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Driving Performance Evaluation

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Driving Performance Evaluation (DPE) Scoring Criteria 

The following scoring criteria is DMV’s standard for evaluating an applicant’s driving ability. All driving test examiners use these criteria to evaluate noncommercial Class C driving tests.

A “traffic check” is both the observation of vehicle and pedestrian traffic and the proper reaction to the traffic. It is observed by the examiner in every action.

Parking Lot Driving Scoring Criteria 

This criteria is used to evaluate your ability while driving through a parking lot. 

Traffic check

  • You observe traffic (vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians): 
    • Ahead and behind you. 
    • To the left and right. 
  • You yield the right-of-way to vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians when necessary for safety. 
  • You turn your head, and look toward other drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians when necessary. 
  • You react safely to traffic situations. 

Speed

You drive through the parking lot at a safe speed and are in control of the vehicle.

Backing Scoring Criteria

Criteria used to evaluate your ability to pull to the curb, back the vehicle in a straight line without striking the curb, and merge back into traffic.

Action: Entering (E), Backing (B), and Exiting (X)

Traffic check (E/B/X)

  • You observe traffic while entering or exiting: 
    • Ahead. 
    • To the right before entering and the left before exiting, and behind you. 
  • You check appropriate blind spots. 

NOTE: This is indicated by looking over your left or right shoulder, and using your mirrors as appropriate. 

  • You look: 
    • Over your right shoulder while backing. 
    • Toward other vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians when necessary. 
  • You react safely to traffic situations. 

Signal (E/X)

  • You activate the turn signal before pulling up to or away from the curb. 
  • You cancel the turn signal after pulling up to or away from the curb. 

Speed (E/B/X) 

  • You pull up to and away from the curb at a safe speed. 
  • You back up at a smooth, safe speed. 

Parallel (B) 

  • You back in a straight line for 3 vehicle lengths while remaining within 3 feet of the curb.

NOTE: Turn your head over your right shoulder and look through the back windshield instead of relying on the rearview and/or side mirrors, or camera, which may not show all hazards. This will help you back up in a straight line. Technology, such as backup cameras and self-parking, cannot solely be used on a driving test. 

  • You perform the action with no more than 1 correction. 

NOTE: A “correction” is any movement forward. 

Control (B) 
You maintain control of the vehicle (includes proper gear and clutch use). 

Intersections Scoring Criteria

This criteria is used to evaluate your performance at intersections. 

Action: Through

Crossing through an intersection where there are traffic signals or a stop sign. 

Traffic check 

  • You observe traffic (vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians): 
    • Ahead. 
    • To the right and left. 
  • You turn your head and look toward other vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians when necessary. 
  • You react safely to traffic situations. 

Speed 

  • You maintain the appropriate speed. 

NOTE: Driving 10 mph over or under the speed limit, unless justified by road/traffic/weather conditions, will be scored as a Critical Driving Error. 

Yield 

  • You yield the right-of-way to vehicles, bicyclists, or pedestrians when necessary for safety. 

Unnecessary stop 

  • Do not stop unless required by another vehicle, bicyclist, or pedestrian, traffic sign, signal, or to avoid a collision. 

Action: Stop 

Traffic check 

  • You observe traffic (vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians): 
    • Ahead. 
  • To the left, right, and behind you. 

NOTE: This may be indicated by looking over your left or right shoulder, and using your mirrors as appropriate. 

  • You turn your head and look toward other vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians when necessary. 
  • You react safely to traffic situations. 

Deceleration/braking 

  • You decelerate and brake smoothly. 
  • You depress the brake pedal without depressing the accelerator (gas pedal) at the same time. 
  • If driving a vehicle with a manual transmission, keep the gear engaged (no coasting). 

Full stop 

  • You bring the vehicle to a full stop. 
  • You make no unnecessary movement forward or roll backward. 

Gap or limit line 

  • You are able to see the rear wheels of the vehicle in front of you or have enough room to move around the vehicle without backing up. 
  • You stop about half a car length from the vehicle in front of you (no excessive gap). 

