Moving Off in a Car

Driving off or moving off in a car safely and using the correct technique takes some practice to master and can often take many hours into your driving course before you become reasonably confident.

Moving off from a stationary is an exercise a learner driver will undergo frequently during a driving test. It is also a particular area that many driving tests are failed.

Whether you are a learner driver or an experienced driver wishing to take the UK driving test, driving off from a stationary position is a technique that must be done correctly, each and every time. Following this driving off tutorial, the equally important stopping a car tutorial follows.

Moving off procedure

This tutorial is based on moving off from a stationary position on a level road. During the driving test, the examiners use strict rules when it comes to moving off. Many times during a test, the driving examiner will request that you park the car up on the left and when ready, simply move off again.

This is to establish that you can do so safely and under good control. Examiners will be looking for 3 keys skills to demonstrate this MSM (mirror, signal, manoeuvre) routine:

  • Observation – appropriate and safe observation before driving off
  • Accuracy – judging distances of other vehicles accurately
  • Control – keeping the car under control

Let’s assume you have completed the cockpit drill, the car is running, the gear stick is in neutral, handbrake is on and you are ready to move off.

Get the car ready

You will need to make sure the car is ready to drive off before any other checks are made. Depress the clutch fully and select first gear. If you have little driving experience, you may need to ‘set the gas’ and reach the clutch biting point. This technique helps learners to prevent stalling the car. For further information on this technique or if you are prone to stalling a car, read the tutorial ‘How to stop stalling a car‘.

Moving off safely in a car
Moving off safely in a car

First gear is selected and if applicable, you have the bite point of the clutch. Now place your left hand onto the handbrake, thumb on the button ready to release it. Your right hand should be placed on the steering wheel in around the 2 or 3 o’clock position. The car is now ready to go. The next stage is for appropriate observations.

Mirror check

There are essentially two types of mirror check; a full all-round mirror check and the minimum safety mirror check.

  • Full all-round mirror check involves starting with the left blind spot, then into the left side mirror, into the main interior mirror, straight ahead out of the front windscreen, the right side mirror, the right blind spot and finishing off looking out of the front windscreen.
  • Minimum safety mirror check involves looking out the front windscreen, into the main interior mirror, the right side mirror, the right blind spot, finishing off looking where you are going, out of the front windscreen.

A driving instructor may teach you either method although it doesn’t matter which version of the mirror checks you use in the driving test provided they are performed correctly. These checks also include the driving blind spot. Failure to perform the correct mirror checks and/or the blind spot will very likely result in failing the driving test.

If the road looks safe for you to drive off, you now need to decide if a signal to the right is necessary and if so, when it is appropriate to indicate. If after you have performed your mirror and blind spot checks a vehicle approaches and you do not intend of moving off, once the vehicle has passed, you will need to perform the mirror checks and blind spot once again.

Indicating / Signalling

Indicating before driving off is another area where it’s easy to run into difficulties. If once you have completed your safety checks and there are no pedestrians, cyclists or approaching vehicles, there is no need to indicate to the right. You may however still indicate if you prefer.

If there are vehicles approaching from in front, cyclists or pedestrians in the vicinity but it is still safe to move off, ensure you indicate before driving off.

If however there is a vehicle or pedestrian approaching from behind and you intend on waiting till they have passed, do not indicate until they have passed. This can cause the vehicle to slow down and flash you out or swerve.

During a driving test, causing a vehicle or cyclist to alter their speed or direction due to inappropriate driving on your behalf, can fail a test. Wait till the vehicle or cyclist has passed, perform the safety checks once again and then decide if it is necessary to indicate based on the current situation.

Moving off safely

Now that it is safe to move off, do so briskly but not aggressively. Examiners tend not to like learners who drive too slowly during a driving test. Take a final look into your main interior mirror once you have done so to establish if vehicles behind are approaching quickly. If they are, accelerate faster up to the speed limit. Now that you can drive off using the correct procedure, we will now look at the correct procedure for stopping a car, or parking up on the left during a driving test.

Driving off / moving off tips

  • Ensure the car is ready to move off before you drive. If not, you will need to go through the safety checks again.
  • Always perform the safety mirror checks before moving off. Failure to do so will result in failing the driving test.
  • Never forget the car blind spot. This is a very common causes for failing.
  • If you are in doubt whether to drive off or not, wait and try again when you are sure.
  • Always signal to the right before driving off if there are pedestrians, cyclists or other vehicles.
  • Never signal to the right if you are waiting for a vehicle behind you to pass before moving off.

