Moving the car requires co ordination between various controls. Moving the car safely requires good awareness and consideration of others around you. In order to do both of these things there is a bit of preparation. Preparing, Observing, Moving is a way of breaking moving off into smaller elements to help learner drivers as they learn this skill – in reality it will become one task and for some experienced drivers it will be done quite quickly. For the moment though let’s go through it slowly and understand each different part.
There are four basic stages to ‘moving off’. You need first of all to get prepared for a prompt move off. Preparing to move involves:
Making sure the engine is running.
Pushing clutch pedal all the way down and holding it, selecting first gear and continuing to hold clutch pedal down.
Gently pressing the accelerator to ensure there is enough power to move the car.
Bringing the clutch pedal to the biting point and holding it there.
The biting point is the point at which the engine and wheels are engaging and you can notice a different sound of feel when you find it. In the early stages of learning to drive many people find it a little difficult to find and hold the biting point accurately. This is perfectly normal and it will get better with practise. My advice is don’t rush and don’t put pressure on yourself; it doesn’t have to be perfect – it just needs to be good enough. If you find it really doesn’t get better with practise then you may want to consider driving a vehicle with automatic transmission.
How do you know if the engine is running or not? Why does the clutch need to be held down?
Where is first gear? Can you find it without looking? How much accelerator is needed?
How can you tell you have found the biting point?
The second part of moving off is to make effective observation and ensure it is safe to move. Effective observation means:
- Looking all the way round the car just before you move off. You should finish looking in the place where there is most likely to be something or someone that could cause a problem. If you are parked on the left this would be the blind spot over your right shoulder.
- At this point you should be able to decide if a signal is necessary and have some idea of how much time you have. If you see a vehicle but consider it far enough away that it is safe for you to move off then you should signal and move off promptly. If you see nothing in sight you may decide not to signal, however if you have a bend in the road and a vehicle could come round as you start to move off the you would want to signal and keep assessing the situation as you continue the next two stages. If you are in any doubt it is best to indicate.
Our brains are easily deceived and prone to be a little lazy so it is not enough just to turn your head and ‘look’. You need to think about where people or vehicles or animals might be and actively look for them. Asking yourself a question can be quite useful.
Are there any cyclists passing me? or Are there any vehicles exiting driveways or junctions? or Is anyone walking towards my vehicle? All of these and more will help keep your eyes and brain focused on collecting the information you need in order to make a safe decision about when you should move off.
Remember also there are blind spots in the mirrors—it is your responsibility to check thoroughly all the way round your vehicle.
When would you use the indicators?
After preparing and observing you must physically get the car moving. This requires:
- The handbrake / Parking brake to be taken off.
- The accelerator to be pressed a little more whilst the clutch pedal is raised a small amount. Move both feet in the opposite direction about 1cm. The clutch pedal comes up slightly as the accelerator goes down slightly.
- The clutch pedal needs to be held still whilst the car gets moving smoothly. If you bring the clutch pedal up too much too quickly then you risk stalling the car, certainly it will not feel smooth. As you feel the vehicle begin to move just hold the clutch pedal steady for a second or so.
- The clutch pedal is then brought all the way up steadily. Ultimately you want to aim to get a feel for the clutch pedal by paying attention to the response of the car as you release the clutch.
What happens if you do not hold the clutch pedal still for a short time? Why should the clutch pedal be completely up?
What happens if you do not take the handbrake off? How far do you move the clutch?
How do you know if you have enough accelerator?
Moving off is not completed until you have safely joined the flow of traffic. This involves making an assessment of what you need to do next. For example:
- Look ahead along the road and check mirrors briefly to see what the following traffic is doing. Are vehicles approaching fast – in which case you need to consider accelerating quickly to avoid slowing them down unnecessarily (If you are a beginner it is best not to put yourself in this position – practise moving off in quiet areas and give yourself plenty of time).
- Decide what speed is appropriate and press accelerator as required. We all have to share the roads and part of being a considerate driver is to drive in such a way that you are not holding others up unnecessarily. If it is safe to do so you are expected to drive at or just below the speed limit. NB. Poor weather conditions or poor road surfaces are two examples of times when it may not be safe to drive at the speed limit. Equally beginners should not feel obliged to rush themselves but should choose safe quiet roads to practice on.
What might make you accelerate quickly? What might make you go very slowly?
How quickly does the car respond to you pressing the accelerator?