Action: Stop

  • You stop within 6 feet (about half-a-car length): 
    • Behind the limit line. 
    • From the corner of the intersection if there is no limit line. 
  • You stop without the front-most part of the vehicle: 
    • In an intersection. 
    • Over the limit line. 
    • Beyond the sidewalk or stop sign. 

Action: Start

Traffic check

  • You observe traffic (vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians): 
    • Ahead. 
    • To the left and right. 
      NOTE: This may be indicated by head and/or eye movement to the left and right as appropriate. 
  • You look toward other vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians when necessary. 
  • You react safely to traffic situations. 

Yield 

  • You yield the right-of-way to vehicles or pedestrians, when necessary for safety. 
  • You accept the right-of-way: 
    • Without causing confusion or impeding traffic flow. 
    • When it is safe to start. 

Speed

  • You accelerate smoothly. 

NOTE: If your vehicle has a manual transmission, you must use the proper gear and smoothly use the clutch. 

Turns Scoring Criteria

Criteria used to evaluate your performance in turning.

Action: Approach

Traffic check

  • You observe traffic (vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians): 
    • Ahead and behind you. 
    • To the left or right. 
  • You check the blind spot by looking over your right or left shoulder before merging into the bike lane or center left turn lane. 
  • You look toward other vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians when necessary. 
  • You react safely to traffic situations.

Signal 
You activate the turn signal at least 100 feet prior to the turn, but not so early that other drivers will not understand your intentions.

Deceleration/braking 

  • You decelerate and brake smoothly. 
  • Do not depress the brake and accelerator (gas pedal) at the same time. 
  • If the vehicle has a manual transmission, you change gears as necessary to: 
    • Maintain power. 
    • Keep the gear engaged.

Action: Approach

Yield 
You yield the right-of-way to vehicles, bicyclists, or pedestrians when necessary for safety.

Lane use 
You use the designated lane for: 

  • Right turns 
    • Enter the bike lane within 200 feet of the turn. 
    • Enter the designated right turn lane at the opening. 
    • Use right-most part of the right lane. 
  • Left turns 
    • Enter the two-way center left turn lane within 200 feet of the turn and do not violate the right-of-way of any vehicle already in the lane. 
    • Enter the designated left turn lane at the opening. 
    • Use the left-most part of the left lane. 
  • Staying within the lane markings.

Unnecessary stop 
Do not stop unless required by another vehicle, pedestrian, bicyclist, traffic sign, or signal.

Action: Stop

Traffic check

  • You observe traffic (vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians): 
    • Ahead and behind you. 
    • To the left or right. 
  • You look toward other vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians when necessary. 
  • You react safely to traffic situations.

Full stop 

  • You bring the vehicle to a full stop. 
  • You make no unnecessary movement forward or roll backward. 

Gap or limit line 

  • You are able to see the rear wheels of the vehicle in front of you, or have enough room to move around the vehicle without backing up. 
  • You stop about half a car length from the vehicle in front of you (no excessive gap). 
  • You stop within 6 feet (about half a car length): 
    • Behind the limit line. 
    • From the corner of the intersection if there is no limit line. 
  • You stop without the front-most part of the vehicle being: 
    • In an intersection. 
    • Over the limit line. 
    • Beyond the sidewalk or stop sign.

Wheels straight (left turns only) 
The wheels of the vehicle are straight ahead when stopped.

Action: Turn/Complete

Traffic check 

  • You observe traffic (vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians): 
    • Ahead and behind you. 
    • To the left or right. 
  • You look toward other vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians when necessary. 
  • You react safely to traffic situations.

Yield 

  • You yield the right-of-way to vehicles, bicyclists, or pedestrians when necessary for safety. 
  • You accept the right-of-way: 
    • Without causing confusion or blocking traffic flow. 
    • When it is safe to start.

Steering control 

You turn the steering wheel: 

  • Smoothly and with full control of the vehicle. 
  • Only the necessary amount (do not over or under-steer). 

Action: Turn/Complete

Too wide/short 
You keep the vehicle within the lane or lane markings.

Correct lane 

  • You end the turn in the proper lane. 
  • You begin and end in the appropriate lane for multiple turn lanes.