The hill starts tutorial explains in detail how to move off on a hill both uphill and downhill. Explained also are common mistakes that learner drivers make when either moving off or parking on a hill.

Does stalling fail a driving test

It is quite common for learners to stall during a driving test. Whether it results in a stall depends on the situation. If constant stalling throughout the test is done, it may well result in a failure. Stalling in a dangerous location such as a crossroads, junction or roundabout where other vehicles are affected is also likely to result in a failure. Simply stalling as you are about to drive off however is likely to result in a minor and not a failure. If you are prone to stalling, read the guide on How to stop stalling a car for further advice.

Further information that may be of benefit explains the correct use of the clutch often referred to as:

Car blind spot

Many driving tests a failed due to the lack of checking the blind spot. Whenever the examiner asks you to park up, before driving off ensure you check at least the right blind spot. The appropriate blind spot should also be checked before changing lanes at any point in a driving test.

Hitting the kerb

Learner drivers can be prone to hitting the kerb / curb , even in a driving test. If you are prone to hitting the kerb, read our guide for helping you to reduce hitting the kerb by use of reference points.

Pulling Up on the Left and Right Side of the Road

Aside from a new manoeuvre introduced to the driving test this year requiring you to pull up on the right and reverse two car lengths, during general driving, the examiner will only ask you to park on the left hand side of the road. Parking on the right is far more dangerous as the road ahead will often be obscured by parked vehicles. Parking on the right is legal during daylight hours and as such, the DVSA is now testing candidates on this manoeuvre to ensure they are aware of the increased risks and can safely demonstrate this procedure.

Tutorials and guides related to moving off

8 thoughts on “Moving Off in a Car”

  1. Raji Abdullahi

    Its indeed helpful

  2. Georgie

    ‘If you have little driving experience, you may need to ‘set the gas’ and reach the clutch biting point. This technique helps learners to prevent stalling the car. ‘

    I’m currently learning to drive, and was surprised to see that setting the gas and reaching biting point is something mainly done by learners. How do experienced drivers move off without using the biting point?

  3. Hello Georgie,
    An experienced driver will continuously lift the clutch all the way, but will slow down around the bite point area and speed up just after the bite point area once the car has moved off. To do this all in a single step is difficult for many learner drivers which is why they often stall. Raising the clutch and stopping at the bite point is a good process to start off with as it gains an understanding and ‘feel’ of how the clutch works.

  4. Kate

    So the order of things is to do all of the checks on the seat/ mirrors etc check the car is in neutral then press down on the clutch, turn the engine on fully, put into first gear then find the biting point and accelerate? Ive only had one lesson and am stressing out because I can’t remember the order to move off !

  5. Hello Kate,
    The very first thing to do when you get in the car is:
    1. The cockpit drill. This is getting the seat/mirrors etc all set up for you.
    2. Then you check the gears are in neutral and start the car.
    3. Then you get the car ready to move. So this is 1st gear, find the bite point if you need to.
    4. Then you do the observation checks, this is looking in your mirrors and the blind spot. Examiners are pretty hot on the blind spot, so never forget that.
    5. Then the last thing you do is to move off.

  6. Tony Gordon

    Hi I find your web site very useful and informative thankyou!
    I have a question .. when taking the driving test in an automatic car what is the rule regarding left foot braking?

    I left foot brake as the norm .. how would an examiner view this assumimg that there were no silly issues like riding the brakes etc.
    many thanks

  7. Hi Tony.
    Glad you find the site useful.
    If a driver has experience driving a manual car, then if using both feet for driving a automatic (left foot brake and right foot accelerator), there might be the risk of the driver accidently confusing the the brake for the clutch. So in that sense, it’s generally a good idea to use the right foot only. However, there’s no rule that states you must use your right foot only and if during the test you demonstrate good control of the car and as you say, there are no issues such as riding the brakes or getting confused with the pedals in any way, the examiner will have no issues with you using both feet.

  8. Tony Gordon

    Great .. Thanks for the fast response .. I will let you know how I get on!

Leave a Reply