National standard for driving cars and light vans

Role 2: Guide and control the vehicle

What you must be able to do and understand to guide and control the vehicle.

Unit 2.1: Start, move off, stop and leave the vehicle safely and responsibly

There are 4 elements in this unit:


Element 2.1.1: Start the vehicle

Performance standards

You must be able to:

  • carry out pre-start checks on:
    • doors
    • parking brake
    • seat
    • steering
    • seatbelt
    • mirrors
  • disengage anti-theft devices
  • make sure the gear lever is in neutral (or ‘P’ or ‘N’ if driving an automatic vehicle)
  • consider the effect of starting the engine on other road users, particularly vulnerable road users such as passing cyclists, pedestrians or horse riders
  • monitor vehicle instruments and gauges during engine start up
  • respond correctly to information given by instruments and gauges during engine start up
  • start the engine correctly

Knowledge and understanding requirements

You must know and understand:

  • how to read and respond correctly to instruments, like:
    • gauges
    • indicators
    • warning lights
    • on-board diagnostic systems and other aids fitted to the vehicle to allow you to monitor its operation and performance
  • that different vehicles may have different starting mechanisms, types of instrument, parking brakes and other aids, and that it is vital to use the vehicle handbook to find out how they work
  • how to start the engine when it is cold
  • the benefits of using anti-theft devices, and how turn them on and off

Element 2.1.2: Move off safely and smoothly

Performance standards

You must be able to:

  • carry out all-round visual checks, including blind spots, to make sure that it is safe to move-off
  • signal your intention to move off to other road users, where needed
  • move off straight-ahead, on the level and on slopes, safely and smoothly, keeping control of the vehicle at all times
  • move off at an angle from behind a parked vehicle or obstruction, safely and smoothly, keeping control of the vehicle at all times
  • check that controls are operating correctly
  • restart quickly and safely if the vehicle stalls

Knowledge and understanding requirements

You must know and understand:

  • the importance of carrying out all-round, effective observation of the road and other road users before moving off
  • the importance and location of blind spots and how to carry out blind spot checks before moving away
  • the importance of using a safe, systematic routine to help you to move off safely and smoothly
  • the importance of applying the footbrake before selecting drive on an automatic vehicle
  • where applicable, the relevance of the ‘biting point’, that is the point at which the clutch plate and the flywheel come into firm contact and start to transmit drive
  • the operation of the parking brake release mechanism
  • the limitations of hill assist systems, where fitted
  • the effects of ‘dry steering’, that is turning the wheels when the vehicle is not moving
  • how to check controls, such as steering and brakes, are operating correctly

Element 2.1.3: Decelerate and bring the vehicle to a stop safely

Performance standards

You must be able to:

  • use the accelerator and brakes correctly to regulate speed and bring the vehicle to a stop safely
  • stop the vehicle safely and under control in an emergency
  • use the parking brake when stationary, where needed

Knowledge and understanding requirements

You must know and understand:

  • how to apply a safe, systematic approach when stopping
  • the distance a vehicle requires to stop from different speeds and in different road and weather conditions
  • that a vehicle’s overall stopping distance consists of 2 parts:
    • thinking distance - which is the distance travelled from the point where you decide to brake to the point where you start braking
    • braking distance - which is the distance travelled from the point where you start to brake to the point where you stop
  • the importance of anticipation and judgement to allow for progressive use of the brakes
  • how aids such as an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) can help in safe and effective braking

Element 2.1.4: Park the vehicle safely and responsibly

Performance standards

You must be able to:

  • select a safe, legal and convenient place to stop and park and, once stationary, secure the vehicle on slopes, facing both up and down, as well as on the level
  • make sure the parking brake is applied effectively
  • select a gear to hold the vehicle safely when parked
  • switch the engine off
  • make sure that vehicles fitted with automatic transmission are left with the lever in the Park position
  • make sure lights are left on where required
  • check for oncoming cyclists, pedestrians and other traffic before opening your door

Knowledge and understanding requirements

You must know and understand:

  • what factors to take into consideration when looking for a safe, legal and convenient place to stop or park
  • the pros and cons of reversing or ‘pulling through’ into a parking space rather than reversing out
  • that you must switch off the headlights, fog lights if fitted and engine when parked
  • the rules in The Highway Code that apply when leaving your vehicle on different roads and in different lighting and weather conditions
  • how and when to set the position of the steering wheels of the vehicle to prevent it rolling away
  • how to make sure that the parking brake is applied effectively
  • that, when parking a vehicle with manual gears, selecting a gear will help to hold the vehicle if the parking brake should fail
  • the possible outcomes of opening a door, particularly on the offside of the vehicle, when not safe to do so

Unit 2.2: Drive the vehicle safely and responsibly

There are 4 elements in this unit:


Element 2.2.1: Monitor and respond to information from instrumentation, driving aids and the environment

Performance standards

You must be able to:

  • monitor and respond correctly to gauges, warning lights and other aids when driving
  • monitor and respond appropriately to instructions provided by sat nav systems without being distracted from the driving task
  • respond to the actual situation on the road ahead
  • make effective use of driving aids such as adaptive cruise control, daytime running lights, automatic headlights and lane warning systems and override or disable them if it is safer to do so
  • make effective use of mirrors and other aids to vision to identify and monitor other road users and hazards
  • judge speed and distance correctly and effectively
  • signal your intentions correctly to other road users in a safe and systematic way
  • use the vehicle’s lights, indicators and horn correctly
  • use the windows, wipers, demisters and climate and ventilation controls so that you can see clearly

Knowledge and understanding requirements

You must know and understand:

  • the purpose and meaning of dashboard warning lights
  • the location of switches and controls and how to use them without being distracted or losing control of the vehicle while on the move
  • that you must always act on the basis of what is in front of you and not just rely on the information provided by sat nav systems or other aids
  • when it is safer to override or disable driving aids
  • when and how to use dipped headlights
  • the rules that apply to the use of fog lights
  • how different types of mirror can make other road users appear to be nearer or further away than they actually are
  • how to identify and respond to changes in road surfaces and weather conditions

Element 2.2.2: Control the acceleration of the vehicle effectively

Performance standards

You must be able to:

  • use the accelerator smoothly to achieve and maintain a suitable speed

Knowledge and understanding requirements

You must know and understand:

  • that correct use of the accelerator will help:
    • vehicle performance
    • safety
    • the environment
  • the disadvantages of over-revving when moving away and while stationary
  • how to operate cruise control systems safely, if fitted
  • the importance of using a driving position that allows you to use the accelerator smoothly

Element 2.2.3: Use gears correctly

Performance standards

You must be able to:

  • change gear smoothly and in good time
  • select the most suitable gear for the speed of the vehicle, given road and traffic conditions
  • combine the use of gears with braking and acceleration
  • use an automatic or automated gear box effectively, when fitted

Knowledge and understanding requirements

You must know and understand:

  • that different vehicles may have different numbers of gears and those gears may be set up differently
  • the effect that unsuitable gear selection can have on:
    • the performance of the vehicle
    • the driver’s ability to drive safely and responsibly
    • the environment
  • the use of selective gear changing (sometimes known as block changing)
  • the benefits of timely gear selection when going up and down slopes, particularly when loaded
  • the use of ‘kick down’ and ‘lock up’ when using an automatic vehicle
  • how to use gears to assist safe parking
  • the difference between automatic and automated gearboxes

Element 2.2.4: Steer the vehicle safely

Performance standards

You must be able to:

  • steer the vehicle safely and responsibly in all road and traffic conditions
  • hold and control the steering wheel to steer the vehicle accurately and safely
  • continue to steer the vehicle safely and responsibly while operating other controls

Knowledge and understanding requirements

You must know and understand:

  • how to keep safe control of the steering wheel
  • the effect that the vehicle’s turning circle has on steering the vehicle

Element 2.2.5: Manoeuvre the vehicle

Performance standards

You must be able to:

