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Theory Test Topics Explained: Safety And Your Vehicle

Safety and your vehicle featured image

Hello, PassMeFast readers! If you’re in the process of revising for the theory test, and have been closely following our Theory Test Topics Explained series as a result, you’ll know that we’re not that far from the finish line now! We’re now on the eleventh topic (out of fourteen in total) from the DVSA’s multiple-choice question bank: safety and your vehicle.

Get your notepad ready, because we’re going to be walking you through everything you need to know about this topic. We’ll then put your newfound knowledge to the test with some example multiple-choice questions and case studies!


Table of contents: 


Theory Test Topic: Safety and your vehicle

What is safety and your vehicle

The eleventh topic from the multiple-choice section of the theory test is safety and your vehicle. While most of the topics we’ve previously covered have focused on the rules of the road, road safety and your overall attitude towards driving, this one looks at how you need to maintain your vehicle and why it’s your responsibility to do so. It also covers other safety considerations that you need to think about every time you get behind the wheel.

This topic covers a lot of the more technical aspects of vehicle maintenance, amongst other things, so we’ve broken it down into smaller sections to make it easier to digest. You might find it helpful to take notes as you go along, as we’ll be quizzing you at the end!

✓ Basic car maintenance

Once you have your own car, it will be your responsibility to make sure that it’s roadworthy—in other words, that it is safe to drive. This isn’t just so that you can be sure that your car will get you from point A to point B. It’s because if your car has a major problem, it could endanger your life and the lives of other road users. If that isn’t enough to push you to maintain your vehicle, the repercussions that you could face just might:

You can be fined up to £2,500, be banned from driving and receive three penalty points for driving a vehicle in a dangerous condition.

There’s also the advantages that maintaining your car can bring to the table. If your vehicle is in the best condition possible, it will use less fuel (saving you money) and produce less exhaust emissions (helping the environment).

So, what exactly goes into car maintenance? Other than giving your vehicle a proper clean at least once every week or two, you also need to complete checks on the following…

Tyres

You’re not going to get far on the roads if your tyres aren’t in good condition. That’s why they should be the first thing you check when going through your maintenance checklist. For starters, you need to look over each one carefully for any cuts, bulges or puncture marks. If you do spot anything, you should either replace the tyre with a spare (if you know what you’re doing), or take your car to your local garage.

You also need to make sure that the minimum tread depth of each tyre is 1.6mm over the central three quarters of the tyre (this depth is the same for wheels on a trailer or caravan). You can check this by using a 20p coin. Insert the coin into one of the grooves and if the groove covers the outer band of the coin, then the tread depth is fine. If, however, you can see the outer ring of the coin, your tyres will need replacing.

The final thing you need to check is the air pressure of your tyres, which should be done when they are cool. If your tyres aren’t inflated properly, you could run into problems with steering and control over your vehicle. You can find your vehicle’s recommended air pressure in your vehicle handbook and top up the pressure at most petrol stations.

Lights

Next up on your checklist is your car lights. If you’re driving with a faulty bulb at night, you could end up in a serious accident. Plus, you could end up getting pulled over by the police—leading to a fixed penalty notice, a fine, penalty points or even your car being taken off the road!

To avoid this happening, switch on your car lights and walk around your vehicle to make sure that they’re all working properly. Make sure that you’re in a safe place when you do this and that there aren’t any hazards nearby.

You’ll need to check:

  • Brake lights
  • Dipped headlights
  • Fog lights
  • Full beam headlights
  • Hazard lights
  • Indicators
  • Sidelights
  • Tail lights

It might help if you get someone else to walk around your vehicle as you turn on the different lights.

Mirrors

When you’re behind the wheel on the road, you’ll be using your car mirrors frequently to check for potential hazards and to make sure you’re aware of your surroundings. It’s important, then, that you make sure that your interior and exterior mirrors are cleaned on a regular basis. If your view is distorted in any way, you might struggle to spot developing hazards quickly enough.

Next, you’ll want to get into the practice of checking your exterior mirrors for damage every time that you get out of the car. All it takes is a vehicle or cyclist to clip your side mirror and you’ll be blind on one side. If you do spot signs of damage, take your car to your local garage and get your mirrors fixed as soon as possible.

