What is the cockpit drill?
The cockpit drill is a sequence of checks which you should carry out
whenever you get into your vehicle and intend to drive. The ‘cockpit drill’
includes various safety and comfort checks which are done before turning the vehicle
on, these include fastening your seatbelt and adjusting your mirrors. During your
driving test, you should perform the cockpit drill at the beginning of your test
to ensure you are safe and comfortably positioned to begin your drive.
Why do I have to do the cockpit drill?
The simple answer is that it will help make sure your drive is problem
free. You don’t want to drive off and then remember you aren’t wearing
your seatbelt, you also don’t want to get onto the main road only to realise
your mirrors aren’t correctly positioned. You should make sure your cockpit
drill has been done on the lesson before your practical driving test so you can
jump straight into your car and not have perform all of your checks again. Your
examiner will realise that you had already been sitting in the vehicle and therefore
adjusting the seat/mirrors will not be necessary again.
What do I have to check when doing the cockpit drill?
Lets imagine you’ve just jumped into your driving tuition vehicle
for the first time and have no idea where anything is or how to use the controls.
To begin the learning process you’ll need to check that you can reach the
various controls and are able to comfortably use everything in the vehicle to the
best of your abilities. There are 5 separate parts to the cockpit drill, you should
carry them out in the order they are numbered every time you get into your car,
below we have explained what is required for each step. An easy way to remember
the different parts is D S S S M.
1) Doors - Check your door is shut and that your passengers doors
The reason for this is obvious as you don’t want you or your passengers door
to fly open when you take a turn. Check your door by pulling the door handle (not
the opening lever) towards you, also ask all your passengers to check their doors.
2) Seat & steering - Adjust your seat according to your size
to a safe driving position
You need to be able to reach your foot pedals without stretching, use your left
foot to depress the clutch and make sure it goes all the way down to the floor of
the car without you feeling you are too close or too far. If you need to adjust
your seat, a bar is normally directly under your knees which you should pull up,
you should use one hand to hold on to the steering wheel to pull you closer and
prevent your seat from flying back. You will also find a recline adjustment in the
form of a round dial (usually on the right side of the drivers seat), you should
adjust it so that you aren’t leaned back too far and are generally comfortable
with your seats position. You shouldn’t be too close/too far from the steering
wheel because this will make steering very tricky. Finally you need to adjust your
head restraint so that the top of your head is level with the top of your head restraint,
figure 1 below shows the optimum driving position:
Figure 1. Optimum driving position.
3) Seatbelt -Wear your seatbelt and ensure your passengers are
wearing their belts-
You should ensure that you wear your seat belt before you turn the engine on, also
make sure all of your passengers are wearing their respective seatbelts (unless
they have a medical exemption). As a driver, you are responsible for anyone under
the age of 14 to wear a seatbelt or appropriate seat restraint. Seatbelts are there
for your safety and should be worn at all times, make sure it doesn’t have
any twists when you click it into place.
4) Mirrors - Adjust your doors mirrors and your rear view mirror-
Your two door mirrors should give you the best possible view of the situation behind
you, use figures 2 & 3 below to adjust your door mirrors to their best position.
Figure 2 . Left door mirror correctly adjusted
Figure 3. Right door mirror correctly adjusted
Your rear view mirror should look something similar to figure 4 below.
Figure 4. Your view in the rear view mirror
5) Final checks – You are pretty much ready to turn your
engine on now, just a few more checks to make sure your vehicle is safe to turn
You don’t want to turn your car on while your car is in gear, this will result
in the car jumping forward and stalling which wouldn’t be the best way to
start your driving test. Check your vehicle is in neutral by moving the gearstick
to the left and to the right, it should move by at least a couple of inches if it
is in the neutral position(see our
changing gears tutorial for more information), many modern
cars require the clutch to be down for you to turn on the engine. You should also
check that your parking brake is applied before turning your vehicle on, just place
your hand on the parking brake to check it is up(figure 5).
Figure 5. Parking brake in up position
6) Start the engine – You can now turn on the engine.
Turn the key all the way around until the engine starts and then release the key.
The engine is now running and you can begin your drive, you should use our tutorial
on moving off & stopping
for the next step if you are using this website to aid your driving tuition.
FINELINES guide to the cockpit drill
The cockpit drill is one of the first things you will be taught by
your driving instructor, it is essential for new drivers to make sure they begin
their drive in the safest way possible. The different parts may be difficult to
remember at first, but keep doing them at the start of each lesson and the cockpit
drill will become second nature, the whole process should take no longer than a
minute. Here is a recap of what the cockpit drill involves;
- Use the acronym D S S S M to remember what to do for the cockpit
drill, this stands for ‘Doors, Seat, Steering, Seatbelt, Mirrors’.
- When you sit in your vehicle, you can make sure your door is shut by pulling the
handle firmly when closing it. You can check passengers doors via the mirrors (look
for the door sticking out), don’t be afraid to ask your passengers do check
their door is shut themselves.
- Your driving instructor probably has different pupils other than yourself so your
seat will need to be adjusted to your liking. Check that you can comfortably reach
the pedals and are not too close/far from the wheel. Also adjust the head restraint
so that the top of it is level with the top of your head. Figure 1 shows the best
position for a driver to sit in.
- Make sure that you and your passengers are wearing your seatbelts.
- Adjust your door mirrors and rear view mirror so that you have the best view (see
figure 2,3 & 4 for pictures of how they should be adjusted).
- Finally, check that the gear lever is in the neutral position and that the handbrake
is up (figure 5)
- You can now turn the key all the way round to start your engine and begin your drive.
You can check out our moving
off & stopping tutorial for the next chapter in your driving