Once you complete your driver's ed courses and practice hours, there's one thing standing between you and your license — the behind-the-wheel driving test! If you're a bit nervous about putting your skills to the test, the best thing you can do is practice. But what should you be practicing? Here are five key things.
What Should You Practice Before Your Driving Test?
Here are five of the key skills to practice before your driving test.
1. Pre-Drive Checklist Items
Before you begin the actual driving test, you will typically need to demonstrate that you know how to operate the many functions of your vehicle (which are important for safe driving). If your vehicle doesn't operate properly or you don't know how to work it, it could result in a fail. Common items to check and know, include:
Turn signals: All four turn signals must work.
Brake lights: Both brake lights must work.
Tires: Your tires may need a minimum amount of tread and shouldn't be bald.
Horn: The horn must work.
Parking brake: You must be able to set and release the parking brake.
Arm signals: You need to know the arm signals for left turn, right turn, slow down, and stop.
Windshield wipers: Windshield wipers must be working, and you must be able to control them.
Defroster: Know where the defroster is and how to use it.
Hazard lights: Hazard lights must be working and you must know how to turn them on and off.
Headlights: Headlights must be operational and you must know how to turn them on and off.
Seat belts: Seat belts must work properly and be used.
Spend some time ensuring you know your car and all its functions well.
Practice making turns. Before making any turn, you should do a traffic check to look for vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Then, signal at least 100 feet prior to making the turn but not too early to where it could confuse other drivers. Also, be sure you are in the correct lane.
As you approach the turn, you should slow down with a gradual release of the gas and depress of the brake. The deceleration should feel smooth for you and the instructor. Manual vehicles will require you to change gears to maintain power and keep the gear engaged. The turn should then be smooth and controlled, slowing down to enter it and then accelerating though.
3. Lane Changes
Practice changing lanes. Be sure to do a proper traffic check by looking in the direction you're going, checking your side mirror, and looking over your shoulder at the blind spot on that side. Also, be sure to activate your turn signal before changing lanes and cancel it afterward.
Maintaining the appropriate speed for the current traffic conditions is important, along with waiting for an adequate gap. There should be a safe distance between you and all other vehicles. You also should move to the center of the destination lane and your change should be smooth, not jerky.
4. Backing Up
Backing up can be tricky. You'll want to practice this skill to ensure you nail it during the test. The backup test can vary by state, but you'll basically need to be able to put your car in reverse and drive safely in a straight line for 50 to 100 feet. When doing this, be sure to turn your head and look over your right shoulder. Ensure your path is clear of any people or cars. Don't rely on a backup camera as you often can't use it during the test. Keep the wheel still and slowly drive in a straight line backward.
5. Parallel Parking
Ah, the skill so many dread. Parallel parking can be difficult at first, but once you get the basics down, you'll be able to do it without any stress. However, it requires a bit of practice. To start, find a spot with adequate space and pull up next to the car in front of the space. Then, put the car in reverse and turn to look where you're going.
You'll want to reverse until the middle of your car lines up with the other car's rear bumper. Then, turn the wheel toward the curb and continue to back up until you can see the headlights of the car behind you. Then, you'll turn your wheel the other way to align with both cars and sit parallel to the curb.
Finally, make small adjustments to get as straight as possible and position yourself in the middle of the two vehicles. Your car should also be about a foot or foot and a half from the curb.
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