutting corners when you do right turns, moving off safely into flowing traffic and not causing other vehicles to slow down, etc. Being confident about your steering is essential to being a good driver!
Mirrors and Emergency Stop
Understanding how to set your mirrors properly and making use of them in different traffic situations. On your test you will be marked for making use of mirrors well before signally, changing direction and changing speed. Use of mirrors is something which builds up over a period of time and as we cover different topics. Initially we will build up an understating of how to use mirrors as part of the MSM routine. Then we will build up how to use them in general driving and in dealing with hazards. Finally we'll build up to using mirrors at different types of junctions and in different traffic situations such as exiting roundabouts, judging lane changes on dual carriageways and on other high speed roads.
The emergency stop is an essential skill required as a driver! After all, we all make mistakes and other drivers or pedestrians may not be as sensible as we would like them to be in front of us. The emergency stop is also an exercise carried out in one-third of all driving tests, so you may be asked by your examiner to carry it out!