Fluids

If you don’t keep a careful eye on your vehicle’s fluid levels, you could end up with oil leaks, issues with your brakes and an assortment of other major problems. So, every couple of weeks, you should lift up the hood of your car and check the levels of your:

  • Engine oil
  • Hydraulic brake fluid
  • Engine coolant

Their levels should rest within the minimum and maximum markers. If their levels are too low, fill them up carefully.

Battery

Fortunately, for those of us who aren’t very car-savvy, most car batteries nowadays are completely sealed—which means that they don’t need any maintenance. If you’ve bought an older car, however, you might be dealing with an older type of car battery, which will need topping up with distilled water so that the level rests just above the cell plates.

If you ever need to replace your car battery, you will need to dispose of your used battery by taking it to a local garage or any authorised site.

Warning lights

As tempting as it might be to ignore your warning lights when they start flashing, don’t. These lights tell you that you have a serious problem that needs to be dealt with immediately. If you ignore the problem, you could end up in a serious accident which could injure you and/or other road users.

Ignoring your warning lights could also cost you a lot of money. If you don’t follow up with a minor problem, it could become a major one in mere days, which will cost you much more to repair. Additionally, if you end up in an accident and your insurance provider discovers that you knew your car had an existing issue prior to the accident, you could end up having your insurance invalidated.

Steering

You need to pay close attention to what your steering is like when you’re driving. If you notice that it’s becoming heavier (in other words, that you’re having to put more effort into turning), then you might be dealing with under-inflated tyres. If you notice that your steering is starting to vibrate, then your tyres might be unbalanced.

Quick note: you should never turn your steering wheel while your vehicle is stationary. This is known as dry steering, which can lead to serious damage to the tyres.

Additional checks

You’ll want to make sure that your car horn still works properly every couple of months, but be careful when you do this. It’s against the law to sound a car horn in built-up areas between 11:30pm and 7:00am, so be sure to test it outside of these hours.

When you can, you should also press down on the front wing of your car and see whether it keeps bouncing when you stop. If it does, you could be looking at worn shock absorbers, which will need replacing as soon as possible.

Even if you take your car in for a service check every 6 to 12 months (as recommended), you will need to do the above in between your checks to make sure that your vehicle is safe to drive. Additionally, you’ll need to have a working knowledge of your vehicle for the ‘show me, tell me’ questions in the practical test!

✓ Car safety equipment

To help keep you and your passengers safe on the road, your car comes with a range of safety equipment. It’s your responsibility, however, to make sure that this equipment is properly maintained and being used effectively.

Seatbelts

In case you weren’t aware, you should always use your seatbelt when behind the wheel, unless you’re completing a reversing manoeuvre. It’s also your responsibility to make sure that your passengers under the age of 14 are wearing an appropriate seatbelt (unless they’re medically exempt). If you don’t, you run the risk of receiving a fine and penalty points.

We’ve outlined the main seatbelt requirements that you need to follow when carrying children in your car in the table below.

Front seat Rear seat
Children under 3 years of age Correct child restraint must be used Correct child restraint must be used. If one isn’t available in a taxi, they may travel unrestrained.
Children from 3 years of age up to 1.35 metres in height or 12 years of age (whichever they reach first) Correct child restraint must be used Correct child restraint must be used where seatbelts fitted. Or, they must use an adult seatbelt if correct child restraint isn’t available in a taxi/private hire vehicle, or for unexpected necessity over a short distance, or if you already have two restraints preventing the use of a third.
Children over 1.35 metres in height or 12 to 13 years of age Seatbelt must be worn if available Seatbelt must be worn if available

Airbags

If you’re driving and carrying a child in the front passenger seat, using a rear-facing baby seat, you will need to make sure that the front passenger airbag has been deactivated to avoid serious injury in the event of a collision.

Headrest

Before you go anywhere, you need to make sure that you have properly adjusted your headrest so that the very top of it is level with the top of your head. In the event of a rear-end collision, this headrest will help to minimise the effects of whiplash and reduce the risk of neck injury.

You can find more information about setting up your headrest, seatbelt and seat in our guide to setting up your car seat.

✓ Car security

Given how much that you’ll end up spending on your car (the upfront cost, insurance premiums and tax), you’ll want to make sure that you’ve done everything in your power to keep it safe and secure.

