The driving test starts from the moment the proctor calls your name. The proctor will be watching your actions before you get in the car and after you get out, all the way up to the moment you walk back inside the building. Here is a checklist of things to do outside of the actual driving component:

  • As you walk towards the car, you may have to cross a street or another parking area. Show that you're a safe pedestrian and aware of your surroundings by glancing around for oncoming traffic before walking over to the car.
  • Before getting into the car, some proctors like you to check around the car for obstructions. Take a quick walk around the car and inspect it, and bend or crouch down to check under the front and rear of the vehicle.
  • After sitting down in the driver's seat, you need to, at the bare minimum, check your mirrors, seat position, and seatbelt. There's a lot of stuff to remember in the driving test, and it can be a nerve-wracking experience, but these three are absolutely imperitive. Touch the mirrors and the seat handles even if you don't think they need it. I used a simple mnemonic device and repeated the three letters "SMB" to myself when I got in the car: Seat, Mirrors, Belt.
  • When closing the door, don't swing it wide and slam it shut. Bring the door within about 10 centimeters of the frame of the car and give it a quick jerk to close the door from that distance. It's considered proper car etiquette in Japan.
  • Lock the door after you get in the car. Not all proctors watch for this, but it is taught to Japanese people in Japanese driving schools, so it's a nice touch to add to your own test routine.
  • Starting the car: When starting the engine, put on the foot brake, then the clutch, shift into neutral, then turn the key.
  • With the car started, use mirrors and turn your head to check your surroundings. Flip on the turn signal in the direction you're pulling away from the curb in, double check over your shoulder, then finally remove the emergency brake.
  • Turning off the car goes in reverse order of starting the car: Stop with the brake, engage the emergency brake, put the car into park (automatics) or reverse (manuals--you may need to disengage then reengage the clutch to get the shifter to slide into reverse), turn the key, remove your foot from the clutch, then finally remove your foot from the brake.
  • When exiting the vehicle at the end of the test, first check your mirrors and over your shoulder for oncoming traffic. Open the door but don't immediately swing it open. This little door "pop" is supposed to act as a signal to anyone behind the car that you're about to swing the door open. Once you've thoroughly checked for oncoming vehicles, it's safe to open the door and exit the vehicle.

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