Driving Test Criteria

Driver Education illustration

Section 5 of 8

DMV Driving Test

Driving tests are given to first time DL applicants and other individuals who require a driving test. 
The purpose of a driving test is to determine whether you: 

  • Have the ability to operate a vehicle safely. 
  • Exhibit safe driving habits. 
  • Can apply your knowledge of traffic laws in real life situations. 
  • Can make up for any physical condition, such as loss of a limb, poor hearing, or a vision condition. 

The driving test is divided into 2 parts: the Pre-Drive Safety Check and Driving Performance Evaluation (DPE). The Pre-Drive Safety Check determines whether your vehicle meets the DMV minimum safety standard and whether you are familiar with the operation of your vehicle. The DPE portion is the behind-the-wheel driving test when you drive your car with a DMV examiner who evaluates your driving skills. 

There are 2 other types of driving tests given by DMV. One is called a Supplemental Driving Performance Evaluation (SDPE). This driving test has additional test elements and is given to applicants of any age who have a physical, mental, or vision condition, and/or a referral due to a lack of skill that may impact their ability to safely operate a vehicle. The other is called an Area Driving Performance Evaluation (ADPE). This driving test limits you to drive in only specified areas. If you are successful with the ADPE, your DL will be restricted to only the specified areas where you were tested. Both the SDPE and ADPE are referral driving tests. 

What is the difference between a DPE and a SDPE driving tests?

An SDPE includes all the features of the DPE driving tests (Pre-Drive Safety Check and the driving test). It may include additional testing elements designed to evaluate your cognitive function (memory, awareness, perception, etc.) and ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. The additional test elements may include: 

Multiple Directions—The examiner will give 2 or more instructions at one time to determine whether you can understand and properly follow both directions. For example, “At the next street, make a left turn, and then at the first intersection make another left turn.” 

Additional lane changes—The examiner will evaluate your performance when making lane changes.

Concentration—The examiner talks with you at certain times during the driving test. You must be able to respond briefly without making any driving errors. 

Freeway or Highway Driving—The examiner will ask you to merge into freeway traffic and drive a short distance on the freeway. If you do not drive on freeways and have no intention of ever driving on freeways, inform the examiner. The freeway driving portion will not be part of the driving test. The examiner will add a restriction to your DL that prohibits driving on the freeway. 

Destination trip—The examiner directs you to a location a few blocks from the DMV office. You must return to the DMV office using the same route without assistance or direction from the examiner. This is usually performed at the end of the driving test.