Golden rules for learner drivers taking the traffic police test.
Taking a driving test can be an unnerving experience, here are 20 tips I share from my own experience as a learner driver myself. These tips are updated for the 2017 season.
Understand your test vehicle.
Try to make the warmups before the test, its crucial if you are using a different car every time in your training. Get to know the accelerator pedal responsiveness/deadzones. The clutch biting point and the brake points deadzones/responsiveness.
A “deadzone” is a small starting range on the foot pedal or steering wheel where any movement won’t bring about any effect. It can also known as a “freezone”.
Nothing worst than having to potentially go against yourself. Staying calm will allow you to remember steps and procedures better, so you won’t mess up- critical in the circuit stage. Keep a mental model of the route and task ahead to maintain focus and not let your mind wander from worry.
Know your test routes.
Roughly know the circuit and test routes. Even when you are not supposed to learn and memorize it in detail, it helps to prepare you for your next move/turn if your tester fails/is late in giving you directional prompts. Most importantly it gives you the overall confidence to drive.
Make habits work for you.
Like they always say- make it a habit to turn your head to check blind spots. But really do the check! and not only going through the motion. Moreover you will come to a point where blind point checking will become a second nature to you – you will notice yourself turning your head every time you drive when doing a lane change or turn, in extreme cases even as a passenger or riding on the bus!
Echo like a parrot.
Always respond verbally or “echo” (parrot repeat) towards the tester’s commands on test routes, adds to a better overall impression, shows driver attentiveness and tells the tester that he/she is not talking to a wall!
Yield to pushy drivers.
Don’t forget, you are sharing the road with other road users in your test. If there is another particular vehicle who is driving aggressively/fast, always let them pass before lane changing to right fast lanes (i.e right turn/ u-turn). Though you have the right of way, you are always on a losing end if things gets messed up in a test.
Be wary of public transport vehicles.
Always beware of public transport- Taxis, Buses, Uber/Grab drivers (identified with the blue private hire car stickers on the top left rear windscreen) suddenly stopping or obstructing your path. They may have a schedule or a pushy customer on-board to entertain and might not be in their interest to give you a good time. Try not to follow behind one at all times, unless where the situation permits, as they might be unfamiliar with the environment and stop without notice.
Err on the side of caution.
Don’t rush.Its always better to wait if you feel unsafe to move off. Its better to be penalised for unnecessary waiting than failing the test straightaway by almost causing an accident. In the circuit, if you feel that you are gonna hit the kerb, don’t push it- Its better to reverse and make adjustments (no fault on first attempt, 2pts on additional adjustments) than mounting the kerb (fail).
Build a good first impression.
Don’t be intimidated by the tester, instead try to “befriend” him/her to break the ice. You can do so by engaging in small talk (e.g. how is your day? had your lunch? dinner?). Though some testers can really look and behave like a sore thumb. Don’t be disheartened either if the tester chooses to keep their distance. A good impression lasts and it brighten up the ride, adds to your confidence instead of a long gloomy ride to a retest later.
Ignore tester distractions.
Don’t be distracted by the tester, esp when he jolts down something on his checklist even you’ve done nothing wrong, keep concentrating on the road, those may be distraction tools.
Driving slow is a hazard!
Don’t drive too slow (a misconception of a safe driver), instead drive close but below the speed limit so you won’t be much of a hazard on the road. There is in fact a penalty for driving slower than what the road conditions allow, but don’t be too happy on the right foot either. On manual, you will almost never need to go up to 5th gear unless your route have a very long road straight. Don’t get carried away and do remember your speed limit too.
More hill acceleration is better.
When moving off/slope its always OK to accelerate/give gas more than usual and make an engine din (no test fault penalties) than stalling, rolling back down a hill or causing an obstruction (potential fail).
Smooth-braking adds brownie points.
When you stop a car just using the foot brake, it will produce a “jerk back” when the car stops completely. To make your stops less jerky, release the brake pedal slightly just when the car is coming to the end of a complete stop, this will cause the car to inch forward very slightly in compensation for the suspension “jerk back”. If done well, you can remove the “jerk back” completely, gliding to a standstill- perfect for occupant comfort.
Take cues from other junction lights.
When waiting at a red light to turn green, anticipate traffic light changes by looking at the light states at other parts of the junctions (e.g. pedestrian side blinking or turning red on your lane) so you know that the light will soon turn green in your lane. This is so as not to get caught off-guard/giving an impression of a “blur sotong” or delay movement when the light is already green in your favor. You are not expected to zoom off once the lights turn green, but at least it makes you are aware of the light conditions in the junction itself.
The green light is more deadly than red.
Unlike waiting for a red light to turn green, approaching a green lit junction is the most unpredictable as it can get. Always cover the foot brake when approaching the junction and switch to the accelerator if you come within the “no stop/point of no return” zone (about 1 car length) before the stop line. Doing so allows you to clear the white line and the junction while still amber (legal). Still proceed with caution!
Know junctions with right-turn green arrows.
For each route, it is good to know the junctions that feature right turns with “right turn green arrows”. This gives you the right of way in a junction and prevents sudden stops or “E-brakes” in junctions when you suddenly see an approaching car in the opposite traffic flow, which won’t ride well with your tester. Also, keep in mind that with the “right turn green arrow” can function independently and be of a different light colour from the main traffic light- i.e you can actually make the right turn with a green arrow despite a red light for going straight.
Showcase your attention to detail
The test is a show of application of what you’ve learnt in driving school. You had spent countless hours on the circuits and roads, showcase it to the tester! i.e slowing the car down using both engine and foot brake (manual) before junction/zebra crossing/before turns, etc. Taking note of such details even a normal average licensed driver cares less about will give your tester a good impression.
Don’t clutch-in before the E-brake.
In an E-brake test, only clutch in when your feet had been transferred onto the brake pedal, then hit both pedals hard, NEVER hit the clutch before the brake (wrong technique, you will feel a sudden free-gliding feeling before the stop), or the clutch too late after the brake (stall). When done correctly, the car should produce a mechanical klung-klung-klung (manual) during the sudden stop without the engine stalling.
Avoid peak periods.
Choose test dates and time which don’t clash with peak traffic, school dismissal timings, Friday Muslim prayers, increasing the chances of a less packed road & pedestrian situation.
Lastly, if you fail try again! don’t be dishearted by failure, book another test date and practice more. A fact is that your chances of passing increases with each try, testers usually do not favor first time passes.
Extra Tip for repeat students: If you’ve failed many tests before, to the extent of having to renew another PDL, attach the old PDL behind the new one altogether. Though serving no actual purpose, the records of your previous tests behind your old PDL tells and indicates to the tester alot of your past ordeal and driving experience. They won’t miss it as they have to flip it to record the test behind your new PDL. Provided you do not have any major mistakes in the test, this might actually increase your chances of passing especially to those testers who pass people based on a longer driving experience and not on first attempt testees.