Driving Skills Checklist

Driving Skills Checklist | Swerve Driving SchoolTeaching your teen to drive can be a daunting task. There are specific skills required by state testing for each student to know before receiving their license. Here is a checklist you can refer to, to help review concepts and mark where you need to review information or practice a little more. The list is broken into three sections- beginning, intermediate, and advanced driving skills.

Beginning Skills

These skills should be the basic foundations of driving a vehicle. They include steps to complete before driving and maneuvers done in a parking lot, before ever operating a vehicle on the road.

Needs Improvement
Pre-vehicle inspection   
Reading dashboard gauges   
Starting the vehicle   
Smooth steering and movements   
Adjusting and using mirrors   
Accurate maneuvering of vehicle   
Making accurate, smooth turns   
Backing Up   
Driving Posture and positioning   
Smooth and controlled stopping   
Parking in a marked stall   
Turning off the car   


Intermediate Driving Skills

These skills are improved after the basics have been mastered. They are learned and practiced on the road, but not in heavy traffic. Practice should be done once the student has learned the driving laws and what all the signs mean. Master these skills before moving on to the advanced section.

Driving Skill
Needs Improvement
Yields to right of way to vehicles and pedestrians   
Keeps a minimum 2-second following distance   
Anticipates and communicates with other drivers   
Obeys road signs and speed limits   
Uses proper turn signals   
Watches out for possible hazards   
Parking vehicle on curb   
Parking at an incline   
Parking at an angle   
Enters and exits roundabouts correctly   
Enters and exits intersections correctly   
Uses proper passing techniques   
Keeps attention on the road   


Advanced Skills

Each section of driving skills should build on the other. Once the two lists are mastered and the student has become increasingly comfortable behind the wheel, move on to these advanced skills.

Driving Skill
Needs Improvement
Maneuvering in rush hour traffic   
Adjusts driving in bad weather   
Adjusts driving during nighttime hours   
Driving on freeways and highways   
Entering and exiting expressways   
Uses caution around semi-trucks   
Uses caution around motorcycles and bicycles   
Handles complex and multiple driving hazards   
Uses defensive driving techniques   
Looks ahead for escape routes   
Understands emergency procedures   


Once the Skills are Mastered

Not all teens are ready to drive at the same time and some need more help than others. Referring to these lists every so often is a great way to know what skills to work on more so that you both know that they are prepared to move on to the next level of skills. Another way to utilize these lists is to recognize the areas your teen has improved. Take the time to acknowledge areas of improvement and encourage their efforts.

If you are taking adult driving classes to learn how to drive yourself, you can use these lists with the help of a friend, significant other, or just yourself as you practice before a test. No matter what stage of life you are in, these skills are required on driving tests for licensing. Once you have mastered each level you or your teen driver should be ready to take your driving test.

Owning a Car 101: Routine Car Maintenance

Owning a Car 101 Routine Car Maintenance | Swerve Driving School

Owning a car is a big responsibility at any age. One of the best things you can do to extend the life of your vehicle is to make sure maintenance is done regularly. If your driver’s education course covers car maintenance, it is important to look at your own car and figure out how everything applies to your specific vehicle to learn best.

Here are some of the basic routine car maintenance items you should know how to do in your car.

1. Change the oil

This is considered one of the most basic car maintenance items because it needs to be done often. Oil helps lubricate the engine parts to keep them from grinding and destroying the engine.

Over time, the oil gets dirty and leads to build up, which also causes damage from parts rubbing together. Consult your owner’s manual for frequency on oil changes and the best type of oil to use.

2. Checking tire pressure

The main part keeping your vehicle moving on and off the road is the wheels. Without even one, you’re stuck.

The best way to prevent damage is to check the pressure about once a month. Keep a pressure gauge in your glove box so it is also handy when you need it. The recommended PSI for tire pressure is located on the driver’s door jamb, in the owner’s manual, and usually on the tires themselves.

While you are checking them, look for any nails, sticks, or other debris stuck in them. Also, add the spare tire to your list of tires to check so that it is ready if you ever need it.

3. Monitor fluids

Motor oil isn’t the only fluid in the car that needs regular checking. Every now and then, you should pop the hood and check the transmission fluid, coolant, brake fluid, and washer fluid. Each has its own compartment with a dip stick or cap to check the levels.

