Understanding and Mastering the Cockpit Drill

Table of Contents


The cockpit drill is one of the most important concepts that the driver of any vehicle, whether an LTV or HTV, has to know and practice. This might be one of the first things that you learn in a driving school. However, now we are going to discuss this in great so that you are already familiar with the concept even before joining a driving school.

This drill has to be performed every time you sit in the driving seat of your car. Initially, it might take more effort, but as you become accustomed to it, this process will take no more than just a few seconds, with you performing it at a subconscious level. The cockpit drill is also referred to as DSSSM in driving, standing for doors, seat, seatbelt, steering wheel, and mirrors. Let’s discuss every element of this drill individually.


The first thing that you have to do when you sit inside your car, or any other car for that matter, is to check if the doors have been securely closed. There are a few methods of knowing this.

  1. You can go for the haptics method, where you give your door a firm tug. If the door does not move, then rest assured the door has locked itself safely in position.
  2. If you have other passengers travelling with you, you can ask them to check their doors themselves.
  3. Otherwise, you can check all the doors of the car using the visual method, where you observe all the doors using the side mirrors of the car and see if they are in line with the rest of the car. If they are so, then there will be no cause for alarm.
  4. Alternatively, if it is safe for you to exit the vehicle, you might even check each door in person by getting out.

Modern cars have the feature that if any of the doors, bonnet, or boot are open, a signal lights up in the instrument panel of the car. Cars that do not come with this light signal do make beeping sounds when one of the doors is open.


You, as the driver of your car, have to be seated in such a manner that you are not uncomfortable. Otherwise, long driving times may cause back fatigue, quite often resulting in injury. A comfortable seating position means that you can turn the steering wheel and reach all the driving pedals without having to stretch yourself.

Now that we have discussed the significance of a good seating position, we now discuss how to achieve it.

  1. One thing to keep in mind is that your face or legs are not very close to the steering wheel, as that could prove to be a hazard.
  2. You should position your hip in a way that with the clutch fully depressed, there is a slight bend on your knee.
  3. Your back should be positioned so that, when holding the steering wheel, there is a slight bend on your elbow.
  4. If your car has an adjustable head restraint, adjust it at a level where its vertical centre is at the same level as the top of your ears, and the restraint is at an inch’s distance from the back of your head when driving.
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Once you are assured that all the doors, bonnet, and boot are properly shut and are seated perfectly, then you fasten your seatbelt. You put on your seatbelt in a way that:

  1. It isn’t too loose nor too tight so as to cause discomfort.
  2. There shouldn’t be any twist in the seatbelt, either.
  3. If your car comes with a seatbelt height adjustment, then you should adjust its height to about 2-3 centimetres above your right shoulder.

According to the traffic law, you are required to have your seatbelt on at all times, except for the situation when you are driving in reverse since a seatbelt hinders the best possible view of the rear of the car.

The possession of a medical exemption certificate can also waive your liability to fasten a seatbelt. Furthermore, in the case that you have passengers present with you in the vehicle who are under the age of 14, it will be your responsibility to make sure that they are all wearing a seatbelt.

Steering Wheel

Almost every modern car sports a steering wheel, which comes with a level adjustment. Adjusting your wheel to an angle and height that aligns with your comfort level allows for better driving experiences.

However, here are some things that should be remembered:

  1. You will be driving with both of your hands, with your left hand on the 10 o’clock of the wheel and your right hand on the 2 o’clock.
  2. Your hands have to be at a height level that is just a little below the shoulders.
  3. The steering wheel or your hands should not block your view of the instrument panel.


The mirrors play a significant role in a driving situation. These are there to provide the driver with a 360-degree view of his vehicle so that if the situation ever arises, he can apply emergency breaks or make a correcting manoeuvre to get out of any potential driving incident.

Mostly, cars tend to have three mirrors, two placed on either side of the vehicle and one inside facing the rear window. When adjusting any of the mirrors, the driver should be in his usual driving position. Otherwise, the view can change drastically with a change in position.

  1. For the rear-view mirror, it should be adjusted, using the left hand, at an angle that provides the best view of the rear window.
  2. As for the side mirrors, they should show just a small part of the side of the car, and the intersection of the road and the sky should be kept at the vertical centre of the mirror.


Although this is not part of the DSSSM acronym, the handbrake should also be monitored whenever the driver is seated in the car. Locking the handbrake in place ensures that there will be no unintentional or unexpected movement of the car.

It’s a Wrap!

DSSSM in driving is a safety protocol that every driver should follow every time he sits in his car. Initially, the driving cockpit drill might feel like tedious work. However, as the driver familiarises himself with every element of it, he starts performing it automatically without much conscious effort.

Are you looking to join a driving school? Guidelines Driving School is an option worth considering. Our driving instructors and advisors have great experience in the field and would impart the best knowledge.

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