Cockpit Drill

The cockpit drill is usually the first thing a driver should do after getting into the vehicle. The basic cockpit drill involves the following items: Doors, Seat, Steering, Seatbelt, Mirrors. This can be remembered using the acronym D.S.S.S.M.

Some people use different variations on this sequence, often including a check that the handbrake is properly engaged. Your instructor will teach you his or her preferred cockpit drill sequence, which should be very similar to (if not the same as) this one.

All doors should be fully closed. If you look in the side mirrors, you should be able to see if all the side doors are flush with the side of the car. The boot should also be fully closed before starting any journey.

Always be careful when opening your door and remember to keep a firm grip on the handle when opening a car door on a windy day.

You should always check it is safe before opening the door. Remember to check the blindspot.

Most car seats can be adjusted in four ways. Forward and backward, up and down, the angle of the back (sometimes known as the rake) can be changed, and the head restraint can be adjusted up and down (sometimes forward and backward as well).

The first check to make when adjusting your seat is to press the clutch pedal fully to the floor with your left foot. Your left knee should be slightly bent, with no need to stretch.


Place both your hands at top of the steering wheel. Your elbows should be very slightly bent. If not continue to adjust the seat until this is so (this can be a good time to adjust the rake).

When your seat is correctly adjusted, you should be able to run your hands from the top to the bottom of the steering wheel with ease. You should also be able to push the clutch fully down and release it without any problem. Make sure you can see clearly over the steering wheel and into the road ahead.

Some cars allow you to adjust the angle of the steering wheel. This can be helpful in getting a good driving position and maximising visibility.

The head restraint should be close behind your head (but not touching) and the firm part of it should be roughly level with your ears.

The easiest way to grab your seatbelt is to use your left hand and reach over your right shoulder. Once clicked into its socket, the seatbelt should sit flat against you without any twists. Check it is properly engaged and will not pull free of the socket without pressing the release button. You should still be able to lean forward in your seat and the seatbelt should extend to allow this.

When you release your seatbelt, it may try to spring back to its starting position very quickly. Keep hold of it so it reels back in gently.

Your interior mirror should be adjusted so you can see as much as possible through the back window of the car.

If they are not currently needed, it is a good idea to lower any head restraints in the back of the car so they do not obstruct your view. You should also remove any other possible obstructions, including unnecessary stickers on the rear window.

Your side mirrors should be adjusted so you can see a little bit of the side of the car, a fair bit of sky and plenty of road.

Notice how objects appear further away in the side mirror than they do in the interior mirror. See the Zones Of Vision section for more details.


Get animated examples with the interactive Controls app for iPad