How to Observe to Pass YOUR Road Test First Time

Learn how to observe correctly to pass your road test and stay safe while driving - watch the video.

How to Observe to Pass YOUR Road Test First Time


Closed Caption


- Hi there, smart drivers.

Rick with Smart Drive Test talking to you today about observation.

How you need to move your head for the purposes of passing a road test.

Stick around, we'll be right back with that information.

[INTRO & UPBEAT MUSIC] Hi there smart drivers, welcome back.

Talking to you today about observation.

Now just before we started here, Smart Drive Test helps new drivers get a license, veteran drivers remain crash free, and CDL drivers to start a career as truck or bus driver.

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Now a couple weeks ago on a livestream, I had one of the smart drivers say that he had another examiner in the car that was training during his road test, and the other examiner was watching his eyes.


Well I kinda had a passionate opinion about that, about some driving instructors who have other, have extra mirrors in the car to look at the student's eyes.

Driving instructors mount additional mirrors in the vehicle to monitor driving students' eye movement when driving.

And said that unless you're moving you're head, you're not observing correctly.

And actually I had another smart driver comment furthermore that he was unsuccessful in his road test because he wasn't moving his head.

So I'm gonna show you the clip from the livestream here, and then after that I'll come back.

Smart driver Furthermore, unsuccessful on a road test because he failed to move head when observing on his road test.

And I'm in the car, and I'm gonna show you how to move your head for the different observations that you need to do for the purposes of passing a road test.

So here's the livestream.

Live Stream

Gordon: when I went for my road test, I had two testers with me, one was in training.

I did not notice the tester looking at my eyes to make sure I was checking my mirrors.

Ah, yeah.

(chuckles) I love that one, Gordon, that they have all these mirrors in the car and they say all the driving examiners looking to see where you're looking.

If you're just moving your eyes in the vehicle and they're looking at them, as far as I'm concerned you're not observing properly because you cannot just move your eyes like this and look to where you need to look.

Rick August, PhD, during the weekly Smart Sunday Live Stream answering questions about passing a road test and driving crash-free.

When you're looking in a wing mirror, you're gonna go like this.

You're gonna move your head.

It's the same thing when you're looking at a center mirror.

You're not just gonna go like this.

You can't just look in the center mirror, you gotta move your head up to look.

So when driving, and I've had driving instructors tell me this and I completely disagree, and I have the same thing with driving examiners.

They've said the same thing: "oh, we're looking to see where you're looking."

And it's like you're moving your head.

Your eyes don't move enough to be able to do all the observation that you need to do correctly in a vehicle.

So you're gonna be moving your head.

You're gonna be looking in the center mirror, you're gonna be looking in the wing mirror, you're gonna be looking down the road, looking in the wing mirror over there.

So your head has to move (laughs) 'cause your eyes don't move enough in your skull for you to do that.

So when people tell me that, I always chuckle, I just chuckle.

Comment from smart driver Faith Wisdom, asking if she moves her eyes after moving her head when shoulder (head) checking.

So in the car, had a comment this morning when I was finishing up this video from Faith Wisdom, and she wanted to know if you had to move your eyes after you moved your head to shoulder check, and the answer in no, you simply don't have enough time.

You're just gonna turn your head.

How Does Human Vision Work?

Your peripheral vision, which is 180° degrees in a healthy adult, is going to take care of the rest of it after you turn your head 90° degrees, because our peripheral vision is attracted to light and movement and if there are other road users, then there's movement and we sense that.

Or there's light or something in the area where we're looking, our peripheral vision's gonna hole in our central vision to further investigate.

So it's important that if you shoulder check and you see something, look forward, make sure your vehicle's going in the right direction, and look again to get a good sense of what's there and what you need to prepare for in terms of a potential hazard in your blind areas and the areas around your vehicle.

I'm gonna show you how to do the scanning while you're driving.

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Scanning Pattern While Driving Forward

So you're sitting in the seat square.

You're gonna change these intervals every 8 to 10 seconds.

So you're looking down the road into the instrument panel, so you're gonna move your head down slightly.

Windshield down the road, eight to 10 seconds, and check the wing mirror on the left.

Down the road again.

Intersections, you're obviously scanning intersections as well while you're driving.

And then in and check that mirror.

So every eight to 10 seconds, you're gonna be rotating through that scanning pattern while you're driving in a forward motion.

So down the road, instrument panel, down the road, center mirror, down the road, shoulders, left wing mirror, down the road, right wing mirror, and then continually repeat that as you're driving.

And of course you're gonna be scanning intersections when you're driving through intersections, controlled and uncontrolled intersections.

So that's in a forward motion.

Changing Lanes & Turning

Anytime that you move the vehicle laterally, you're changing lanes, or you're moving sideways, or you're making turns, you're gonna do shoulder checks two times.

One approximately half a block before the turn and the other one immediately before the turn.

And you're gonna make the shoulder check 90° degrees in the direction that you're turning.

Demonstrating how to shoulder (head) check to the right when driving...both for passing a road test and for remaining crash-free.

So if you're turning left, okay approximately half a block before the turn, 90° degrees to the left.

Forward, immediately before the turn, 90° degrees again.

If you're stopped at the intersection for a period of time, you may have to do two or three.

Okay? And then if you're turning to the right, 90° degrees to the right, shoulder checking half a block before the turn and then immediately before the turn.

So that's for any time that you're turning or doing sideways movements, when you're changing lanes and those types of things.

Slow-Speed Manoeuvres

Then if you're gonna reverse and you're gonna do reverse stall park, three point turn, parallel parking, or two point reverse turn, and I'll leave all the videos down in the description for you for those different maneuvers that you have to do for the purposes of a road test.

Now before you back up, you're gonna do a 360° degree scan.

And again, I'll leave this video down in the description for you.

360° degree scan, and then backing up.

You put your hand on the back of the passenger seat, one hand on the steering wheel, and turn, and look out the back window.

When reversing for the purposes of a road test, you must look out the rear window of the vehicle. And you can steer the vehicle with one hand.

Backup Cameras

You can't use a, the only place that I'm aware of that you can use a backup camera is New Jersey, but know, for the purposes of a road test, all of these other skills are applicable.

360° degree scan, looking out the back window, checking your backup camera, 360° degree scan, and every vehicle length stop the vehicle to do a 360° degree scan and make sure there aren't other road users around.

So that's how you observe for the purposes of your road test.

It is instrumental that you move your head because your eyes do not move enough in your skull to be able to observe properly for the purposes of a road test.

Bigger Vehicles & Observation

Another point.

The bigger the vehicle, the more you're gonna have to move your head to do those scans and observations.

So as you move up in bigger and bigger vehicles, for those of you in SUVs, you're gonna move your head more.

The bigger the vehicle the more you're going to move your head to observe properly for both passing a road test and remaining crash-free.

Buses, trucks, those types of things, you're gonna move your head even more.

The other cornerstones of the road test:

  • observation,
  • communication,
  • speed management,
  • and space management.

You have to have all of those components in place to be successful on a road test.

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All the best on your road test and remember, pick the best answer, not necessarily the right answer.

Have a great day, bye now!