Module 1

Safe Routines

Driving is an inherently dangerous involves moving a large object weighing upwards of a tonne, often at high speeds, and usually with other people close by.

Every year some 3,500 people die on the UK's roads (one of the best records in the World!) and many more are injured. Around 99% of crashes are down to one principal factor...Driver Error.

This is why it is absolutely vital that safety is built-in to every element of your driving.

To achieve this various "Safe Routines" are used when driving, and these will have been covered on your very first lesson.

Please Note

These guidlines are intended to help you remember the basic procedures, but are not comprehensive or definitive. Follow your Instructors guidance, and you will soon develop the skills of Hazard Perception, and the ability to "think on your feet" which are key to good driving.

The Cockpit Drill

This simple 5-step routine should be carried out every time you get in the car.

  1. Adjust the seat. Make sure you are comfortable and can easily reach and operate the foot pedals. The seat will normally have back/forward adjustment, and a rake adjustment for the seat-back. On some seats you can adjust the height and lumbar support.
  2. Steering. Make sure you have a comfortable grip on the wheel at "10 to 2" or "1/4 to 3", and a slight bend in the elbows when holding the top of the wheel. Some steering wheels are adjustable.
  3. Mirrors. Adjust all the driving mirrors to give yourself the best view.
  4. Seat Belt. ALWAYS wear the seatbelt. Some have adjustment for height.
  5. Visual check. Check that your passengers are aboard and wearing their seat-belts. Check all the doors are closed. 

Engine Start

It is essential to check a couple of things before starting the engine...we don't want the car driving itself away before we're ready.

  1. Check that the handbrake is applied.
  2. Check that the gears are in "Neutral".
  3. Turn the key to start the engine. Many people favour depressing the clutch when starting the engine. This is not essential, but may have some advantages. 


This is the "Safe Routine" we use on the move to deal with any situation or hazard that we encounter. Any action that you take in the car (any time you move your hands or feet) should be part of a Mirrors-Signal-Manoeuvre (MSM) routine. When you identify a hazard ahead, check the rear-view mirror to add information about the situation behind you to what you see ahead of you. Use the information to decide if a signal is needed, and to decide when to give the signal. At the appropriate moment, begin the manoeuvre. This may involve a change of road position and/or a change of speed.

A final check is wise before begining any manoeuvre, and if changing lane or moving away, the "Blind Spot" must be checked as well.When used correctly, the MSM routine should allow you to comfortably deal with any road hazard that you encounter, because it ensures that you arrive at the hazard at an appropriate speed with the car fully under control, and having taken into account the other road-users around you. 

Mirrors, Signal, Position, Speed, Look

Alternatively, consider the following routine. MS-PSL. This is Mirrors, Signal, Position, Speed, Look. This procedure ensures that the steps are carried out in the correct sequence, but doesn't mention the gear change that may be needed after slowing down. Alternatively, consider the "manoeuvre" part of MSM as having three stages (Brakes, Gears, Steering), to make the speed adjustment work. In other words "Mirrors, signal, brakes (to slow), gears (to keep the car comfortable at the new lower speed), and steering. If it is necessary to re-position the car for the manoeuvre, this would normally be done after the signal but before the speed adjustment.

Sometimes a single mirror check will cover two or three hazards if they are very close to each other, but other times each hazard will require it's own MSM routine. A good example is a parked car just before a left turn into a side road. An initial mirror check is needed before moving out to pass the parked car, but signalling early could lead to following drivers thinking you are parking too, or you could start signalling left just as you move out to the right to pass the parked car (an incorrect signal). So after the first mirror check, move out to pass the stationary vehicle, and as you pass it re-check the mirror, then signal left for your left turn, at which point you can start slowing as the first step of your left-turn manoeuvre.

Manual Transmission

To move away,

With the engine running, depress the clutch and engage 1st gear. "Set the Gas" and then carefully find the "biting point" on the clutch. Check the rear-view mirror and the right Blind-Spot. If it is safe to move away release the handbrake and SLOWLY bring the clutch up. The car will move away as you do this.

To stop,

Use MSM. Carry out a mirror check, and signal where necessary. Gently bring your right foot off the gas and over to the foot-brake. Brake smoothly and just before the car stops, depress the clutch. If parking, keep the brake and clutch down until you have "secured the car" ie applied the handbrake and put the gears in "neutral". If the stop is a short one, eg at a "Give Way" junction, then engage 1st gear as you stop and decide if you need to use the handbrake. Remember to keep the clutch down until you can move away.

You can stop in any of the forward is not necessary to change down through the gears when stopping. This is distracting you from the more important task of braking, and you will not need the intermediate gears anyway, although changing into 1st gear when stopping at a junction will leave you ready to move away once you can.

Changing Gear

As you change the speed of the car you will need to change gear. The procedure is the same whether you are increasing or decreasing your speed. The gear selected should be the gear most suited to the new speed, so when accelerating, build the speed smoothly and at the appropriate moment change up to a higher gear. When slowing, adjust the speed (using the foot-brake) to the speed you judge is appropriate for the manoeuvre you intend to carry out, then select the best gear for the new (lower) speed. You should finish all the braking before changing gear (avoiding any overlap), and also finish the gear change (clutch up slowly), before you arrive at the hazard or have to steer the car.

