It’s a Car Cockpit – Not a Plane!
Before you can drive away it is important that you make yourself comfortable, you can reach all the controls, the instruments in front of you are not obscured and you can see the correct view in your mirrors.
Your instructor may give you an acronym to help you remember the order in which to set everything up. Although the order is not desperately important, it makes things easier otherwise you could end up doing part of the routine twice. Once you have your own car, that only you drive, you should only need to do this once and after that you just need to check that you haven’t jogged your mirrors out of place. In your instructors car, though, you will need to set yourself up at the beginning of every lesson. Remembering the order will save you time.
So if you can remember DSSSM that will help.
- D – Doors, make sure all the doors are shut. This is the driver’s responsibility. If there are children in the back and you are not in a 3 door car then it is advisable to set the child locks too. Different cars have different methods of achieving this, so it is advisable to check the manufacturer’s hand book.
- S – Seat, The seat is in 3 sections, the base, the back and the head restraint. Start with the base. You can move this backwards and forwards and some of them go up and down too. If you are tall and the top of your head is nearly touching the head lining, see if you can put the seat down a bit. If you can try and get 2.5 – 3 inches between your head and the roof. Next hold the steering wheel firmly to steady yourself with one hand, and use the other to pull the seat lever and move your seat either forwards or backwards so that when you put your left foot on the left pedal, you can push it all the way down to the floor without stretching. You should just have a slight bend at the knee. Next adjust the back of the seat so that your back is fully supported and you feel comfortable. You still need to be fairly upright though so that you can keep good control. Finally your head restraint needs to to be in the correct place to support your head, in case you have an accident. The bumpy piece on the back of your head needs to be in the centre of the head restraint. If you look at someone else’s head, you will notice that the bump is in line with the top of their ears and level with their eyes. To check you have adjusted the head restraint correctly, hold your hand horizontally, with your palm facing down, then raise your hand held in this position up to your eyes. Turn your head and your hand together so that your finger tips touch the head restraint. They should be right in the middle.
- S – Seatbelt, Put on your seat belt next and make sure the strap is not twisted. Pull the shoulder strap up firmly so that the belt fits snugly over the tops of your thighs and the chest strap lays comfortably across your chest and shoulder. Some cars have a height adjuster on the door pillar. Very helpful if you are particularly tall or short. The driver is only responsible for his own seatbelt and anyone under the age of 14 years. However, if it is your 14 or 15 year old refusing to wear the ir seatbelt and you get stopped, if they don’t have any money of their own you are going to be lumbered with the fine which is now £100.00! Personally, I don’t care whose responsibility it is. I will not drive away if anyone isn’t wearing a seatbelt. If you won’t wear your seat belt when you are in my car, you can get out and walk. One other thing to mention – if you intend to fit a rear facing baby seat to the front passenger seat, make sure you can turn off the passenger airbag. Most modern cars have this feature but older vehicles may not. It is illegal to use a rear facing baby seat in the front, if the airbag is not turned off. The reason being that when the airbag is activated, it inflates at approximately 100mph and has been known to cause severe brain damage and in some cases, even death to babies in those type of seats. Generally though, a rear facing seat is much safer for the babies neck and is preferable to a front facing seat for babies up to two years old. However, they are much safer in the back of the car than the front.
- S – Steering, most cars these days have an adjustable steering wheel. Usually you can move the steering wheel up and down as well as backwards and forwards. You should have a slight kink at the elbow when you hold the wheel with your hands in the correct position. If you liken the steering wheel to the face of an analogue clock, your hands should be at approximately ten to two and you should still be able to see the dials and instruments clearly. The adjustment levers are in different positions in different cars. Your instructor will show you where it is in his or her car. If you are not sure where it is in your car, you can find out from your hand book.
- M – Mirrors, last but not least, you should set up your mirrors last. It is not the end of the world if you do them first, but if you find you have to move your seat after you have done your mirrors, you will more than likely have to do the mirrors all over again. Using your left hand, grip the centre mirror with your first finger and thumb on the top and bottom of the frame taking care not to touch the glass. Move the mirror until you can see as much of the back window as possible. If you can’t get the whole of the back window in the mirror then line up the top edge. You should be able to see a bit of the head restraint from each side in the bottom corners. Your door mirrors may be either manual or electric. If they are electric, you will need to turn on your ignition. Make sure you check that the gear lever in is the neutral position though, just in case you turn the key a bit too far and start the engine. ( If the car is in gear when the engine is started it will lurch forward and could smack into anything that is immediately in front of you, such as a car park wall or another vehicle. ) You should be able to see into your door mirrors without leaning. You should just be able to turn your head slightly. You should adjust your door mirrors so that you can see a small amount of your car on the inside edge. ( about a man’s thumb width. ) Then looking as far into the mirror as possible, the bed of the road should be about halfway up the mirror. So the top half should be houses, trees and sky.