Theory Test Topics Explained: Road Conditions And Vehicle Handling

Theory test topics road conditions and vehicle handling featured image

Greetings, PassMeFast readers! If you’re keen to pass your theory test, we’ve got just the thing for you: a new instalment in our Theory Test Topics Explained series! We’ve now made it to the ninth topic out of the fourteen used in the DVSA’s multiple-choice question bank: road conditions and vehicle handling. We’re going to explain what this topic includes and why it’s so important, share example questions and finish with some handy revision resources!

Table of contents: 

Theory Test Topic: Road conditions and vehicle handling

What are road conditions and vehicle handling

The ninth topic from the theory test is road conditions and vehicle handling. When you’re driving, there are various situations in which your ability to control your vehicle can be affected—from a change in weather conditions, to the time of day, to the surface of the road. You need to be able to identify these conditions quickly, in order to safely adjust your driving style accordingly.

To help you get to grips with the theory test topic road conditions and vehicle handling, we’ve broken it down into smaller sections. We’d recommend making your way through each section slowly, whilst taking notes. We’ll be giving you a mock test at the end, so you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared!

When it comes to revising for the theory test, start with the Highway Code, which provides vital road information and rules. We advise buying resources like the official DVSA handbook or the AA theory test book. They both contain official DVSA questions with answers. Revise them thoroughly—they could show up on your test.

✓ Weather conditions

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to you to find out that different types of weather conditions can have a huge impact on your control over your vehicle and the conditions of the road you’re on. Though we’re sure most drivers would love it if the weather was always mild when they got behind the wheel, it really is a mixed bag. Depending on what you’re facing, you’ll have to make small adjustments to your driving to help keep both yourself and others safe on the road.

Heavy rain

Heavy rain won’t just affect how well you see the road ahead of you, it can also have an impact on how quickly you’re able to stop. Wet roads can actually double your overall stopping distance, because your tyres won’t have as much of a grip on the road. This means that you will need to keep further back from the vehicles driving in front of you. If you don’t, and they stop suddenly, you won’t be able to stop your vehicle in time. If another vehicle moves into the gap that you’ve left, you should slow down until there’s a large enough gap between you and the vehicle in front once more.

As you’re driving, keep an eye out for puddles and try to avoid driving in them if you can. Deep pools of water can lead to brake damage. If you can’t avoid it, test your brakes lightly once you’ve driven past it to make sure they’re still working—simply take your foot off the accelerator and gently press the brake pedal.

Deep puddles can also lead to you aquaplaning, which is when your tyres lose contact with the road, leading to you losing control of your steering. If this happens, you need to resist the urge to panic and instead, come up off the accelerator until you’re in control again.

If you’d like more information, check out our guide to driving in the rain!

Heavy snow

For safety purposes, you should avoid driving in heavy snow (along with other extreme weather conditions, like ice and fog) unless it’s absolutely necessary. If you do have to travel, make sure you give yourself extra time, as it will likely take you twice as long to get to your intended destination. You should also make sure that your vehicle is up for the journey:

  • Give your windows a proper clean
  • Check that all of your lights are working
  • Fit chains to your wheels to prevent skidding in the snow

Stopping distances on icy roads can be ten times your usual distance on dry roads, as your tyres will struggle to find a grip. This means that you’ll need to put a greater distance between you and the vehicle ahead to prevent any collisions.

As with puddles, there’s a chance that you might lose control of your car on icy roads. If this happens, and you don’t have anti-lock brakes (ABS) to help you maintain control, you should bring up the brake pedal and steer into the skid. This should help you to right the position of your vehicle and regain control.

Heavy fog

When your visibility on the road is hindered in any way, e.g., due to rain, sleet or mist, you should use your dipped headlights, even if it’s during the day. If you’re dealing with heavy fog and your visibility drops below 100 metres, however, you’ll need to switch on your fog lights. Just remember that when the fog clears, you’ll need to turn off your fog lights to avoid dazzling other road users. It’s against the law to drive with fog lights when your visibility is over 100 metres, so don’t forget!

When driving in foggy conditions, you should stick to a lower speed and increase the gap between you and the vehicle ahead of you, just in case it ends up slowing down or coming to a sudden stop. If you need to park, you’ll want to leave your sidelights on so that other road users can see you.

If you’re aware that you’ll be facing foggy conditions before you set off on a journey, make sure that your windows are clean and that your lights are in working order. You’ll also want to make sure that you give yourself extra time to get to your intended destination, as you’ll likely be driving at a lower speed than usual.

Heavy wind

Heavy wind might not seem like a big deal when compared to other weather conditions we’ve already discussed, but they can lead to dangerous situations if you’re not careful. Though cars are mostly protected when it comes to heavy winds, other road users aren’t so lucky.

