Level 1: Beginner's basic driving skills

The Level 1 Basic Driving Skills guide covers the fundamental routines that you’ll need to master before anything else. You’ll be able to accelerate your learning by studying these videos and accompanying PDFs in-between your driving lessons:

  1. Cockpit drill (DSSSM)
  2. Use of mirrors
  3. Use of signals
  4. Moving off using the POM routine
  5. Stopping using the MSM routine
  6. Steering using the pull / push method
  7. Changing gears (manual and automatic)

Practice makes perfect. To feel confident with all of these techniques you’ll need about 10 hours of lessons with an approved driving instructor.

Professional tuition will ensure that you are using the correct techniques once you’re actually on the road. After enough practice, your muscle memory will develop so you’ll no longer have to consciously think your way through each step of these routines. At this point you’ll then be ready to move on to the Level 2 guide, which covers the rules of the road.

Don’t forget you can also take advantage of our free learner driver downloads to help you get the most out of your driving lessons.

A close up shot of a gear stick control knob - something you'll familiarise yourself with as part of the cockpit drill.

1). Cockpit drill: DSSSM

The cockpit drill is the first set of skills you’ll need to master. DSSSM stands for: Doors, SeatSteeringSeatbelt, Mirrors.

The cockpit drill covers the things you’ll need to check and adjust each time you get into your car, before you start the engine. Be sure to refer to our controls tutorial for details about the other checks you’ll need to make concerning the handbrake and gear stick.

The cockpit drill using the DSSSM routine: The Ultimate Guide! | Basic driving skills - car control

2). Use of mirrors

Checking and adjusting your mirrors forms part of the cockpit drill.

Adjusting your mirrors before you start the engine is essential if you share your car with anyone else. It’s still important to check your mirrors before every journey regardless. This is because they may have been knocked (especially wing mirrors, if you park on a busy street). They might also need clearing if the weather is bad.

This video also explains the different types of mirrors and when and how to use them whilst driving.

Use of Mirrors : The Ultimate Guide on when to use your mirrors as part of the MSM routine

3). Use of signals

Learn when and where to use signals — and which signals are appropriate in certain situations. This video also explains how to time your signals correctly so that other road users are aware of your intentions.

The golden rule is to consider whether other road users will benefit from your signalling. Using signals incorrectly or not using them at all can have disastrous consequences. This is why it’s so important to practise your signalling skills until they become second nature.

Signalling : The Ultimate Guide on when to signal as part of the "Mirror Signal Manoeuvre" routine

4). Moving off using the POM routine

POM stands for Prepare, Observe, Move.

This video provides step-by-step instructions for moving off using the POM routine. Howard will demonstrate how to find the biting point of your clutch and outline the six point check, which covers your mirror and blind spot checks.

Before starting your engine and preparing to move off, you must complete the cockpit drill first!

Moving off & Stopping - The Ultimate Guide to moving off and stopping a manual car (using POM & MSM)

5). Stopping using the MSM routine

MSM stands for Mirrors, Signal, Manoeuvre.

Once you’ve learnt how to move off safely using the POM routine above, you’ll then need to learn how to bring your vehicle to a stop. To safely stop your car, you’ll need to use the MSM routine.

This routine combines many of the techniques already covered in the basic skills section of the learner guide. To ensure you’re confident with the MSM routine, be sure to also go back over the guides to using mirrors and using signals.

Moving off & Stopping - The Ultimate Guide to moving off and stopping a manual car (using POM & MSM)

6). Steering using the pull / push method

This video starts with the basics by showing you how to hold the steering wheel correctly. Howard then demonstrates the pull / push steering method, which is widely considered steering best practice.

For contrast, Howard also discusses other steering techniques that many people use, but that have undesirable consequences. If you’ve caught yourself using the palming method for steering or are guilty of ‘dry’ steering watch the video to find out why you need to stop!

How to Steer a Car : The Ultimate Guide to steering using the pull push technique

7). Changing gears (manual and automatic)

Learning to change gears is one of the most crucial fundamental driving skills. Once you have mastery of your gearbox you will be well on the way to becoming a safe and confident driver.

This video covers automatic and manual gearbox layouts and how and when to change up and down gears. It goes into more detail on more advanced techniques such as selective gear changes (block changes), appropriate gearing for hazards, and engine braking. Automatic drivers aren’t left out either, as the video also goes through dual clutches and paddle shifting.

How to change gears in a manual car (UK): The Ultimate Guide! | Basic driving skills - car control

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* According to the DVSA (the people who set the driving test) it takes on average 47 hours of driving lessons and another 20 hours of private practice to pass the driving test.

By using our structured training system we help our customers pass after an average of just 30 hours of driving lessons — that’s 17 hours less than the DVSA average!