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Why do we use the cockpit drill?
During your first driving lesson, you will learn about the car’s controls, the relationship between the pedals and gears, the POM routine and the cockpit drill. These form the base for much of what you will learn and the cockpit drill is designed to ensure you are safe, comfortable and capable of observing the road correctly at all times.
What Is The Cockpit Drill?
The cockpit drill is a safety check made up of 5 individual elements. The drill is represented by the acronym DSSSM, which stands for Doors, Seats, Steering, Seatbelt and Mirrors, all drivers are required to perform the checks at the start of their journey and a full description of each part of the routine is found below.
Check that all doors are closed this includes both the driver and passenger doors. If there are other occupants in the car, request they check their doors as well, and if you have placed anything in the boot of the car, ensure that is also closed correctly too. Use a reasonable amount of force to close each door, look out for any space in-between, unusual draughts or warning signs on the dashboard, which will all let you know if there is an open door in the car.
You are required to adjust your seat to make sure that you can comfortably reach each of the pedals in the car. You want to be able to press the clutch pedal right down to the mat while having a slight bend in your knee. To correctly adjust your seat, press the clutch pedal down and adjust your seat – using the lever beneath you – to find a comfortable position where the clutch is fully depressed and you have a slight bend in your knee.
Once you have adjusted your seat, your attention should turn to the steering wheel. You want to be able to hold the top of the steering wheel with both hands in a comfortable position, without straining your arms. Avoid being too close to the steering wheel as it could be dangerous in an accident and ensure your knees are do not obstruct the steering wheel too, as this could make it hard to turn the steering in either direction. When necessary adjust your head restraint to ensure that your head is completely in line with it as this will reduce the chances of you sustaining a neck injury should you come to an abrupt stop.
The law requires you to drive with a seatbelt at all times and before moving off, you need to ensure you and the other occupants of the car have their seatbelts in place. You can face a fine if you are spotted by a police officer without your seatbelt and it could save your life if you are involved in an accident. Rule 99 of the Highway Code states that you as the driver needs to ensure that any child under the age of 14 has their seatbelt fastened before the start of your journey.
The final component of the cockpit drill requires you checking your door and interior mirrors, to ensure you have the best available view. Adjust your door mirrors to a point where the middle of the mirror is in line with the horizon, but you can still see a bit of the door. The interior mirror should line up with your back window and when positioned correctly, you should be able to see the entire back window through the mirror.
When are you required to perform the cockpit drill?
You are taught to perform this drill as soon as you get into the vehicle and before you set off. The checks are designed to ensure that you start each journey in the correct manner and that you take the necessary precautions at the start of each journey. You are also required to perform the drill at the start of your driving test and your examiner will be observing you and monitoring how diligent you are.
Do you need to perform the cockpit drill on your driving test
Yes, you do need to perform the cockpit drill on your driving test. You must make sure you complete the DSSSM routine before you set off, and as an added driving test tip, we recommend setting up the car before you start the actual test. It’s best to get this out of the way early on, as fiddling around with your mirrors at the start could increase any driving test nerves you might have.
Additional checks before moving off
Once you have performed the drill in its entirety, there are a few other things you need to check before you start your journey. You need to plan your route and include an alternative just in case there are any diversions or road works. Check your fuel, oil and water levels and check the weather to see if you are likely to face adverse conditions along your journey.