Driving Test Tips

By Taylor Rice

With the summer coming up, many teenagers are ready to get out of school and spend their days outside. In order to do that, they are trying to get their driver’s licenses. These are a few tips in order to pass your drivers test. 

The estimated time for a drivers test is about 20 minutes. The examiner will test you on basic driving actions. Be prepared to make left and right turns, stops at controlled/uncontrolled intersections, backing up in a straight line or along a curb, lane changes, driving in regular street traffic, and (only if required) driving on a freeway. Note that driving on a freeway is not commonly tested on California drivers tests. 

Safe Driving Tips: 

  1. Steer smoothly: Don’t jerk the wheel and keep a steady hand.
  1. Accelerate smoothly: Don’t stall or rev the engine.
  1. Stop the Vehicle gently: Don’t stop abruptly. 
  1. Be in the correct gear: Know what gear you shifted to. Don’t grind gears. 
  1. Follow at safe distances: Follow the 3-second rule. Make sure to increase your following distance in bad weather or poor visibility. 
  1. Know traffic signs and signals: Put drivers to good use! Obey traffic signs and signals at all times. 
  1. Use the proper lane: Don’t drift, stay within the lines. 
  1. Use your signals: Use your turn signals during lane changes, turns, or pulling over. 
  1. Check for potential hazards: Always be vigilant! Scan your surroundings and check your mirrors frequently. 
  1. Check over your shoulder: When making lane changes or reversing, make sure you check over your shoulders. Don’t just rely on your mirrors, they have blind spots!
  1. Drive Defensively: Always expect the unexpected! Assume that other drivers are going to make an error and be prepared to act accordingly. 

Possible Automatic Fails:

  1. Poor Steering: Don’t drive one handed! Keep both hands on the steering wheel when possible. According to the DMVcheetsheets.com, a person should “Make hand-over-hand turns, and let go of the wheel with controlled slippage.”
  1. Changing Lanes Wrong: Use your turn signal when changing lanes. Check your blindspot by turning your head and check your mirrors. If there are no oncoming cars, motorcycles, trucks, or any other kind of vehicles then you can change lanes. 
  1. Rolling Stops: Stop completely and before the limit line! Making incomplete stops is a common mistake during the DMV test. As stated on the DMV website, “A rolling stop will result in an outright failure.”
  1. Distracted Driving: Turn off your cell phone and stereo! Don’t fight with other things during your test. Keep your attention and mind on the road. 
  1. Uncertainty at 4 way stop: Know what you’re doing at an intersection with stop signs. Know what other cars are going to do and what your response is. Patiently wait for your turn, then move. Use your turn signal if you’re turning. If more than one car is at the intersection, the vehicle on the right side generally moves first. 
  1. Driving Very Slowly: Show confidence in your skills! Driving too slowly below the speed limit can be unpredictable behavior. It could lead to unsafe conditions for yourself and other drivers, which usually results in failing the test. 
  1. Speeding: Stay within the speed limit! While not on the freeway, ignore the other speeding drivers and worry about you! Make sure you pay attention to speed limit signs, and are conscious of changes in speed around work zones, school zones, residential areas and more. 
  1. Switching Lanes in an Intersection: Never change lanes in the middle of an intersection! Regardless of going straight or making a turn, wait until you clear the intersection before you change lanes. 
  1. Breaking to Hard: You should only break hard in the case of an emergency or another driver doing something unexpected. When slowing down to a stop, you should only use enough breaks to get the job done. Breaking too hard on the test will show the examiner that you don’t have true control of your vehicle. 
  1. Tailgating: Following other drivers too closely makes them nervous, and does not leave adequate time for you to react if something happened with the car in front of you. Leave a cushion of space between you and the car in front of you. That way you’ll be able to break and react.
  1. Parallel Parking: It’s highly unlikely that parallel parking will be on a California practical driving test. Instead, it is much more common to have the testing driver back up along a curb. However, here are some things to look out for if you do encounter parallel parking on the test. You can touch the curb, but can’t roll over it. While you may get points deducted, as long as you don’t hit a curb or a car too forcefully you can still pass your test. 
  1. Not Checking Mirrors: During the DMV driving test, make sure you frequently check your mirrors, even more regularly than you normally would. Most people forget to check their side and rear view mirrors during their driving tests. It’s always good to know the locations of other vehicles around you. 
  1. Car Fail: Make sure the car you intend to drive for your DMV test meets all safety laws. There should be no windshield cracks. All lights in the vehicle should be in working condition (headlights, tail lights, emergency lights [hazards], and brake lights), along with seatbelts and windshield wipers. Clean the car before taking the test. The windows should be clean enough for optimal visibility, and there should be no personal items in the car rolling around and distracting you. 
  1. Seatbelt violations: Make sure you buckle your seatbelt! Don’t get caught in the heat of the moment. Also make sure that your examiner has their seat belt buckled before starting the car. Falling to do this will result in automatic failure. 
  1. Traffic Law Violations: Violating traffic laws will result in automatic failures. Violations include: failure to obey traffic signs, illegal turns, speeding, failing to move for an emergency vehicle, running a red light, running a stop sign, etc. 

Remember! You’ve prepared for this test and you have the skills to complete it. Believe in yourself and keep a level head. You’ll do great!

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