Safe Driver Checklist

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) wants you to succeed on the road. Use the Safe Driver Checklist to prepare for a smooth journey behind the wheel that helps you stay out of harm’s way.

Once you have practiced driving, review this checklist to make sure you follow all the safe, smart driving habits you need to drive well.

Locate the Controls
Locate the following controls and explain how they work:

  • Four-way flashers.
  • Emergency and parking brakes.
  • Headlights.
  • Heater/defroster.
  • Horn.
  • Windshield wipers.

Before Starting the Vehicle

  • Adjust the mirrors.
  • Fasten safety belt.

Starting the Vehicle

  • Vehicle is in “Park” or “Neutral.”
  • Foot is on the brake pedal.
  • Start vehicle smoothly.

Moving Forward

  • Signal.
  • Look over shoulder before pulling into traffic.
  • Use both hands on opposite sides of the steering wheel.


  • Stop when necessary behind crosswalks or limit lines.
  • Use correct foot on the brake pedal.


  • Signal and slow for turns.
  • Begin and end turns in the correct lane.
  • Yield right-of-way, when necessary.
  • Accept legal right-of-way, when safe.
  • See and react to hazards.


  • Before moving, survey the surroundings for possible obstacles.
  • Look back over right shoulder when backing.
  • Check your mirrors and glance quickly to the side while backing up.

Changing Lanes

  • Signal.
  • Check the mirrors.
  • Check your blind spot over your shoulder.
  • Change lanes safely.

Parking on Hills

  • Signal.
  • Curb the wheels properly depending on whether you are facing uphill or downhill.
  • Set the parking brake.
  • Signal and check your blind spot over your shoulder before entering traffic.

Parallel Parking

  • Signal.
  • Check your blind spot and look over your shoulder while backing up.
  • Yield to other vehicles when necessary.

Entering the Freeway

  • Check the traffic flow.
  • Signal.
  • Time your entry into the freeway.
  • Check your blind spot over your shoulder when accelerating into a gap in traffic.
  • Signal early and slow down on the exit ramp to meet the posted speed limit.
  • Adjust your speed to suit road conditions.

Defensive Driving Techniques

  • Check your mirrors frequently and before braking.
  • Check the cross streets before entering intersections.
  • Check the signal lights and signs.
  • Keep your eyes “moving” (watching sides and middle of road).
  • Keep a “space cushion” around the vehicle.
  • Follow at a safe distance.