Behind The Wheel Test

Once you have scheduled the behind-the-wheel test you have to go to the DMV to have the test with your own car. Having a perfectly working and insured (with you as a driver) car is required. It is the first check they do in the test and you have to come back another day if the car is not ok. A rented car is ok for the test, as long as you are one of the allowed drivers in the rental contract (that you have to bring with you). As soon as you arrive to the DMV, go inside to check in and then go in line with the car for the test (at least, this is how it works in San Diego Clairemont).

The test is composed of

  • Pre-drive checklist
  • Parking lot driving
  • Driving test itself
  • Parking

The pre-drive checklist is the first thing you have to do, at the beginning of the test. You can see the checklist in the far left column of the attached score sheet. The parking lot driving and the driving test consist only in following the instructor directions respecting the rules. The instructor will make you drive as long as needed, so that you complete the required number of maneuvers (8 intersections, 4 turns left, 4 turns right, …). He or she will mark on the score sheet every error (see attached score sheet).

Don't worry too much about errors: you can make 3 errors in the pre-drive checklist, no critical errors (see the bottom left corner of the score sheet) and 15 (!) errors in the driving test. You shouldn't have any problem in passing this if you already have a driving license.

Just pay attention to a couple of thing:

  • you have to know the terms for the car parts, as you'll be required to point or activate them
  • you have to know arm signs to turn left, turn right and to stop
  • when stopping at a stop sign, the car has to come to a complete stop (it has to bounce back), before the line but not too far
  • in the parking lot the speed limit is extremely low, drive slow and watch for people walking
  • at the end of every block pedestrian can cross, even if there is no sign
  • if a pedestrian is crossing the street at a road crossing, you have to wait behind your line, you cannot block the intersection
  • when an intersection is regulated by stop signs, the first car arrived is the first one to pass, but everyone has to stop completely
  • when backing your car (you'll be required to do so) keep looking back if the car is moving backwards
  • when you turn right at an intersection, you have to move to the bike lane before turning; you have to do so when the bike lane becomes dashed
  • remember SMOG when turning or changing lane: Signal, look in the Mirror, Overlook your shoulder and then Go
  • at the traffic light you can turn right even if the red signal is on (you have to come to a complete stop before turning and there has to be no "no turn on red" sign)
  • check the meaning of the flashing red light at traffic lights
  • you have to learn the colors of the sidewalk, they tell if you can park there or not (red = no parking, white = passenger loading/unloading, green = 30min parking, etc…)
  • remember that if you park on a slope, you have to turn your wheels accordingly (see the handbook); not only for the test, they fine people for that!

If the test is passed, you'll receive your driving license at your mailing address in more or less 10 days.

Read more about the Driving License Written Test
Read more about Getting a Driving License in the US

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