  • make proper use of all controls to manoeuvre the vehicle safely and responsibly in:
    • all road and weather conditions
    • forward and reverse gear
  • continue to make effective observations, including checks of blind spots, while manoeuvring
  • position the vehicle correctly to carry out manoeuvres safely
  • use a safe and systematic way to keep yourself and other road users safe, such as ‘mirrors, signal, manoeuvre, position, speed, look’
  • use reversing camera systems or proximity sensors effectively, where fitted

Knowledge and understanding requirements

You must know and understand:

  • how the use of safe, systematic routines will contribute to safe and responsible manoeuvring
  • the blind spots for the vehicle and how to check them
  • the correct procedure:
    • for reversing into a side road on the left
    • for reversing into a side road on the right
    • to carry out a turn-in-the-road or U-turn manoeuvre
    • for carrying out any reverse parking exercise on and off road
  • the rules about when and where you cannot make U-turns
  • the effects of sudden or harsh use of the accelerator, brakes or steering whilst manoeuvring
  • that different vehicles will react differently in a possible skid situation depending on their configuration (such as front-wheel or rear-wheel drive) and on the technologies fitted (such as ABS or electronic stability program (ESP))
  • why a skid may occur, how to avoid skids and how to correct them if they do occur
  • how to allow for vulnerable road users when carrying out a manoeuvre
  • the benefits of engine braking and when it should be used
  • the risks linked to reversing a vehicle further than necessary
  • the risks linked to ‘coasting’ (allowing the vehicle to move without having a gear selected, either with the clutch depressed or when in neutral)
  • how to identify a suitable place for manoeuvring
  • that use of reversing aids, such as camera systems and proximity sensors, does not replace the need to practise good, all-round, effective observation

Unit 2.3: Drive the vehicle while towing a trailer or caravan

There is one element in this unit - drive the vehicle while towing a trailer or caravan.


Element 2.3.1: Drive the vehicle while towing a trailer or caravan

Performance standards

You must be able to:

  • make sure you have the correct licence to drive the combination of vehicle and trailer or caravan
  • make sure that the trailer or caravan is suitable and legal for use on the road
  • make sure that you are insured to drive the combination of vehicle and trailer or caravan
  • make sure that your vehicle is capable of towing the trailer or caravan
  • make sure that the trailer or caravan is safely and correctly coupled to the vehicle
  • carry out correct safety checks
  • make sure that any load is evenly distributed and secure
  • allow more time and brake earlier when slowing down or stopping
  • allow more distance and time to overtake safely
  • make allowances for the extra length of the vehicle with the trailer or caravan, particularly when turning or emerging at junctions
  • safely and correctly uncouple the trailer or caravan from the vehicle when it is no longer needed
  • reverse the vehicle with the trailer or caravan attached

Knowledge and understanding requirements

You must know and understand:

  • the driving licence regulations on towing trailers or caravans
  • that not all insurance policies cover towing a trailer or caravan
  • that most manufacturers make recommendation for the maximum size of trailer or caravan that can be safely towed by each type of vehicle, and for how they should be attached, and that these recommendations must be followed
  • how to find the trailer or caravan’s ‘nose weight’ and how to check that this does not exceed the limits of the vehicle’s tow bar
  • how to couple and uncouple a trailer or caravan safely
  • that towing a trailer or caravan may increase the number of blind spots
  • how and when to use aids to observation, such as extra mirrors
  • what safety checks should be made on a trailer or caravan
  • the speed limits when towing a trailer or caravan
  • that vehicles towing trailers on motorways are not allowed in the outside lane where there are 3 or more lanes
  • that towing a trailer or caravan will change the way a vehicle handles, and how to deal with those changes
  • that it may be necessary to take up a different position on the road when dealing with junctions or roundabouts
  • what ‘snaking’ is and how to correct it
  • that strong winds pose a particular hazard for caravans or high-sided trailers
  • how to steer correctly when reversing a vehicle with a trailer or caravan attached
  • the effect that towing a trailer or caravan may have on braking, the concept of brake fade and what to do when descending slopes to make sure you keep in control
  • that you may have to check height or width restrictions on your route when you tow a trailer or caravan
  • that rescue services may not include recovery of a trailer or caravan
  • the benefits of carrying a spare wheel and any other equipment for the trailer or caravan