For most people, getting their driver’s license is a rite of passage. It’s a symbol of independence and freedom. But it’s also a responsibility. When you get behind the wheel of a car, you’re responsible for your own safety and the safety of others. That’s why it’s important to take your behind-the-wheel test seriously and practice beforehand. 

The exam is designed to test your knowledge of the rules of the road and your ability to safely operate a vehicle. By studying for the exam and practicing, you can help ensure that you’re ready to safely take on the responsibility of driving. Although being behind the wheel can be a very nerve-racking part of getting your driver’s license, it’s something all new drivers go through. So you’re not alone in being nervous. 

In this article, we will break down the behind-the-wheel driving test for you. We are going to explain the areas of driving you should practice, who needs to take the behind-the-wheel exam, and go over quick tips to help you practice for the exam. 

#1: What you should know about the behind-the-wheel test

When taking a behind-the-wheel test, the main purpose is to show the examiner that you understand the laws/rules of the road and will be safe while driving. That being said, here is exactly what you should know about the exam.

  • The exam will take roughly 20 minutes.
  • You will be tested on right and left turns. Make sure you are using your blinkers and look over your shoulder correctly.  
  • Stop at both controlled and uncontrolled intersections.
    • An uncontrolled intersection is an intersection where there are no stop signs or traffic signals. Vehicles coming from all directions can enter the intersection at the same time.
    • A controlled intersection is an intersection that has stop signs, traffic signals, or yield signs.
  • Backing up. Examiners are looking for you to back up in a straight line (backing up along a long straight curb is good practice. It will let you know if you’re moving left or right)
  • Proper lane changes. Again, make sure you use your blinkers and look in your blind spots. 

These are the main things you can expect from your behind-the-wheel test. Be well practiced and you should be just fine.

#2: Who needs to take a behind-the-wheel test

Many think new drivers under the age of 18 are the only ones who have to take a behind-the-wheel test. Although this demographic makes up a large portion of these exams, there are others that will have to take a behind-the-wheel as well. Here’s a list of who needs to study and practice for a behind-the-wheel exam:

  • Someone never licensed in California or any other state.
  • A person who has moved to the United States from a foreign country.
  • People with vision problems.
  • Someone who is getting a limited term DL who has been diagnosed with a physical or mental illness.
  • Anyone with a physical condition (to the point that the DMV has imposed restrictions on your driver’s license) and wants the restriction removed.
  • If you are licensed to drive in another state but do not have an actual driver’s license to surrender.
  • A person applying for a provisional, or probationary driver’s license, or an out-of-state junior.

If you fall within any of these categories, you will need to take the behind-the-wheel exam.

#3: How to Prepare

Now that you know who has to take the test and what to expect, the next thing to know is how to prepare. Let’s go over some of the most useful tips to prepare for your behind-the-wheel exam.

Take a behind-the-wheel driving school

We have you covered on this one. Your Drivers Ed Online (that’s us!) is a DMV-certified driving school. We have over 48 years of teaching experience where you can expect to get the best education when it comes to getting your driver’s permit. 

Once you have your permit, our sister company, North County School of Driving, offers a complete behind-the-wheel education that will get you fully prepared for your behind-the-wheel license exam. 

These are just a few of the benefits of choosing us to help you get your license. We’re here from start to finish. Click here to learn more. 

Make sure you get enough practice hours.

If you are under the age of 18, you must have completed at least 50 hours of behind-the-wheel training with 10 of those hours at night. But everyone learns at different paces. You might need 70 hours before you fully feel comfortable. So take your time and make sure you’re getting in as many hours as you need to feel comfortable and ask your parents, guardians, or teachers as many questions as you need to.

Always practice good driving habits.

Here are some rapid-fire good driving habits to practice behind the wheel to ensure you pass on the first try:

  • Steady acceleration. Do not hit the gas too hard to take off.
  • Smooth steering. Avoid jerking the wheel too much.
  • Brake ahead of where you need to stop. Make sure your stops are smooth and you are not slamming on the brakes.
  • If you’re driving a manual transmission vehicle, do not coast to stops. Always be in the correct gear so you can course-correct if necessary. 
  • Do not speed. Always obey traffic signs and posted speed limits. (it’s good to know situations, speed limits and signs before the exam).
  • The three-second rule. Do not follow too closely behind other vehicles. 
  • Know how to turn. Always be in the correct lane and use your blinker when initiating a turn. 
  • Actually, that one deserves its own bullet point: always use your turn signals.
  • Scan the road ahead of you. Make sure there are no obstacles or dangers in the roadway. 
  • Look over your shoulder when turning and changing lanes. There is a blind spot on each side of the vehicle, so make sure you don’t forget about it.
  • Learn to drive in a straight line in reverse (this is part of the exam – be prepared to go about 30 feet).
  • Know what to do if an emergency vehicle comes by. Should you pull over? Stay put? Keep going? Make sure you’re prepared for anything and know exactly what to do.
  • Always be prepared. Other drivers will make mistakes. Be ready for them. 

If you take your preparation seriously, you should have no problem passing your behind-the-wheel test. Remember, practice makes perfect.