To achieve competency in driving one will have to frequently practise and improve the basic driving skills. According to DSA, people who pass their driving test have had an average of 45 hours of driving lessons with a professional instructor along with 20 hours private practise. The first learning step for beginner

Driver will be to learn about five areas of controls. Your instructor will drive you to a suitable area where he will introduce the car and its controls to you.

Please remember when you swap seats, preferably, walk round the rear of the car so that any following vehicle can notice your actions.

As a responsible driver some daily maintenance checks have to be done which include checking – fuel, oil, water, lights including indicators, tyres and also checking if the handbrake is applied and the gear lever is in neutral.

Cockpit drill [DSSSM routine]

The cockpit drill is an exercise carried out at the start of a lesson to set the car up for the driver to sit in a position to be in full control when driving. It consists of Doors, Seat, Steering, Seatbelt and Mirrors. It is abbreviated as the D.S.S.S.M routine.

We use this routine whenever we get into a car for the first time, as a learner driver it will be the first thing you are taught and also the first thing you will do at the start of each lesson.

The routine is set out in a specific way so no to have to do things twice, i.e. if you were to set your mirrors first then move your seat, you may need to change your mirrors again.


Before you start your engine you must check that all doors are closed and locked as appropriate.


You should adjust your seat so that you have a good view of the road and that all of the controls are within a comfortable reach. You should also adjust your headrest so as to prevent whiplash in event of an accident.


The steering wheel should be held comfortably in the ten to two position (imagine clock positions) or quarter to three position with your elbows slightly bent. Slide your hands around the steering wheel making sure your hands are not restricted. And the pull and push wheel system and be easily done.


It is your responsibility to ensure that all occupants of the car are wearing seat belts; you are LEGALLY responsible for passengers under 14 years of age. Also making sure the seats belts are not twisted and lays flat against your body and the buckle clips securely into the fastening point. Don’t allow the belt to recoil on its own.


You should adjust the centre and door mirrors for maximum rear view. Adjust the interior mirror using your left hand, place your thumb and fore finger along the edge of the mirror and move it until the rear window is framed in the mirror. You have to be careful as not to touch the mirror as fingerprints can distort the image. You may notice that the objects seen in the door mirror appear smaller and so seen further away, this is because the fitted glass is Convex which gives a wider field of vision but not a true reflection of distance and size so this has to be taken into consideration when using the door mirrors.

Fig 1 image: Cockpit drill

Cockpit drill

The five areas of control are;

  1. Foot controls
  2. Hand controls
  3. Visual controls
  4. Ancillary controls
  5. Dual controls

Foot controls are remembered as ABC (right to left)-

Accelerator – the ‘Gas’ pedal to speed up the vehicle by increasing the engine speed. The gas should be set lightly and delicately when driving. Accelerator is the pedal located on the extreme right and should be operated by right foot.

Brake pedal – the ‘footbrake’ to slow down and stop the car. It works on all four wheels of the car. The brake pedal should be used gently and progressively when driving. Brake pedal is located in the centre and should also be operated by right foot.

Tip: Right foot should be placed in the space between the accelerator and brake so that the movement between the two can be convenient.

Clutch – the Clutch pedal engages and disengages drive. The clutch pedal should be used slowly. It is located on the extreme left and should be operated by left foot. Correct usage of clutch control is extremely important to confident and safe car control. Learning to master the clutch for moving away under control and making smooth gear changes are skills that need to be practised constantly which is also referred to as ‘controlling the clutch’. ‘Clutch control’ is the skill of moving the car very slowly in first or reverse gear by fractional movements of the clutch combined with a steady gas setting. Your instructor will discuss the importance of ‘Biting point’ and how to recognise it.

Hand controls include the handbrake, the gear lever and steering wheel –

The handbrake – also called the parking brake. Handbrake secures the car and is operated with a ratchet button so that the brake lever can be lowered/released or raised/applied. It is located behind the gear lever.

The gear lever – enables engine power to be used efficiently. There are five forward gears and one reverse gear. Each gear controls the amount of power transmitted to the driving wheels of the vehicle. Lower the gear, higher the power and less speed and vice versa. The gear lever is located immediately left of driver. Gear lever is operated using left hand palm. Between the central position of the gears is the Neutral. It is identified by moving the gear lever from side to side. Correct use of the gears is important for safe and eco-friendly car control. First gear is used to pull away the car from the stationary position as it has the highest power but low speed. Second and third gears are termed as ‘working’ gears. For higher speed levels fourth and fifth gears are used.

The steering wheel – changes the direction of the car. The recommended way for turning the steering wheel while taking left or right turn is the ‘pull push’ method. The steering wheel is located in front of the driver.

Visual Controls include mirrors and windows. Understand blind spots and blind areas from the instructor and make it a point to check it regularly before moving your stationary car.

Ancillary Controls (minor controls) include speedometer, rev counter, lights, horn, wipers, washers, air conditioning/fan, fuel, warning lights, temperature gauges, hazard lights, heated rear screen, rear fog lamps. Use of any hands free mobile phone systems that is installed in the car or use of satellite navigation are also categorised as ancillary controls.

Dual controls are control in driving instructor’s cars that gives the passenger side a brake and clutch to bring the car safely to a stop for the instructor to use if necessary.

Frequently asked questions-

1. When you sit in the driver’s seat of the car what is the routine to follow?

Cockpit drill or DSSSM routine.

2. What is MSM routine?

Mirror Signal Manoeuvre routine.

Food for thought – (You should give a think to the below and discuss this with your instructor)

What are your blind spots and blind areas?

What is the Biting point and how can you achieve it?

What is the ‘Pull-push’ system of steering wheel?

How does the clutch control work?

Britz Driving School - 0207 118 1186 

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