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Learning to drive

How to move off in a car

Moving off is one of the very first things you'll do in your very first driving lesson. To start with, it‘ll feel like there’s a lot to remember but don’t worry - this will be second nature before you know it.

First checks or cockpit drill

The cockpit drill is your basic check of the car around you and can be remembered with:

DSSSM: doors, seat, steering, seatbelt and mirrors
  • Can you reach the pedals comfortably?
  • Are all of your mirrors giving you good vision of the road behind you?
  • Are your lights on / off as needed?
  • Is your headrest adjusted to the correct height?
  • Is your seatbelt on?
Some of these actually feature in the show me, tell me questions you'll have to answer.

Getting ready

It’s very important that before you do your observation and make the decision to move off, you’re actually ready to go.

There’s no point thinking ‘Yup, now’s the time’ if you then take 30 seconds to find the biting point and take off your handbrake. A lot can change in 30 seconds.

Your preparation process:

  1. Put the key in the ignition and turn until you hear the engine start
  2. Push down on the clutch and put the car in first gear
  3. Raise the clutch to the point that the car growls, then push down a bit - about the thickness of a pound coin
  4. Take off your handbrake but use the foot brake if you don’t feel confident enough to keep the car still with the clutch
  5. Hold that clutch!

Is it safe?

When you’re moving off on a road, the most important thing you need to do is check that it’s safe for you to go.

This means observing traffic coming from behind you and towards you, and always keeping an eye out for pedestrians, cyclists and motorbikes.

Use your left mirror: don’t forget to look out for BOBs and GOBs - boys and girls on bikes.

Don’t worry if it feels like it takes a while for the road to be safe - it’s always better to be a little cautious than a little risky.

Moving off

Keep your clutch exactly where it is, ready to go when it's safe.

When moving off, you should always:

  1. Use your mirrors to check the road is clear
  2. Look round to check your blind spots (anywhere not covered by your mirrors)
  3. Signal your intention
  4. Do a final check that it’s safe to go
  5. Press the accelerator gently and steer carefully into the road, keeping to your side
  6. Release the clutch slowly as you accelerate
  7. Make progress so you’re not a hazard, changing to second gear as soon as possible

You’ll probably hear your driving instructor saying ‘Make progress!’ a lot - it means ‘Get to the appropriate speed in good time.’ You need to do this after turning into a road, changing gear or anything else that causes you to slow down and therefore affect other road users.

During your test, your examiner will probably ask you to pull over and then move off again several times. Follow the same process every time and don’t forget your observation!

Hill starts

Your examiner may also ask you to do a hill start during your test. A hill start might sound harder, but if you use all of the same steps you’ll be just fine.

Remember: your car could take longer to accelerate when you’re doing a hill start, so make sure you’ve got enough time to safely make progress without being a hazard to other drivers.

If you’ve stopped on a hill, hopefully you’ve remembered to use your handbrake. Remember to check you’ve put your car in first gear, then find your biting point.

Next, take care of all of your checks and gently come off your clutch, pushing on your accelerator as you take off the handbrake. You might need to push on your accelerator a bit harder on a hill start than on flat ground, so don’t be scared to give it some oomph!

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Now you know how to start the car, how about keeping it safely under control?


6 Responses

  1. amanda says:

    That’s brilliant I understood it perfect thank u .doing my theory test end off June failed twice already.i just freeze when I go into the center to do it any tips xx Amanda

  2. Dan says:

    The car will not move off by just pressing the accelerator pedal. As stated above. If you are giving out information you should be correct in what you are saying.
    Pressing the accelerator will do nothing but rev the engine.

    • ingenie says:

      Hi Dan,

      As the article says in the “Getting ready” section, “Raise the clutch to the point that the car growls, then push down a bit – about the thickness of a pound coin” – observation is next, then actual acceleration.

      This process was written with a driving instructor and is broken down into every single step for a learner. Thanks!


  3. Dan says:

    Yes but at no point does it say bring the clutch up

    • ingenie says:

      That’s point 6 under Moving off. Maybe we could word it more clearly? How about “Press the accelerator gently and steer carefully into the road, keeping to your side and releasing the clutch slowly”?

      Thanks Dan!