The test assesses low risk driving skills in speed management, road positioning, and decision-making and your ability to perceive and respond to hazards.
The testing officer will assess your observation techniques. As this is essential to low-risk driving, poor observation will result in failure.
Low-risk driving involves keeping your eyes moving from area to area to effectively observe traffic. Turn your head and look through corners to the road ahead. Slow down if vision is limited. You must check your rear vision mirror before you slow down or change direction and are expected to check regularly to see behind you.
When scanning look:
- In the distance
- At the road surface
- To the left and right
- In your mirrors
- At the instruments and gauges
Before going through traffic lights, turn your head and check there are no vehicles running the red light, or pedestrians crossing against the ‘don’t walk’ sign. The same check must be done for oncoming trains at a railway level crossing.
Checking blind spots
Many crashes occur because drivers don’t perform head checks and frequently failing to do so in your test will result in failure. Check blind spots before changing your road position and do not drive in the blind spot of other vehicles.
You must head check your blind spots before:
- Changing lanes
- Leaving or returning to the kerb
- Merging or diverging
- Reversing – for vehicles and pedestrians that may not be visible in your mirror
- Turning left – looking for pedestrians, bicycles and motorcycles that could be beside you in your blind spot
- Turning right – looking for vehicles that may be overtaking you
- Joining the traffic stream
- Leaving the inside lane of a multi-lane roundabout
Observation errors are recorded on your score sheet as a circle around ‘D’ (decision) and an ‘H’ in the notes column.
You must manage your speed to suit traffic, weather and road conditions.
Maintain space to the front
You must adjust your speed to maintain crash avoidance space to the front of your car (minimum safe distance = 3 seconds). This must be increased in poor conditions.
When you change lanes or a vehicle moves into your 3-second gap, you are expected to drop back to maintain a safe distance.
Maintain space when stopped
You must keep 1-2 car lengths from the vehicle in front when stopped to reduce the risk of colliding with it if hit from behind. You can move to within 1 metre when the vehicles behind you are stopped and the risk of being hit from behind is reduced.
You must completely stop as close as possible before the stop line at a stop sign.
You must slow down if you do not have a clear view 5 seconds ahead (blind corners, blocked intersections, crests, and poor weather). You must slow down where space to the side of your vehicle is limited. For traffic-calming devices (speed humps or chicanes) slow down to ensure you do not experience an excessive jolt or sideways roll.
Buffering is keeping as much space as practical to the sides of your vehicle (at least 1 metre from other vehicles and hazards). You must allow space for parked cars to open doors. You are expected to change position to maintain this space and if you can’t, you must slow down. On crests and curves, slow down and move away from oncoming traffic (at least 1 metre from the centreline). Avoid driving in the blind spot or high-risk area (directly beside) of other vehicles.
You will fail if you unnecessarily drive on the wrong side of the road, or unnecessarily cross any edge lines or lane markings.
Turns at intersections
When turning left on unmarked roads you must approach as far left as practical. On laned roads, you must approach in the left lane or left turn lane. You should exit a left turn into the lane that is best for the traffic conditions (dependent on where you are going next, parked cars in the left lane, or if outside lanes are for overtaking). When there are multiple turning lanes, you must finish in an allowed lane or you will fail.
When turning right on unmarked roads you must keep as close as practical to the centre. On laned roads you must approach in the right lane or right turn lane. In marked lanes you must stay in the same lane as you turn. You must keep your steering wheel straight while waiting to turn right. This protects you from being pushed into oncoming traffic if hit from behind. When turning right, steer to the right of an imaginary centre of the intersection to allow vehicles opposite to turn right at the same time. When turning right into a one-way street, approach and exit as close as possible to the right side of the road.
On multi-laned roundabouts, position your vehicle according to the road markings and exit in an allowed lane. When approaching a roundabout, give way to any vehicles already in the roundabout. When exiting a roundabout you must signal left when practical. Check your blind spot before crossing lanes within and exiting a roundabout.
In the test you will be asked to do a number of manoeuvres selected from:
- A kerb side stop
- A hill start
- A three-point turn
- Parking (reverse parallel, 90° or 45°, front or rear to kerb)
During the manoeuvres you will be assessed on your ability to position your vehicle legally, safely and accurately. You must:
- Park as near as practical to the kerb (less than 50cm from the kerb)
- Not touch the kerb with your wheels
- Be between 1-2 metres away from other vehicles
- Reverse only as far as you need (if you reverse more than 7 metres from the rear of the vehicle you are parking behind, you will fail)
- Park as close as practical to the required angle and within any marked lines
- Use a maximum of 4 direction changes for all parking manoeuvres
- Check left and right for traffic before each movement during the three-point turn
- Use a maximum of 5 direction changes in a three-point turn. If it is possible turn around in 3 direction changes, this will be the expectation
- Not mount the kerb
- Signal for at least 5 seconds before leaving the kerb or a parked position
Observation checks during manoeuvres
During manoeuvres you must check for other vehicles, pedestrians and possible hazards. You must head check your blind spot before you:
- Move to the kerb to commence the manoeuvre
- Leave the kerb to rejoin the traffic
- Steer, if the front of your vehicle will swing into the lane during reversing
While reversing you must check the mirrors and through the rear and side windows in the direction of travel. Although you may use reversing cameras and sensors, you must still check mirrors and around your vehicle. Any park assist devices must be switched off for the reversing manoeuvres.
Affecting the crash avoidance space of others
The testing officer will be checking that you only choose safe gaps and are not affecting the crash avoidance space of other drivers (they should not be forced to change speed or position).
When turning across traffic you should be clear of the intersection by at least 3 seconds before approaching vehicles arrive. When joining traffic you should reach the traffic speed before the approaching vehicles are within 3 seconds of your car.
You will be expected to demonstrate smooth, flowing decision-making. You may fail if you reject safe gaps or unduly stop when it is clearly safe to proceed.
When approaching traffic lights that are green, check your mirrors and be prepared to stop. You must stop at a yellow light, unless sudden braking might cause a crash.
Situations with limited vision
At intersections where your vision is affected by other vehicles, trees or buildings you must demonstrate caution. You may fail if you proceed without due care.
After stopping at a ‘stop line’ you may move into an intersection to improve your vision, provided it is safe and doesn’t affect other road users.
Responding to hazards
You will be assessed on your ability to recognise and appropriately respond to hazards.
Hazard and response
If, as you scan the traffic environment, you believe something could possibly enter your crash avoidance space you should respond by:
- ‘Setting up’ or covering the brakes
- Easing off the accelerator
- Reducing speed
- Creating a ‘buffer’ from the hazard by changing your road position or lane
You should respond before reaching hazards like:
- A vehicle that could enter your crash avoidance space
- A vehicle waiting to turn in front of your path
- A vehicle waiting to pull out from the left or right side
- Stopped traffic obscuring vision at an intersection
Continue reading the Guide to the Driving Test Summary:
3. Low Risk Driving
Check out the other resources available to help you pass the Practical Driving Test and get your provisional P1 licence (Red Ps):