Make sure there are no leaks or cracks in the containers and that the levels are adequate.

4. Examine the hoses and belts

The hoses are responsible for making sure fluids are carried to their appropriate locations, preventing over-heating and keeping things running smoothly. Check each for any cracks, leaks, or bulges. If you find any hoses with these traits, they need to be replaced.

Next, locate the belts. Most cars and SUVs require a belt to keep them running, which means it is very important. If you notice any tears, rips, cracks, glazing, or chunks missing, it needs to be replaced.

5. Keep the battery clean

While you are under the hood checking fluids, hoses, and belts, just look at the battery to make sure the connectors are clean.

If you notice corrosion, mix baking soda with a little water and apply it to a wire brush. Scrub around the connectors lightly and wipe clean.

6. Change the windshield wipers

Windshield wiper blades help keep your vision clear during storms. It is best to check them a few times a year to make sure they are functioning before you’re in a storm. It is time to replace them if they leave streaks on the glass or make a screeching sound while operating.


This is a very basic list, but there are other things you should know like how to jump a car battery and how to change a headlight or taillight. The more maintenance you know how to do on your own, the less money you will have to pay a professional to do it for you.

No matter who does it, just make sure that car maintenance is done on time to prevent problems from happening.


What to Put in Your Car’s Emergency Preparedness Kit

What to Put in Your Car's Emergency Preparedness Kit | Swerve Driving SchoolMaking an emergency preparedness kit for your car is so important that you should put one in each of your family’s vehicles. When putting together your kit, there are three categories of items you should consider; medical, breakdowns, and emergency supplies.


Medical emergencies can happen any time, any place, even in your car. If you get in a car crash or drive up to crash, you will be glad that you have some basic medical supplies on hand until help arrives.

If you are out for the day in the mountains or spending the day at the beach, injuries can happen there too and having some first aid items in your car can be very useful. Plenty of big box stores have pre-made first aid kits to buy, or you can make your own. If you decide to put your own first aid kit together, consider the following items:

  • Band-Aids
  • Antibacterial ointment
  • Burn cream
  • Gauze pads
  • Ace Bandage Wrap
  • Anti-diarrheal medicine
  • Antacids
  • Pain medication such as Tylenol or Aspirin
  • Antiseptic
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Hand sanitizer

Store all items in a container that closes securely. Rotate items that have an expiration date and keep the kit in your car.


Cars are something that everyone hopes will always work properly, there are times that they won’t start or have something break while on the road. While you can’t anticipate everything that can go wrong, there are some basic supplies to keep in your car, like

  • Jumper cables
  • Spare tire
  • Tire iron and jack
  • Flashlight
  • Tool kit
  • Road flares

Even if you don’t know how to fix your car, it is a good idea to keep these items in it so you have the things you need if someone pulls over to help you.

Emergency Supplies

Some items that are good for your car for unanticipated emergencies are bottles of water, long-lasting food items, and extra clothing. If you are ever stranded or find yourself in a remote area, it is a good idea to have bottled water for drinking, pouring in your radiator, or washing off an injury.

In this instance, you might need food as well, so consider keeping granola bars, jerky, crackers, or other items that last a while in your car. Extra clothing such as a poncho, sweatshirt, jacket, socks, or even some extra shoes for if you need to layer up or walk a long distance for gas.

Other Things to Consider

Depending on where you live, there are other items you should consider. Live in a snowy environment? Add an extra ice scraper to your back seat and pack some extra blankets. If you live in a hot climate, make sure you have a lot of extra water in your car and a hat.

The time of life you are in is also something to consider. If you have a young family, keep an extra pack of diapers, some formula, and toys in the car. No matter what you include in your emergency preparedness kit, just be sure to pack one and be intentional about your items.

Prepare Your Car for Winter Driving: Maintenance Checklist

Prepare Your Car for Winter Driving | Swerve Driving SchoolAs the colder weather sets in, it is a good time to start getting your car ready for winter. This is helpful if you live in a cold weather place or if you are planning to travel to colder weather for the holidays. Here is a checklist for getting your car winter ready.

