Driving tests

Pass your practical driving test by mastering these systems

Learning a system of car control makes it much easier for you to pass the practical driving tests for the restricted and full licences; they will make you more confident in your driving. Your driving instructor should be able to show you at least one of the following, but if you don’t have an instructor, here’s what you need to know.

Systems for manoeuvring and driving

CMSBGA: Course, Mirrors, Signal, Brake, Gear, Accelerate

This is the one that NZTA mentions in the Road Code. It helps you deal with hazards on and off the road.

  • Course: look ahead for a safe and legal path and an appropriate speed
  • Mirrors: look behind and in your blind spots to understand where other road users are around you, including pedestrians
  • Signal: signal for at least three seconds if you are going to change your position (changing lanes, stopping, turning into another road)
  • Brakes: slow down so that you can give way if required
  • Gears: change gear if necessary so you can accelerate if required

When it’s safe:

  • Accelerate: match your speed to that of the traffic, or if you are overtaking, to an appropriate speed to complete the manoeuvre.

IPSGA: Information, Position, Speed, Gear, Acceleration

This is a system used by advanced driving organisations such as the Institute of Advanced Motorists (who teach it to private drivers), and by police drivers in countries such as the UK and New Zealand.

  • Information: the driver takes in and gives information all the time while driving, but in terms of the system, this is how it starts – the rest of the actions follow in relation to information you received that you need to do something. A driver takes in information from their mirrors and scanning the road ahead to see where it goes and what other road users are doing. You give information in the form of your road position and speed, the way you drive and how you use your indicators.
  • Position: move your vehicle to the right position to complete the manoeuvre. For example, if you are turning right, move towards the centre of the road as this confirms to other drivers what you are doing
  • Speed: slow down or speed up, whichever is necessary, so you’re at the right speed for the manoeuvre
  • Gear: change gear if necessary so that you’re ready to either accelerate again or stop
  • Acceleration (if relevant): you’ll be accelerating again unless the manoeuvre means you come to a stop.

MSPSL: Mirror, Signal, Position, Speed, Look

The original system was mirror, signal, manoeuvre and used to be taught several decades ago. This system works well when approaching any kind of intersection such as a roundabout, t-intersection or crossroads.

  • Mirror: check your mirrors and blind spots
  • Signal: use your indicators to signal your intent
  • Position: change your position, if necessary, ready for the manoeuvre
  • Speed: adjust your speed to an appropriate speed
  • Look: your final visual check before you make the manoeuvre, e.g. in your blind spot if necessary

SCALP: Safe, Convenient And Legal Position

This relates to parking. If your instructor or examiner asks you to stop then you need to recognise where it’s safe and legal to stop, e.g. not in a taxi rank, not on broken yellow lines, etc.

POM: Prepare, Observe, Move

This system is good for when you are stationary and want to leave, for example, if you’re parked on the side of the road and want to join the traffic flow:

  • Prepare: is the vehicle on, are you in the right gear, are you signalling and ready to go?
  • Observe: check your mirrors and blind spots, watch for the speed of the approaching traffic, check for any potential dangers up ahead such as pedestrians crossing the road
  • Move: get going and get up to speed

LADA: Look, Assess, Decide, Act

This is similar to MSPSL. While you are driving you are going through this system all the time. For example, when you approach traffic lights you’ll look and see it’s a traffic light, you’ll assess the colour (e.g. red), you’ll decide what to do (i.e. stop) and you’ll act (i.e. check your rear-view mirror, press the brake, change down a gear, etc).

Systems for checking your vehicle

POWDER: Petrol, Oil, Water, Damage, Electrics, Rubber

This is taught to police and other professional drivers to help them do a vehicle safety check before they start.

  • Petrol: do you have enough fuel for your journey? Check the fuel gauge
  • Oil: do you have enough oil (or too much)? Check the dipstick
  • Water: can you see water in the washer bottle reservoir and does the battery have enough water (unless you have a zero-maintenance battery)
  • Damage: does any damage need to be repaired, such as a cracked windscreen
  • Electrics: are all the lights working
  • Rubber: are the tyres pumped up to the correct pressure and do they have a legal tread depth? Are there any signs of damage on the sidewalls? Are there stones in the treads.

A newer version of POWDER is POWDERY where the Y stands for You, i.e. check that you are also fit to drive, not just your vehicle.

Motorcycle riders also have POWDDERSS where the DD stands for damage and drive and the SS standards for steering and suspension.

Driver safety nnemonics and rhymes

  • Only a fool breaks the two-second rule: this refers to a safe following distance in dry, clear weather
  • Brake on the straight before it’s too late: the subject of NZTA speed ads in the early 2000s. Your vehicle is more stable braking in a straight line, so scrub off as much speed as you need to before you start to turn
  • Slow in, fast out: brake before you get to the corner and use the correct line to accelerate out of it.
  • Mirrors for information, shoulder checks for confirmation: check in your blind spot over your shoulder before moving and don’t just rely on what you can see in your mirrors.
driver training courses

Darren has written over 3000 articles about driving and vehicles, plus almost 500 vehicle reviews and numerous driving courses. Connect with him on LinkedIn by clicking the name above

Posted in Advice