Prepare, observe, move

How to move off…safely

Moving off? That’s not too difficult, surely?

Well….many learner drivers fail their driving test because of mistakes they make when moving off, either through poor observation skills or the incorrect use of signals.

Let’s clarify the technique for moving off and how to avoid the most common mistakes.

Prepare, Observe, Move

The technique for moving off is called prepare, observe, move.

This technique is a sequence of controlled events that allows the driver to move off safely, and under full control, in all traffic conditions.

Let’s take a look at the three steps in sequence . . .


First, prepare the car by selecting first gear, then move the left hand to the hand brake, ready to release it.

Next, we set the gas by applying a little pressure to the gas pedal, to produce a lively ‘hum’ from the engine. The amount of ‘revs’ we need depends upon the car and the road conditions around us, and is something that you can discuss with your trainer.

On a flat road we then slowly raise the clutch to find (or get close to) the biting point. If you’re moving off uphill (a hill start) you should find a slightly higher than normal biting point.

If you’re facing downhill the prepare procedure is different. On a steep downhill gradient the way to get the car ready to go is:

  1. Clutch down
  2. Select second gear
  3. Keep clutch down
  4. Press hard on the footbrake
  5. Release handbrake – but don’t release the footbrake
  6. Good, effective, observations
  7. When it’s safe take your right foot off the brake. The car wil start to roll down the hill. As it rolls, lift the clutch and drive away.

The car is now prepared, ready to move, and we can move onto the next stage – observe.


Effective observations are required. Look around the car asking yourself two questions:

  • Is it safe to go?
  • Do I need to signal to anyone?

A quick glance in the mirrors is not enough!


When it’s safe to move off simply release the hand brake, apply a little more gas, lift the clutch smoothly and you’ll move off smoothly and safely.

Dangers and pitfalls

There are two main areas which catch out learners – incorrect signalling and delaying too long to move after the observations are complete.

Signalling to move off should be the exception rather than the rule. Unfortunately many driving instructors still tell their pupils to apply a signal before even carrying out the correct observations. This is a mistake. It could easily result in a driver error and could possibly be viewed as a serious fault.

Why? Picture this: while you are waiting to move off you signal to let oncoming traffic know that you intend to pull out. The driver of the vehicle coming up behind you assumes (not unreasonably) you’re going to pull out into their path. They slow down due to the potential danger you present or worse, swerve at the last second to avoid a possible collision. So if a vehicle is coming up behind you and you’re not going to move off, don’t signal.

Golden rule: if you can’t see someone who would actually benefit from a signal, don’t do it. It’s not just pointless, it’s confusing and potentially even dangerous.

When to signal

If you see someone sat in a stationary vehicle who may move off at the same time as you or a car coming up behind you who is far enough away not to have to slow down if you move away a signal is a good idea. Or maybe you spot a pedestrian who might cross the road in front of you. Or someone sat in a car in a driveway in front of you.

Key points

  • use the routine prepare, observe, move
  • take effective observations
  • try not to delay between seeing it’s safe and moving – things can change in a second!
  • signal only if necessary.