1. Get an oil change.

Oil gets thicker as the weather gets colder, making it harder to keep your engine properly lubricated. It is more important than ever to make sure that you don’t go over the recommended limit, according to your owner’s manual. If you are close and winter is approaching, use this as a time to get it changed anyway.

2. Change your wiper blades.

The last place you want to be when you discover your wiper blades need to be replaced is in a storm. Keep your visibility clear by checking and changing your wiper blades as the weather cools down.

3. Have a car checkup.

Take your car into a trusted mechanic and have them give your car a checkup. They can check the battery’s ability to hold a charge and its connectors for corrosion. Look over the belts and hoses for wear and leaks. Cold weather can be hard on these car parts and making sure they are in good enough condition to last the season.

4. Check your tires.

One of the more important things your car needs during bad weather is good tires. There are two important qualities you are checking for on your tires, the tread, and the pressure.

The tread is important because the less you have, the less traction you will have on the road. When driving through wet or icy conditions, traction is important in keeping control of your car.

Tire pressure is also important for traction. In colder weather, the pressure will drop slightly, making the ability to control your car more difficult. If you live in an area that often gets deep snow, consider switching to snow tires or carrying chains around just in case you need them.

5. Try your four-wheel drive.

Most drivers don’t use four-wheel drive during the summer months, so make sure it is working properly by turning it on before you need it. Review how to turn it on and check that it engages and disengages easily.

6. Mix your antifreeze.

Antifreeze is critical to making sure that your radiator doesn’t freeze, even in arctic temperatures. Having the correct mixture of antifreeze and water is critical. Talk to a trusted mechanic or to help check and mix it correctly and to properly dispose of your old antifreeze.

7. Prepare for the worst.

Keep extra items in your car that might be required on the road, such as an extra pair of wiper blades, equipment to change a tire, a flashlight, water bottles, and some snacks. If possible, also have an external charger for your phone, just in case you need it.


These steps are a great starting checklist for getting your car ready for winter. If you talk to a mechanic or think of other things you can do to help prepare, make your own list. Keep a list somewhere safe so you can refer to it next winter.

Driving Responsibly with Holiday Drinking

Driving Responsibly with Holiday Drinking | Swerve Driving SchoolDuring the holidays, there are a lot of parties for family, neighborhoods, work, and more. At many of these functions, there is alcohol being served, which leads to some dangerous situations.

The day before Thanksgiving kicks off the season of drunk drivers. It is even called “Black Wednesday” because it is such a popular drinking holiday. Bars are often busy with college students just out from school for the break and as people get ready to spend the next day with family. From Black Wednesday to New Year’s Day, with spikes on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve, account for the days with the most extreme alcohol consumption. No matter what day you are out celebrating, here are some tips for driving responsibly with holiday drinking.

Make a plan.

If you know that you are going to be drinking at a party, have a ride arranged before you go. Family and friends can all switch off being the designated driver so that everyone gets to enjoy drinking at some point.

Another option is to arrange to have a friend pick you up and bring you home if they are in the area. If you don’t have someone to be your designated driver and still want to drink, be prepared to get a ride home by calling a ride share service or cab.

Know what you’re drinking.

A lot of parties have punch bowls full of pre-mixed drinks. Some are alcoholic, some are not. If you plan to drive yourself home, don’t make assumptions about what you’re drinking. Always ask the party host what is in the drink before you grab a glass and ask for something non-alcoholic if you’re driving.

Don’t drink too much.

If you know that you are going to a party to drink, remember to drink responsibly. Decide how much you are going to drink beforehand, sip your drink, and make sure you eat food with your beverage. A good rule of thumb is one drink per hour while eating food to help metabolize the alcohol best.

The purpose of holiday parties isn’t just to get drunk or a way to cope with family drama. Having too much alcohol can impair more than your ability to drive, but also your judgement. Drinking responsibly can help you stick to the safety plan you made before going to the party.

Take care of others.

While it isn’t required that you make sure no one drinks and then drives a car, it is great to have someone watching out. Offer to give a friend, coworker, or family member a ride home if you notice that they have been drinking.

If giving a ride is inappropriate or they refuse the offer, help arrange a different way for them to get home. As the old tagline says, “friends don’t let friends drive drunk” and you could save a life by keeping them from behind the wheel of a car.


