When you first enter the car ensure that the handbrake (Parking Brake) is firmly applied and the gears lever is in neutral.
The basic cockpit drill involves the following items: Doors, Seat, Steering, Seatbelt, Mirrors. This can be remembered using the acronym D.S.S.S.M.
Some driving instructors use different variations on this sequence. Your driving instructor will teach you their prefered cockpit drill sequence.
All doors should be fully closed. If you look in the door mirrors, you should be able to see if all the side doors are flush with the side of the car. The boot should also be fully closed before starting any journey.
Always be careful when opening your door and remember to keep a firm grip on the handle
when opening a car door on a windy day.
You should always check it is safe before opening the door. Remember to check the blindspot.
Most car seat can be adjusted in four ways. Forwards and backwards, up and down, the angle of the back (sometimes know as the rake) can be changed, and the head restraint can be adjusted up and down (sometimes forward and backwards as well).
The first check to make when adjusting your seat is to
press the clutch pedal fully to the floor with your left foot. Your left knee should be slightly bent, with no need to stretch.
Place both your hands at top of the steering wheel. Your elbows should be
very slightly bent. If not continue to adjust the seat until this is so (this can be a good time to adjust the rake).
When your seat is correctly adjusted, you should be able to run your hands from the top to the bottom of the steering wheel with ease. You should also be able to push the clutch fully down and release it without any problem. Make sure you can see clearly over the steering wheel and into the road ahead.
Some cars allow you to adjust the angle of the steering wheel. This can be helpful in getting a good driving position and maximising visibility.
The head restraint should be close behind your head (but not touching) and the firm part of it should be roughly level with your ears.
The easiest way to grab your seatbelt is to use your left hand and reach
over your right shoulder. Once clicked into its socket, the seatbelt should sit flat against you without any twists. Check it is properly engaged and will not pull free of the socket without pressing
the release button. You should still be able to lean forward in your seat and the seatbelt should extend to allow this.
When you release your seatbelt, it may try to spring back to its starting position very quickly. Keep hold of it so it reels back in gently.
The driver is legally responsable to ensure that they, and passengers under the age of 14 wear seatbelts when the car is moving. Passengers 14 and over are legally responsible for their own.
Your interior mirror should be adjusted so
you can see as much as possible through the back window of the car.
If they are not currently needed, it is a good idea to lower any head restraints in the back of the car so they do not obstruct your view. You should also remove any other possible obstructions, including unnecessary stickers on the rear window.
Your door mirrors should be adjusted so you can see a little bit of the side of the car, a fair bit of sky and plenty of road.
Door mirrors are convext (slightly curved), so they give a wider field of view. Notice how objects appear further away in the door mirrors than they do in the interior mirror.
With your seat and mirrors properly
adjusted, you should have a clear view ahead and a good idea of what is behind you. However, it is important to be aware of what you cannot see.
Your peripheral vision should give you a view of what is in front and to the sides. Keep actively scanning from side to side while you are driving so you are fully aware of any developing hazards.
The interior mirror uses a flat piece of glass and gives the most accurate representation of the view behind. The side mirrors use slightly curved glass which increases the field of vision but also makes things appear further away than they actually are.
To maximise your awareness of what is behind, you should develop the habit of using your mirrors in pairs. If you need to know what is happening behind and to the right of you, first check your interior mirror for an accurate reflection, then check your right mirror to provide a wider angle of visibility towards the right side. By combining your mirror checks in this way, you will gain a genuinely helpful understanding of the movement and speed of following traffic.
Blindspots are areas which are not covered by your peripheral vision or
your mirrors. It is surprisingly easy for another road user to disappear in one of these blindspots. It is also surprising how close to you they can get while in this hidden
With effective and regular use of mirrors it will be very difficult for another road user to get into a blindspot without you knowing about it. However, anytime you find yourself in a situation in which you are not sure what is there, a quick glance over your shoulder is all that is needed to fill in the gap.
It is also important to be aware that additional blindspots are created by the pillars which connect the roof of a car to its body. Most cars have two pillars at the front (either side of the windscreen), two in the middle, and two more at the back (either side of the rear window). It can be surprising how easily another road user can disappear into one of these blindspots. Be particularly mindful of the possibility of cars, motorcyclists and cyclists being hidden in this way when you are emerging at junctions. When reversing, watch out for pedestrians who may be hidden by the rear pillars. Move your head around to ensure you are checking these blindspots whenever necessary.
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