Walk around your vehicle before entering to check for children, pedestrians, and anything in your vehicle's path. Check your tires for proper inflation, as well as around and under your vehicle for fluid leaks and other problems that may affect the safe operation of your vehicle. When you are doing this while parked along a roadway, walk in a direction that allows you to see traffic coming toward you in the lane next to you.

After you have completed this check, you will be ready to take your place in the driver's seat and prepare yourself for safe driving.

Before driving do the following basic habits in this order:

  1. Lock your doors.
  2. Adjust your seat and seat back.
  3. Adjust your head restraint.
  4. Adjust your inside and outside rear view mirrors.
  5. Fasten your seat belt.

Lock your doors

Lock your doors to prevent unwanted persons from opening your door or entering your vehicle. Locking the doors also reduces the possibility of the doors opening if you are involved in a collision.

Adjust your seat and seat back

Adjust your seat and seat back support properly so that you are at least 25 centimetres (10 inches) away from the steering wheel. This is the distance recommended by Transport Canada. Be sure you can see over the steering wheel. Many vehicles have a steering wheel that can be tilted or moved back and forth.

Find a position that is comfortable for you and that does not block your view of the instrument panel. Your elbows should be slightly bent when your hands are properly positioned on the steering wheel. Placing your left hand at about the 9 o'clock position and your right hand at about the 3 o'clock position is recommended. (See Steering in this chapter for more information.) As well, your position must allow you to operate the brake pedal and the accelerator. In a standard transmission vehicle, you must also be able to push the clutch pedal all the way to the floor.

Be sure you can reach all the controls and can relax your arms when you hold the steering wheel.

Note: Newer vehicles are equipped with a driver-side air bag system that is part of the steering wheel.

Adjust your head restraint

Use your head restraint correctly. Head restraints in the proper position greatly reduce the risk of injuries due to collisions and sudden vehicle movements.

  • If your vehicle has an adjustable head restraint, it should be positioned so that the centre of the head restraint is level with the top of your ears.
  • If your head restraint tilts, move it forward to decrease the space between your head and the restraint. Less than 10 centimetres (4 inches) is ideal.
  • Always check that the head restraint for each passenger is adjusted to the correct height.
Adjust your head restraint
A properly adjusted head restraint protects the head and neck.

Adjust your inside and outside rear view mirrors

Set your rear view mirrors in the correct position.

  • Adjust your inside rear view mirror to show as much behind you as possible by having the rear window framed within the mirror.
  • Adjust the outside rear view mirrors to reduce blind spots. You should be able to see your own vehicle in a small portion of the side view mirror closest to the vehicle.

Fasten your seat belt

Fasten your seat belt and shoulder strap correctly. Seat belts save lives and reduce injuries, and provide the greatest protection when worn properly. The law requires you to wear your seat belt.

  • Wear the lap belt low and snug over your hips. The shoulder belt must fit over your chest and shoulder.
  • Do not tuck the shoulder belt behind your back or under your arm.
  • You are still required to wear your seat belt when in a vehicle with air bags.
Seat belt use is required by law
Seat belt use is required by law

When you are ready to go, do the following:

  • Check to be sure your intended path of travel is clear.
  • Check your inside and outside rear view mirrors.
  • Do a shoulder check to be sure your blind spots are clear.

If you are moving away from the right side of the road, use your left turn signal to indicate that you are entering traffic. If you are on the left side of a one way road, use your right turn signal. In this situation, it can be difficult to see traffic clearly from the driver's seat.