Just because you choose to drive responsibly during the holidays doesn’t mean that you won’t have any fun. Take time to celebrate and enjoy the season but do it while being smart. Don’t ever drive if you have been drinking and do what you can to encourage others to be responsible too.

5 Tips for Dealing with Heavy Holiday Traffic

5 Tips for Dealing with Heavy Holiday Traffic | Swerve Driving SchoolMore drivers are out on the road during the holiday season. Whether it’s driving to a holiday party, family function, or going out shopping, there are many reasons why the roads are more congested. If you are out in the holiday traffic for any reason, here are five tips you can use to deal with the traffic and keep yourself safe.

Plan Ahead

Timing is everything for road trips. Whether you are driving over the river and through the woods or to an entirely different state, always give yourself some extra time to travel. Since everyone is out on the roads heading to their holiday parties, there will be heavier traffic than normal.

Depending on where you are, the weather might also slow you down. If you give yourself plenty of extra time for traveling, you will feel less stressed and hurried while you’re driving. This helps keep frustrated feelings at bay, limiting risky driving maneuvers and yelling at other drivers. One tip for planning ahead is to try and plan to be in the biggest cities or the areas of construction during a time that isn’t quite so busy.

Keep Calm

One way to deal with holiday traffic is to bring things along in the car for entertaining. For kids, bring movies, games, snacks, and anything else to keep them busy and distracted during a long car drive.

The driver should always stay focused on the road and avoid using cell phones or looking away from the road. Just plan to have something to help you pass the time if you hit traffic that you know can help keep you calm and happy in the car.

Be Intentional

Heavy traffic is stressful and causes some drivers to throw common courtesy out the window. During a time when things are supposed to be merry and bright, it’s important to still be considerate and follow the driving laws. Use your signals when you are switching lanes or turning, give the driver in front of you space, and drive slowly. Don’t forget the basics of driving just because you are in a hurry or there are more cars on the road.

Drive Proactively

To boil down this point to a catchphrase, “expect the unexpected” is a good thing to remember. While you can’t control what other drivers are doing on the road around you, it is possible to attempt to anticipate their movements.

If you see a driver up ahead constantly looking over their left shoulder, you know that they probably want to switch lanes. If you are watching and trying to anticipate other driver’s movements, especially in heavy traffic, you can keep yourself safe if they make a mistake.

Take Breaks

Sitting in traffic for long stretches of time is exhausting to you physically and mentally. Make sure you take breaks from sitting too long. Taking occasional stops are great for stretching out your legs, refreshing the mind, and searching for alternate routes. Be sure that you are not letting yourself get too tired behind the wheel. Tired driving is another form of impaired driving, so switch up drivers or pull off the road for a nap if you need it.


While the holidays are a time for love, family, and celebrating, make sure that you get to all your destinations safely. With so many people on the road, it’s better to keep your guard up and your driving skills sharp, while still avoiding conflict and car crashes.

5 Steps to Make Parallel Parking Simple

5 Steps to Make Parallel Parking Simple | Swerve Driving SchoolParallel parking is a required part of driver’s education. Since many students have heard it is difficult, they are scared to even try it. While it does take some skill to master this parking maneuver, it is possible to do it with some practice, patience, and confidence. If you remember the following five steps to parallel parking, you can not only do it the right way but also feel comfortable doing it.

Watch the Space

Too many drivers make parallel parking difficult for themselves by choosing a spot that isn’t big enough for their vehicle. Before you even try to pull into a spot, make sure it has enough space that you feel comfortable trying to park there. One great way to see if it’s big enough is to notice how big your car is as you are slowly passing the spot. Will you have enough space to straighten out your car in the spot? Is there space for the cars in front and behind you to get out without hitting your car?

If you see that it will be a tight fit, keep driving. It might take some extra time to find another spot or walk to your destination, but it is worth avoiding the damage or holding up traffic.

Signal and Position

It’s important that you let the cars around you know that you intend to park in the open spot, so turn on your blinker toward the curb. Pull up next to the car you will park behind, lining up your back bumper to theirs. This helps you get in the right angle to pull your car in quickly and easily.