Speed 

  • You maintain a smooth, safe speed and keep control of the vehicle. 
  • If the vehicle has a manual transmission, you: 
    • Change gears as necessary to maintain power. 
    • Keep the gear engaged. 
  • You make no unnecessary stops during the turn. 
  • You accelerate smoothly after the turn. 

Signal 
You cancel the turn signal upon completion of the turn. 

Business/Urban and Residential/Rural Scoring Criteria

This criteria is used to evaluate your performance while driving in a straight section of a business district or residential area.

Traffic check 

  • You observe traffic for hazards: 
    • Ahead and behind you. 
    • To the left or right. 
  • You react safely to traffic situations: 
    • Traffic at entrances to roadways. 
    • Pedestrians and bicyclists. 
    • Vehicles parking.

Speed 

  • You maintain the appropriate speed limit without exceeding the speed limit. 

NOTE: Driving 10 mph over or under the speed limit, unless justified by road/traffic/weather conditions, will cause a critical driving error.

  • You slow for hazards or obstructions.

Spacing 
You maintain a safe distance to the front and sides of your vehicle. 

Lane position 
You keep the vehicle in the center of the lane.

Lane Change Scoring Criteria

Criteria used to evaluate your performance when making a lane change.

Traffic check 

  • You observe traffic (vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians). 
    For a: 
    • Left lane change, look to the left, behind you, and at your left side blind spot (check your left hand mirror and look over your left shoulder). 
    • Right lane change, look to the right, behind you, and at your right side blind spot (check your right hand mirror and look over your right shoulder). 
  • You react safely to traffic situations.

Signal 

  • You activate the turn signal before making a lane change. 
  • You cancel the turn signal after the lane change.

Speed 

  • You use an appropriate speed: 
  • To change lanes without exceeding the speed limit. 

NOTE: It is not necessary to slow your speed before a lane change. 

  • For traffic conditions.

Spacing 

  • You wait for an adequate gap. 
  • You create a safe distance to the front, sides, and rear of vehicles moving in the same direction. 
  • You create a safe distance in front of your vehicle after a lane change.

Steering control 

  • You change lanes by turning the steering wheel smoothly. 
  • You move to the center of the lane.

Freeway (FWY) or Highway (HWY) Scoring Criteria

NOTE: Only appropriate for Supplemental Drive Tests.

Criteria used to evaluate your performance in FWY or HWY driving. 

Action: Entering

On ramp or access way to a freeway or highway.

Traffic check 

  • You observe traffic (vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians): 
    • Ahead. 
    • To the left and right. 
      NOTE: Checking the blind spot may be required on a two-lane or freeway-metered ramp. 
  • You look toward other vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians when necessary. 
  • You react safely to traffic situations.

Signal 

  • You activate the turn signal at least 100 feet before entering traffic, but not so early that other drivers will not understand your intentions.
  • You cancel the turn signal after entering.

Speed

  • You use an appropriate speed for traffic conditions.

Spacing 

  • You wait for an adequate gap. 
  • You leave a safe distance to the front and sides of moving vehicles.

Lane position 
You keep the vehicle in the center of the lane.

Action: Merge

Traffic check 

  • You observe traffic: 
    • Ahead and to the left. 
    • Check the left or right side blind spots by looking over your shoulder prior to merging onto a freeway or highway. 
  • You react safely to traffic situations.

Signal

  • You activate the turn signal as soon as it’s visible to freeway traffic. 
  • You cancel the turn signal after merging.

Speed 
You merge at the appropriate speed for traffic conditions.

Spacing 

  • You merge as soon as there is an adequate gap. 
  • You leave a safe distance to the front, rear, and sides of moving vehicles.

Lane position 

  • You merge onto the freeway without going over the solid boundary lines. 
  • You move to the center of the driving lane.

Steering control 
You merge by turning the steering wheel smoothly.

Action: Lane Use

Traffic check 

  • You observe traffic ahead, to the left, right, and behind you. 
    NOTE: This is indicated by looking over your shoulder, and using your mirrors. 
  • You react safely to traffic situations.

Speed 

  • You maintain an appropriate speed without exceeding the posted speed limit. 
  • You use an appropriate speed for traffic conditions.

