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.
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‘.
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.
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 / Signaling
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.
Side of the road
During a driving test, the examiner will only ever 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.
Tutorials and guides related to moving off
- Cover the brake
- Stopping a car
- kerbside parking
- Moving off at an angle
- Hit the kerb
- Hill starts