Stopping on the left is an important exercise and  the examiner will want to see you do it safelyStopping on the left is an important exercise and the examiner will want to see you do it safelyIt's important to read this page along with moving off from the left. Stopping and moving off are extremely important exercises and many learners, even some instructors, don't give them anywhere near the attention they deserve.

That's a mistake because a lot of driving tests have turned into disasters because the learner didn't get these two routines right. There's no need for that, the routines are easy but they do require some thought and decision making.

Get plenty of practice because I can assure you you'll be tested on this when the examiner watches you do it on your driving test.

During your test the examiner will ask you to pull over on the left, often more than once. It's always amazed me that some learners who've had lessons elsewhere are surprised by this. Stopping on the left is an entirely normal thing to do and your instructor should ensure that you are fully trained, ready and able to deal with it.

Stopping on the left or right and then moving off again are so important that they should be regarded as driving manoeuvres like the dreaded turn in the road or reverse left. These are no longer included on the learner test, but they are essential to know and they can still form part of the driving instructor test.

Pulling over at the side of the road is such a common thing to do as a qualified driver. You'll drive into town to go shopping or you'll visit friends and the chances are that at some point you'll find yourself parking on the left side of the road. Not everywhere you visit will have a driveway or a car park so you'll have to deal with parking at the side of the road.

Along with moving off, this exercise is a common cause of collisions or unpleasant near misses which is why it's so important that you're completely comfortable with it. Make sure you learn how the clutch works or at least have a basic understanding of it, because this will help you to control the car at very slow speeds when you're pulling over.

During your test the examiner will say something like "please find an appropriate place to pull over on the left side of the road and stop, thank you"

This does not mean "slam your brakes on and stop right here". It means that you should look for a safe, legal and convenient place to park at the side of the road, then perform the exercise safely.

As soon as the examiner asks you to perform this exercise you should check the mirrors to make yourself aware of following traffic.

It's unlikely that the examiner will give you the instruction if there's a vehicle very close behind you, as they have to be mindful of road safety, but you do need to know what's going on behind you when you identify an appropriate parking space.

Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre

Using Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre is essentialUsing Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre is essentialRemember that the procedure for everything you do is Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre (or MS-PSL).

As soon as you decide on an appropriate spot you need to once again check the mirrors, both interior and passenger door mirror. You should check the passenger door mirror because you're about to pull in to the left, so the last thing you want is to miss the pedal cycle or motorbike that just may try to undertake you as you slow down.

You then need to consider a signal and whether it would be useful to other road users. As you slow down your brake lights will illuminate, indicating to other road users that you are losing speed. You should also consider putting on an the left (nearside) indicator to let everyone know that you're moving in to the left side of the road.

Who would you signal to?

Other drivers may benefit by knowing what you're doing, but also consider pedestrians. They may at the last second think about crossing the road. If they see your indicator, and that you're slowing down, it will warn them of your intentions and they can form their own plan of how to cross the road. You're not the only one who needs to make decisions, so good signals in good time can help everyone.

After checking the mirrors, considering and applying a signal if necessary, you then perform the manoeuvre and pull into the left side of the road.

As you lose road speed you may need to shift into a lower gear to ensure that you keep control of the car at all times. This is perfectly fine and will allow you to adjust your parking position at slow speed if you need to.

At this point you'll make use of any reference points on the car that you need to use to make sure that you pull up in the correct position.

You should avoid parking at an angle and you should ensure that the front wheels of the car are facing directly straight ahead after you stop.

Imagine if you were driving along a busy town centre road and you saw a parked car with the wheels angled outwards towards the centre of the road. Wouldn't you think that car was about to pull out? If you're aware of your surroundings and anticipate that the car may move you'd probably even change speed or direction to deal with it. That car would have become a hazard and that's the last thing we want to become.

We want to avoid giving such confusing signals (remember, everything you do is a signal) and we want to leave our wheels straight so our intentions are clear.

Secure The Car

This is important.

As soon as you come to a stop in the correct position it's essential that you make the car safe by what is often referred to as 'securing the car'.

Doing this is simple. The very first thing you do is to press in the button on the handbrake lever and apply the handbrake.

DO NOT reach for the gear stick or any other controls until the handbrake is on. The reason this has to come first is that the handbrake keeps the car still whilst you do anything else.

Also, if you're unfortunate enough to have another car bump into you (it's a common low speed collision, it really does happen a lot) if the handbrake is not on your car could possibly move quite some distance causing danger to others. Having the handbrake on prevents this.

Once the handbrake is on it's time to move the gear into neutral and return both your hands to the steering wheel, ready for the examiners next instruction, which will often be to simply move off again.

Typical Faults

Understand the typical faults when stopping and avoid making themUnderstand the typical faults when stopping and avoid making themWarning! The examiner is likely to ask you to pull over on the left when you could make one of several mistakes. This is not a trick, the examiner is not trying to trip you up. It's important for the examiner to see that you can drive independently and this is your chance.

I've seen examiners ask a driver to pull over on the left just as they were approaching a junction on the left side of the road. The last thing you should do is to immediately put on the left side indicator. Why?

Think about it.

Anyone following you or anyone who could suddenly appear at the junction on the left, even a pedestrian or cyclist, could think that you were turning into the junction and adjust their driving accordingly. When you just drive past the junction without turning left you can imagine the confusion you could cause.

We want to avoid that, so it's important to consider every aspect of the MSM routine and decide when to start it to move in to the left.

It may be that the examiner asks you to pull over on the left where it's simply not legal for some time. There may be parking restrictions or even a pedestrian crossing just in front of you. Again, it's not a trick, it's your chance to show that you can make decisions and that you can be trusted to be a full driving licence holder. It's worth reading the page on how the driving test is marked so you get an idea of how the examiner thinks on your test.

It's often difficult for a learner to understand, but it's better to miss out on a parking opportunity altogether than to take a risk and park where it's not appropriate or signal where it could be misleading or dangerous. There's plenty of opportunity on your test to park on the left so if you miss one the examiner will wait until you find one that’s safe.

Always keep in mind what's dangerous, serious or a driving fault. We don't want any faults, no matter how serious, but if you're in any doubt never, ever, risk making a serious or dangerous fault. A normal driving error is not the end of the world. A serious or dangerous fault is most certainly the end of your driving test.

From your very first lesson onwards, your instructor should give you plenty of practice and experience at pulling over on the left and moving off again. It's a common exercise on test, it's a common cause of collisions and it's important to be able to do it properly.

Dave