Car Cockpit Drill (DSSM) Learner Driver Tutorial

This tutorial will guide you through the car cockpit drill and answer questions typically asked by learner drivers. The cockpit drill is usually completed on the very first driving lesson.

Car Cockpit Drill (DSSSM)

Let’s answer those questions and then run through the cockpit drill tutorial…

What is the Cockpit Drill in a Car?

The car cockpit drill is a sequence of safety checks that the learner must complete at the start of each driving lesson and it involves checking the vehicle doors, setting up the seating and steering, fastening the seat belt and adjusting the mirrors.

What Does DSSSM Mean in Driving?

DSSSM stand for ‘Doors, Seat, Steering, Seat belt and Mirrors’. DSSSM is an easy way to remember what procedures must be completed during the cockpit drill.

Why Does the Cockpit Drill Need to be Completed Each Lesson?

The car that you’re using for learning to drive will likely have been used by other drivers, particularly if it’s a driving instructor’s car. Your seat, steering wheel and mirrors all need to be adjusted so that you can operate the controls properly and the mirrors need to be adjusted so that you can effectively see around the vehicle.

How Long Does the Cockpit Drill Take?

On your first lesson, the instructor needs to explain in basic detail what the controls are and what they do, plus how to properly use the mirrors and set them up. This will usually take anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes. After this initial lesson, it will take you just a few minutes to complete the cockpit drill at the start of each lesson. Reading this tutorial, practicing and familiarising yourself with the cockpit drill before your first lesson will allow you to progress though the lesson at a faster rate.

Car Cockpit Drill (DSSSM) Tutorial

Let’s now run through the car cockpit drill tutorial using the DSSSM technique. It’s important that the cockpit drill procedure is completed in the order detailed below else the vehicle will not be correctly setup for you.

Upon entering the car, shut your door by giving it a firm tug. After closing, check the door is shut by giving the handle another tug. If the door moves slightly, it’s not properly shut. You’ll need to open the door to shut it again, but before doing so, look in front and over your shoulder behind the vehicle for passing pedestrians or traffic to ensure it’s safe to open your door. Looking in your mirrors alone wont provide you with a sufficient view of the rear of the vehicle due to blind spots.

You can also check that passenger doors are properly shut by checking in the side mirrors. The view of the car in the side mirror should be flush, if a door is not properly shut, it will not be in line with the rest of the vehicle.


Adjust the car seat to enable you to reach all the controls
Adjust the car seat to enable you to reach all the controls
  • View of the road: Ensure you have a good view of the road ahead. Use the seating controls to lower or raise the seat as required to enable a clear view of the road ahead 1. Lower or raise the car seat. Not all vehicles have this option, so if you’re quite small, a booster cushion can be used.
  • Foot controls: Ensure you can comfortably reach and operate the foot controls. Your aim is to fully depress the pedals while maintaining a slight bend in the leg. Slide your seat forward or backwards to adjust 2. Slide the car seat forwards or backwards.. For a basic description on how the foot controls work, see accelerator, brake and clutch (ABC).
    • If it’s a manual vehicle, use your left foot and fully depress the clutch pedal (the one on the left).
    • If it’s an automatic, use your right foot to fully depress the brake then the accelerator – this does no harm on modern cars with the engine off. On an automatic, the brake pedal is on the left and the accelerator is on the right. They should both be operated with the right foot only.
  • Headrest: The headrest is important as it helps to protect your neck in the event of a collision. Adjust the headrest so that the centre of it lines up with your ears 3. Adjust the headrest so that the centre lines up with your ears..

Now lets make sure you can comfortably operate the steering wheel. Place both your hands at the top of the steering as this is the part of the wheel furthest from you. Your aim is to do this while maintaining a slight bend at the elbow and with your back flush into the seat. This technique will allow you to comfortably reach all round the steering wheel and not have to stretch. Operate the back section of the seat to lean more forwards or backwards as required 4. Adjust the back of the seat to reach the steering wheel..

Seat Belt
It’s a legal requirement to wear a seat belt and as the driver, you’re responsible to ensure that passengers of 13 years of age or under are buckled up. Fasten your belt and make sure it’s flush with your body without any twists in the strap. Twisted seat belts can be hazardous and can cause injury in the event of an accident. For a greater insight into the dangers of an incorrectly fitted seat belt, see what is the proper way to wear a seat belt?

The final adjustment is the mirrors.

  • Interior mirror: Your aim is to see out of the rear window with as little interior of the car as possible. When adjusting the mirror, do this by holding the outer-edge and avoid touching the glass (else you smudge and smear the mirror). You may need to lean forward a little to reach the mirror, but settle back into your seat when assessing the view. If you do need to lean forward to reach the mirror, you may need to make a few adjustments until the view out of the rear window is correct.
  • Side mirrors: Locate the controls for adjusting the side mirrors and adjust when seated back in your seat in the driving position. You should aim to see as far up the road as possible and to see only a very small section of your own vehicle in the mirror.

For further information on mirrors, the car mirrors section explains how to properly set up and adjust all your mirrors for effective observation.

Cockpit Drill Quiz

Now that you’ve read up on the car cockpit drill, test your knowledge by taking the cockpit drill quiz.

2 thoughts on “Car Cockpit Drill (DSSSM) Learner Driver Tutorial”

    1. Learn Driving Tips

      Hello Javid,
      The driver is responsible for a child to wear a seat belt up to the age of 13, or appropriate car seat up to the age of 12 (unless they’re over 135 centimetres tall). At 14 and older, it’s their own responsibility.

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