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Many people feel nervous when the time comes for them to take a driving road test. Like any test, however, being prepared may help the test taker to feel more confident and make fewer mistakes. Good preparation includes not only practice driving a vehicle, but also learning what to expect in advance. Generally, a test taker can expect to provide his permit and proof of insurance, to take a test drive with an examiner and to demonstrate abilities such as parallel parking.
Before the driving road test begins, the test taker usually has to show his permit, or its equivalent and provide proof that the vehicle to be used in the test is insured. This may mean showing the vehicle owner’s insurance card. In some places, it’s necessary to show the car owner’s license and vehicle registration as well. If a licensed driver has rented a car for the test taker to drive in the road test, he may have to produce a copy of the rental contract instead.
The next step for the driving road test may be demonstrating the correct use of the vehicle's controls. For example, the test taker may have to show the test examiner that he knows how to operate the vehicle's windshield wipers, horn, and turn signals. He may also have to operate the headlights and the emergency brake. In some places, the test taker must press on the brake pedal to demonstrate that it works. If any of the vehicle's controls do not work correctly, the examiner may refuse to continue the test.
When taking the driving road test, the test taker may be asked to do anything a person might do during the normal course of driving. This includes driving the vehicle on the proper side of the street, signaling other drivers when necessary, and executing proper turns. He must also demonstrate that he knows how to stop properly when traffic signals and signs require him to do so. The test taker should expect the examiner to make note of and subtract points for any rules he fails to follow, including those posted on signs. For example, the examiner will note whether the person stops when he’s supposed to and yields when necessary.
In many places, individuals taking a driving road test have to demonstrate their parallel parking skills. They may also have to demonstrate special turns. For example, a test taker may have to demonstrate a U-turn or a K-turn. He may also have to show that he can back up his vehicle safely and in a reasonably straight line.
A driving road test examiner usually looks for more than the basics of operating a car when deciding whether a driver will pass or fail. He usually also considers whether the test taker demonstrates safe driving skills. This may include wearing a seat belt, adjusting his side and rear-view mirrors before driving, keeping his eyes on the road, and being aware of pedestrians and other vehicles. The examiner may also note whether the driver checks his mirrors before driving forward and changing lanes.
When I took my driving road test, they replaced the parallel parking portion with a "maneuverability test". Everyone in our drivers' education class practiced the new requirement until we could do it with our eyes closed. It was essentially a parallel parking maneuver, but there were 5 traffic cones roughly arranged in a "house" formation. The examiner could ask the driver to go to the left or the right of the point cone. We all hoped he would ask us to drive to the left, because that was just like normal parallel parking. Going to the right was much more difficult. Fortunately, he asked me to go to the left and I passed the exam.
When I took my driving road test, the examiner did put me through all of those pre-driving equipment checks, like headlights and windshield wipers. The course itself was nothing but residential streets, with posted speeds no higher than 35 mph. I was afraid he would want me to pull onto the busy state highway nearby, but he didn't.
Things may have changed in the 30 years since I took my test, but I only had one truly challenging moment during the whole thing. The examiner asked me to turn left from a busier residential street and I noticed a car in the distance in the opposite lane. I had to decide if I had enough time to complete the turn before the car arrived. I decided to go for it, but the examiner thought I should have waited for the car to get past me. That was a five point deduction, but it could have been worse.
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