For starters, you’ll need to get into the habit of removing any electronic devices, or general valuables, from your vehicle whenever you park your car. Do not keep important vehicle documents in your car. If you don’t want to have to ferry things in and out of your home and car, you should put them out of sight in your glove compartment or boot. If you intend to leave your car unattended for any period of time, turn off the ignition, lock the car and remove the key.

You should also look into purchasing car security features like a steering lock, a Thatcham-approved alarm system or even window etching. You might also want to look into joining a local Vehicle Watch scheme.

✓ Parking

When parking your car, you should pick a secure car park, or a well-lit street, to deter potential thieves. If you’re parking at night on a road with a speed limit over 30mph, you’re legally required to leave your side lights on.

You should also take care to choose a spot that is legal and convenient for all road users. This means that you should avoid:

  • Driveways
  • Within 10 metres of a junction
  • Bends and brows of hills
  • Pedestrian crossings
  • Bus stops
  • School entrances
  • Zigzags

✓ Planning ahead

If you’re planning to head out on a long road trip, it’s important that you plan your journey properly. Start off by getting your sat nav out so that you can figure out exactly which routes you need to take. You’ll want to make sure that your sat nav has been updated recently, so that you can check for roadworks or potential delays. As you plan your route, schedule some rest stops (especially if you’re driving for hours at a time) to make sure you’re well rested.

Next, make sure that you’ve gone through the maintenance steps that we highlighted in the first section. It’s important that your vehicle is in the best shape possible if you’re going to be driving it for a long period of time. You’ll also want to check that you’ve got breakdown cover, so that you don’t have to worry if you do end up breaking down on the road.

If you’re dealing with extreme weather conditions, you’ll want to give yourself extra time to get to your intended destination, as you’ll likely be driving at a much lower speed. You should also expect to face delays on roads as a result.

✓ Environmental concerns

As you’re probably aware, driving causes serious damage to the environment (at least, if your vehicle uses petrol or diesel), due to air pollution. In fact, road transport accounts for approximately 20% of all emissions! There are steps you can take, however, to reduce the amount of damage that you’re causing through eco-safe driving.

Eco-safe driving

To reduce the amount of fuel that you’re burning, you should avoid:

  • Accelerating rapidly
  • Braking harshly
  • Carrying unnecessary weight on the roof rack
  • Over-revving the engine
  • Leaving the engine running (when it doesn’t need to be)

Instead, you should try to:

  • Drive at lower speeds where possible
  • Fit errands into one longer journey
  • Brake smoothly and progressively
  • Accelerate by skipping gears
  • Service your car regularly (so that it’s performing at the best level possible)

Additionally, where you can, you should take steps to help reduce the amount of vehicles on the road by car sharing, taking public transport, walking or cycling. You might even want to look into purchasing an eco-friendly car so that you can reduce the amount of damage that you’re inflicting on the environment.

Struggling to remember everything that we’ve covered in the theory test topic safety and your vehicle? Not to worry! Here’s a quick recap:

Safety and your vehicle rules


Example questions featured image

Multiple-choice questions

When you take the theory test, you’ll have to answer 50 multiple-choice questions in total and get a score of at least 43 to pass. There’s no way of knowing which theory test topics will come up, which is why it’s so important that you’re familiar with each of them inside and out.

To give you an idea of how well you’ve gotten to grips with this topic, we’ve created a safety and your vehicle quiz. Good luck!

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

Case studies

The last three questions of the multiple-choice section will revolve around a case study. This case study will be in a video format—you’ll watch the entire clip and then answer questions about the scenario. The purpose of this is to test how well you are able to apply your theoretical knowledge to real-life situations on the road.

Below, we’ve compiled five written case studies to give you a taste of what you can expect in your actual theory test.

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


How to revise safety and your vehicle

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

Now that you’ve gotten to the end of yet another theory test topic, we’d like to offer you a quick, virtual round of applause. Don’t get too carried away though. There’s no rest for the wicked when it comes to the theory test. Though you might have aced our tests, that’s not to say that you’ve got the topic nailed down just yet.

Before moving on, you should test your mettle against the following resources:

If you want to give yourself the best possible chance of passing your theory test, you should do two key things: create a revision schedule and use our ultimate theory test revision resources. Do that and you should have no difficulty facing whatever comes your way!


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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