We all remember the excitement and anxiety in the days leading up to our road tests. The nights spent driving back and forth as you perfected your parallel parking and kept the old ‘ten-and-two’ in mind paid off when you got that slip of paper. But things have changed, and so have the customs and wisdom we pass along to the next generation of drivers. So, if you’ve booked your road test already and need some last words of advice before rushing off to the DMV, look no further.
Our first tip should be obvious, but is easy to forget about in the excitement.
Have Everything In Order
Before you even begin your drive test, your examiner will go over your vehicle and confirm all of your lights, signals and horn work, so be sure they do. Most places won’t allow you to take an unsafe vehicle on the road, so there can’t be any holes in the body either. They will also check you have your ownership and insurance slips in the vehicle as well, so take a quick inventory before you head to the office for your test. If you have a mechanic who is willing to take twenty minutes to double check your vehicle before you go, do so. If you don’t, be vigilant and check everything that might keep you from driving that day. Since you’re learning to drive, you may as well know how to inspect your vehicle.
Our next piece of advice might just save you some time and stress when you get to the testing office.
Back Into Your Parking Space
This little cheat may not work everywhere, but you could get a break on your reverse parking score if you back into your parking space when you show up for your drive test. Take your time, make sure you’re within the lines and not sitting on or against the curb before you go in. Your tester should note you’ve backed in while they check over your vehicle. This saves you the hassle of having to prove you can back into your parking spot while under the scrutinizing gaze of the clipboard holder. When you return to the office after the test, your instructor should simply ask you to pull into the spot since you’ve already proven you can back in.
A lot has changed over the years, including some old nuggets of driving wisdom. Our next slide looks at a tip that still makes the rounds even though it's as outdated as your mom’s taste in music.
Keep Your Hands On The Wheel
The old wisdom of keeping your hands at ten and two is outdated and obsolete for today’s vehicles. In your daddy’s day, ten and two made sense, but in the decades since you spiced up your parents’ lives, the technology has changed, making the old standby dangerous. Before the widespread adoption of airbags and power assisted steering, keeping your hands slightly high on the sides of the wheel provided a better position for making those hand over hand turns and facilitated better driver response. Today, however, steering wheel mounted airbags mean keeping your hands high on the wheel could result in your arms acting as projectiles in a crash, being blown back at your face with the force of an exploding airbag. If the airbag doesn’t send your hands back at your face, you also run the risk of breaking your thumbs when the flap pops open during the airbag deployment. So, if you want to drive like a pro with all your fingers intact, keep your hands at nine and three.
Our next suggestion reminds us that silence is golden.
Turn The Radio Off
This is one tip that should be obvious, but it bears repeating: turn your radio off. Bonus points for turning it off after you’ve reversed into your parking spot and before you go in to register. Very little makes for a worse first impression of a driver than turning the car on to blaring music. Loud music can be considered a distraction while driving, and it certainly doesn’t help your case with someone grading your ability to be responsible behind the wheel. Keep in mind the person in your passenger seat is a professional doing their job, so it is in everyone’s best interest to be just as professional in your driving habits with them.
Our next tip is a gentle reminder that your instructor can’t read your mind.
Keep Your Head On A Swivel
While you are driving, your eyes should be busy keeping tabs on everything going on around you. Your examiner will be looking to make sure you are checking your mirrors regularly, as well as blind spots and dash information like speed. While it’s tempting to just move your eyes, you should turn your entire head and slightly exaggerate the movements so the person grading you can see you are actively taking in your surroundings. Many points have been docked from tests over the years from lazy lookers, so don’t be another one who assumes glancing out of the corner of your eye will be enough to indicate you’re looking.
Up next is some advice we could all use in life.
Take Your Time
At some point during your road test, the person grading you will ask you to parallel park. Take your time and go slow. They would rather see you understand the maneuver than are able to do it at record speed. The park is not considered complete until you move the shifter to ‘P,’ so relax and make sure you do it well. If you overshoot or don’t quite cut in enough, pull out and start again. They are grading you on your ability to complete the maneuver, so slow down and make sure you’ve done a decent job before shifting back to park. While you’re busy taking it slow and steady, keep an eye on your speed during the test. It’s easy to have the speedometer creep up to a failing degree when you’re not paying attention.
Being comfortable with your vehicle and the exercises you’ll be asked to perform, the more prepared you’ll be. Our next tip is designed to make sure you’re comfortable during one of the most dangerous aspects of driving.
Spend Some Time On The Highway
If your state has a graduated licensing system, your second road test should include a highway component where you prove you can drive on faster roadways without incident. Get a parent or whoever is teaching you to take you out to the local highway to practice merging and exiting the highway. Getting cold feet when approaching a highway is extremely dangerous for everyone around you, so it’s best to be ready and comfortable with it. Remember to get up to the speed of traffic, spot the position you want to merge into on the highway and watch both the traffic behind you and the driver ahead of you in case someone else gets nervous and does exactly what you’re trying to avoid.
To round out our list, we have some sage advice that shouldn’t be ignored.
Practice Makes Perfect
Like anything else in life, practice makes perfect, and driving is no different. The more time you get to spend behind the wheel, the more comfortable you’ll be when it comes time to prove yourself. Spend nights after school parallel parking over and over again; make loops of the highway, merging and exiting back and forth until you can confidently accelerate, join, and leave the traffic; and have someone watch you to ensure you are checking your blind spots and mirrors frequently without gazing. The more time you prepare for your road test, the more likely you’ll walk away with that milestone of adolescence in your hand.
If you take this advice to heart, pay attention, and practice, there’s no reason we shouldn’t see you out in the asphalt wilds. Best of luck.