Spacing 
You maintain a safe distance to the front, behind, and sides of other moving vehicles.

Lane position 
You keep the vehicle in the center of the lane.

Action: Exiting

Traffic check 

  • You observe traffic: 
    • Ahead, to the left, right, and behind you.
      NOTE:  This is indicated by looking over your shoulders and using your mirrors. 
    • By checking the right blind spot. 
  • You react safely to traffic situations.

Signal 

  • You activate the turn signal before entering the exit lane. 
  • You cancel the turn signal after entering the exit lane.

Speed 

  • You decelerate in the exit lane. 
  • You exit at the appropriate speed for traffic conditions.

Spacing 

  • You wait for an adequate gap. 
  • You maintain a safe distance to the front, rear, and sides of other moving vehicles.

Lane position 

  • You exit the freeway without going over the solid boundary lines. 
  • You keep the vehicle in the center of the lane.

Steering control 
You exit by turning the steering wheel smoothly.

Critical Driving Errors Scoring Criteria

This criteria is used to evaluate your action or inaction during a driving test that would result in a driving test failure. 

Intervention by examiner 

  • Any action or inaction that requires physical or verbal intervention by the examiner. 
    • An example of a verbal intervention could be the examiner loudly stating, “Stop.” 
  • You make 3 attempts to back your vehicle.

Strikes object

  • You make contact with another vehicle, object, bicyclist, pedestrian, or animal when it could have been safely avoided. 
  • You drive over the curb or on the sidewalk.

Disobeys traffic signs or signals 

  • You go through or exceed a brisk walking speed (4 mph) at a: 
    • Stop sign. 
    • Flashing red light. 
    • Right turn on a red light. 
  • You do not stop and wait for a green signal at a: 
    • Red light. (After making a full and complete stop at the red light, you may make a right turn when it is safe to do so and there are no posted signs prohibiting a right turn on a red light.) 
    • Red freeway-metered ramp signal. 
  • You make an unnecessary stop at a green light or on a freeway-metered ramp. 
  • You disobey other traffic signs and/or lane marking, such as: 
    • A lane drop (lane merges). 
    • Painted arrows. 
    • A painted island. 
    • Curb markings (red, blue, etc.). 
    • Traffic cones, etc.

Disobeys traffic safety personnel or safety vehicles 

  • You pass a school bus that has flashing red lights. 
    NOTE: Traffic in both directions must stop unless driving on a divided highway. 
  • You fail to pull over and stop for an emergency vehicle. 
  • You disobey any safety personnel, law enforcement officer, or firefighter.

Dangerous maneuvers 

  • You take any action or inaction that causes another driver or pedestrian to take evasive action. 
  • You do not move your head and eyes to make a traffic check at an uncontrolled intersection when a hazard is present. 
  • You make an unnecessary stop on a freeway-merge lane while entering or exiting. 
  • You block an intersection at anytime with your vehicle so that it impedes cross traffic. 
  • You do not look in your mirror(s) or over your shoulder to check the rear or blind spot when: 
    • Making a lane change. 
    • Merging. 
    • Backing. 
    • Making a right turn with a bike lane. 
    • Pulling from the curb or side of the road. 
  • You stall the engine: 
    • In an intersection. 
    • 3 times due to poor clutch/gear use.

Speed 

  • You drive 10 mph: 
    • Over the speed limit. 
    • Under the speed limit when the road, pedestrians, bicyclists, and/or traffic conditions do not warrant a lower speed.
  • You drive too: 
    • Fast for safety. 
    • Slow for safety.

Auxiliary equipment use 
Failure to use the windshield wipers, defroster, or headlights when weather conditions or darkness requires the use of auxiliary equipment. 

Lane violation 

  • You drive: 
    • Further than 200 feet in a bike lane or two-way center left turn lane. 
    • Straight ahead while in a designated turn lane. 
    • Unnecessarily in the oncoming traffic lane at anytime. 
  • You turn from a designated forward (straight) lane. 
  • You make a turn from the wrong lane.
    NOTE:  For right turns with a bike lane, you must enter the bike lane only after ensuring there is no bicycle traffic and then make the turn. 

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