The procedure for changing gear is

  1. Ease off the gas.
  2. Depress the Clutch.
  3. Carefully and slowly move the gear lever to the desired position.
  4. Slowly and smoothly bring the clutch all the way up. (The biting point is not important during gear changes)
  5. If appropriate, return to the Gas pedal. 

Automatic Transmission

To move away,

With the engine running, push down the footbrake and engage "D" (drive). Perform any necessary safety checks around the car eg. mirrors and blindspot(s), and release the handbrake (if applied). Bring up the footbrake and gently add some gas. The car will move away as you do this.

To stop,

Use MSM. Carry out a mirror check, and signal where necessary. Gently reduce the gas and apply the foot-brake. Brake smoothly until the car stops. If parking, apply the handbrake and move the gear selector to "P" (park). If the stop is a short one, eg at a "Give Way" junction, the gear selector may be left in "D". You may keep the car still with the footbrake until moving away, but use the handbrake if necessary.

Changing Gear

The car will change gear as needed as you drive, but there may be times when you will need to manually select a more appropriate gear. Your instructor will give guidance on this, and will also explain how and when to use "kick-down" where more acceleration is required. 

Automatic & Manual Steering

You must always have the car fully in control, and one important part of this is the way you steer. The only acceptable method of steering is the "Pull and Push" technique, which your instructor will introduce to you within the first couple of lessons. When mastered, this will prove to be a quick and easy, accurate, and very safe way of steering, but it does take a bit of getting used to. A full understanding of the technique coupled with lots of dedicated practise is the order of the day here. The more effort you put in early on, the better.

Anticipation & Planning

This is the "art" of looking ahead as you drive to identify hazards in advance, so that you can deal with them comfortably in a structured and planned way.

A "Hazard" is any situation or feature that may or will require you to carry out a manuoevre, in other words require you to change your speed or direction.

You should scan the near, middle and far distance for real or potential hazards, and then devise a plan to deal with them using the MSM routine.

Your actions should be based on how you see the problem developing by using your experience as a driver. This may involve anticipating the actions of other road uers, analysing a road or traffic situation, and allowing for conditions such as the weather and road surface.

Always act in good time and make sure other road users are aware of your actions by giving appropriate signals where necessary. 

Hazard Perception Test

As part of your Theory Test you will have to complete a hazard perception test. This is based on video clips and you will need to click on a mouse button each time you identify a hazard. The sooner you click the button, the higher score you will acheive. This test is only concerned with moving hazards, so is more specific than the hazard perception you will need to use on the move which should also include static hazards such as parked cars and road junctions.

The best way to prepare for the theory test is to use one of the DVDs available which let you practise the hazard test using the actual video clips.

Real World hazard perception

"Real World" hazard perception will be covered at length and in detail on your lessons. You will need to develop a good sense for danger, and a rather strange state of mind! Very suspicious, a bit paranoid and rather pessimistic. Sounds odd, but you will soon develop the right approach to your driving, and be able to keep yourself safe as you drive. Generally, assume situations will work against you, or things will go wrong, and you'll do all right. 

General Information

  1. Traffic on a Major Road always has priority over traffic on a Minor Road. The road markings at junctions are important here....the Minor Road will usually have Give-Way or Stop lines.
    Traffic following the road ahead normally has priority.
  2. If turning right from a Major Road, you must give way to on-coming traffic.
  3. If at Give-Way or Stop lines, you MUST give way to major road traffic. If turning left, you may emerge if it is clear to your right, and you will not affect traffic approaching from your left. If turning right, it should be clear for some distance in both directions.
  4. At crossroads, there is an extra road to check (ahead of you), and if emerging from one of the minor roads, extra care will be needed. As a general rule :

Right turns go last.

This is because turning right involves crossing the path of other vehicles.

There is more comprehensive advice in the Highway Code, and suggestions as to how two approaching cars both turning right should manoeuvre. Make sure your understanding of this is thorough.

  1. Roundabouts are a special case. The Highway Code says that you should give way to the right, because that's where the traffic will be coming from.
    It is worth noting that this also applies once you are on the roundabout...if a car to your right is signalling left, it is advisable to fall back (after a mirror check) to assist them in exiting the roundabout, allowing you to keep the situation safely under your control.
    Also be aware that Emergency Service vehicles may go the "wrong way" round roundabouts if responding to an emergency.
  2. Some junctions have no road markings (usually in quiet or out-of-the-way places). These junctions should always be approached with care, and be prepared to give way whichever direction you approach.


A "Junction" is where roads meet or cross each other, and because of the potential danger in these situations, some basic priorities must be applied. In other words, who can proceed, and who has to wait or Give Way.

For full details of junction layouts, and procedures, refer to the "Highway Code" and "Know Your Traffic Signs". "Driving-The Essential Skills" is also an excellent reference source for this information. 


Major Road traffic has priority over Minor Road traffic

Right Turns go last (this does not apply at roundabouts).

At roundabouts traffic to your right has priority.

If in any doubt, be prepared to Give Way.

Got a printer?

© MS Driving: Pupils are permitted to print one copy only of each page for their personal use. Some, like the "Module One" pages, will be very useful to newer pupils, as you can look at them on a daily basis to refresh your memory between lessons.

Disclaimer: The information on this site is believed to be current and correct, but we cannot accept any responsibility for errors or omissions, or any problems arising from using this website.

The Highway Code

The Highway Code will be your principal reference source. It can be accessed by clicking here.


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