Cyclists, motorcyclists, high-sided vehicles and vehicles towing caravans run the risk of being blown off their course if the wind is heavy enough. So, if you’re driving in these conditions and spot one of these vulnerable road users nearby, be sure to give them extra room just on the off chance that they’ll pull over into your lane. You should also take care when overtaking these road users during these conditions, as they could potentially end up colliding into you when you attempt to pass by.

✓ Driving at night

As a driver, it’s your responsibility to stay vigilant on the roads—making your observations frequently so that you’re aware of potential and developing hazards, all the while adapting your driving style to keep everyone safe. If you’re driving at night, this can be a much more difficult task.

Due to reduced visibility, you’ll need to use your dipped headlights to make sure that you can see the road ahead, and so that other road users are aware of your presence. You should only ever use your full beam headlights if you’re on an unlit road at night. Otherwise, you run the risk of dazzling other road users and causing an accident. If you are using your full beam headlights, but end up encountering oncoming traffic, switch to your dipped headlights until it’s clear.

Even with the added visibility that your lights bring, you should err on the side of caution when driving at night. You still won’t be able to see as far ahead as you would in daytime, so you need to be careful when approaching bends and avoid attempting to overtake a vehicle unless you have a clear view of the road ahead.

✓ Vehicle handling

When you get behind the wheel, you’re responsible for not only your safety, but also that of the road users around you. That’s why it’s vital that you have full control of your vehicle at all times. This means that you should avoid driving in neutral gear or with the clutch down (otherwise known as coasting), as it leads to your vehicle speeding up, without the support of your engine braking.

You’ll notice that vehicle handling can become slightly more difficult when you’re facing hills. If you’re heading uphill, your engine has to work harder to make any progress. To make it easier, you should switch to a lower gear, which will give your engine the power it needs to climb the hill. If you’re driving downhill, you’ll also want to switch to a lower gear. This will ensure that your vehicle isn’t travelling too quickly and that you maintain full control.

✓ Traffic calming measures

In order to reduce traffic flow and congestion (by decreasing the speed of vehicles on the road), certain areas will make use of traffic calming measures. You’ll no doubt be familiar with a fair few of them:

  • 20mph speed limits
  • Road humps
  • Narrowed lanes
  • Pedestrian crossings

An additional measure that you might not be familiar with if you’ve not been behind the wheel is a rumble device. These strips, or raised markings, are designed to alert you to a potential hazard, warning you to reduce your speed. You’ll notice them immediately as you drive over them, as they produce a loud sound and vibration.

When you spot any of these measures, it’s important that you adjust your speed and driving style accordingly, all the while sticking to the speed limits on the road you’re driving on. You’ll also want to avoid attempting to overtake other vehicles whilst in areas with these types of measures.

Can’t remember everything we’ve covered? We’ve summarised all of the rules below!

Road conditions and vehicle handling rules

Example questions featured image

Multiple-choice questions

Not familiar with the format of the theory test? Way ahead of you! Our guide on how to pass your theory test will walk you through everything you need to know ahead of your test date. If you’ve not got the time, we’ll give you a quick rundown. The multiple-choice section consists of 50 questions and you’ll need to get a score of at least 43 to pass. These questions will cover all of the theory test topics that we’ve looked at so far (and will look at in the future), which is why it’s so important that you know them all inside and out.

Now it’s time for you to put your newfound knowledge to the test with our road conditions and vehicle handling quiz!

Let us know how many questions you got right in the comment section below!

Case studies

At the end of the multiple-choice section, you’ll watch a short video clip and then answer three questions about the scenario that you’ve been presented with. This shows the DVSA that you’re able to apply your theory knowledge to real life situations. In lieu of a video clip, we’ve put together five written case studies that revolve around the theory test topic road conditions and vehicle handling. Good luck!

Let us know how many questions you got right in the comment section below!

How to revise road conditions and vehicle handling

Two stacks of books, one taller than the other, each with a car on top, floating in clouds

Well, you’ve made it to the end of the ninth theory test topic. Well done! We’re not that far from the finish line now, which means you’re even closer to passing your theory test and getting your hands on your full licence! To make sure that you’ve fully gotten to grips with the road conditions and vehicle handling topic, however, you might want to give these tests a try:

The best way to increase your chances of passing the theory test first time is by committing to a proper revision schedule—spending at least half an hour or more, every day, testing your theory test knowledge. If you don’t know where to start, have a gander at our ultimate theory test revision resources guide. And, if you’d like a first-hand account of how to go about starting your revision journey, have a read of my account of how I passed my theory test first time!

If in doubt, start with the Highway Code, which provides vital road information and rules. We advise buying resources like the official DVSA handbook or the AA theory test book. They both contain official DVSA questions with answers. Revise them thoroughly—they could show up on your test.

Looking for more? Check out our other theory test topic breakdown instalments:

By Bethany Hall

Whether you’re a learner or a pro driver, Bethany is here to help. From defensive driving to the Highway Code, she’ll tell you everything you need know about driving. If she’s not on the road, you’ll probably find Bethany with her head in a book or binge-watching the latest TV show.

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