Look and Steer

Use your rearview mirrors and look over your right shoulder to get a clear view of the area as you back up. Slowly direct your car to the back-right corner of the parking spot. As you become lined up with the vehicle’s rear bumper in front of you, start to straighten out your vehicle while continuing to back up slowly.

Center the Wheel

Once you are in the parking space, turn your wheel left to straighten it out. Double check that you won’t hit the bumper of the car in front of you as you finish pulling in.

Center Your Car

Adjust your vehicle so that you are centered between the two cars, making sure that once again, they both have the space they need to pull out of their parking spot without hitting your vehicle.


Once these five simple steps are complete, you can safely exit your car and go on with your business. Learning which spots you can fit into and how to do the steps properly will take time. The good news is that the more you practice, the easier it will become.

If it makes you more comfortable, practice with orange cones before trying to park between actual cars. Stay calm while you park and before you know it, you will be parallel parking like a professional.

Passing Semis: What You Need to Know

Passing Semis What You Need to Know | Swerve Driving SchoolRoads are full of large semi-trucks. Large trucks like these are used to transport merchandise and large deliveries for companies in almost every industry. Driving around them can be uncomfortable and for good reason.

In the most recent report by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), 2016 was a rough year for truck drivers with 55,633 semis involved in crashes that involved injuries and 99,911 semi-trucks were involved in tow-away crashes. To make sure you are educated on how to pass semi-trucks on the road, here are some things you can remember.

Stay Out of the Blind Spots

Semis have large blind spots because of the trailers they are pulling. They have large mirrors to help, but the size of their blind spots compared to a normal vehicle are much larger. They are on both sides of the truck, plus the front and back.

When you are trying to pass a semi, make sure you stay out of these spots or pass through them quickly. If you linger too long, the driver probably doesn’t know you are there and might merge right into your car. A good rule of thumb is that if you can’t see the driver in their side mirrors, they can’t see you.

Always Pass on the Left

Every multiple lane road is supposed to have slower traffic in the far-right lane with the lanes on the left all being passing lanes, with each increase in speed to pass the slower traffic on the right. This is the safest way to pass all traffic, but especially trucks.

Semi-trucks have their largest blind spot to the right of their trucks, spanning multiple lanes. Since truck drivers are trained to pass on the left only, it makes the most sense that they aren’t expecting to be passed on the right.

Another reason to not pass on the right is that semis must make wide right turns to clear their trailer around corners. When vehicles sit on their right side, they block a portion of the road and make it very difficult for the truck driver to maneuver. Don’t ever try to pass a truck at an intersection on the right side if they are signaling their intention to turn that direction.

Merging rules

Once you have passed the semi, merge back into traffic carefully. Since there is a blind spot on the front of the truck, the driver is too high to see if you merge too closely. In fact, the second most common unsafe act that drivers do around a semi is merging improperly into traffic.

This causes the truck driver to do a quick maneuver to avoid crashing or brake quickly, which is difficult in a truck weighing more than 10,000 pounds. Give them a lot more room between you than you would a regular vehicle on the road.


Driving with semi-trucks on the road doesn’t have to be dangerous. Following these passing rules helps keep traffic flowing smoothly. Most truck drivers are doing the best they can to get their load where it needs to go. If you can give them enough space and be respectful, everyone can stay safe on the road.

Driver Safety: Halloween Edition

Driver Safety Halloween | Swerve Driving SchoolThe evenings are getting darker, leaves changing colors, and temperatures are dropping. That can only mean one thing; fall is here. As October gets into full swing, preparations for Halloween are going strong. One thing to include in your Halloween prep is taking a refresher course in driving safety for the big night. While it might be all fun and games, it’s important that you know how to navigate the night safely.

Drive Extra Cautiously

Halloween is a fun night for people of all ages, including children. Whenever you drive in an area when there will be extra pedestrians around, it is important to increase your cautiousness. Drive a little slower than necessary and try to anticipate people walking out in front of your car. Watch the people on the sidewalks with more vigilance. Kids are more likely to run into the street or step off the sidewalk when they are out walking with a group and excited.

Not only will people be dressed in darker clothing and costumes, but children are also harder to spot since they are shorter. Driving slower means you will be able to stop your vehicle faster, avoiding pedestrians of any size.

If possible, avoid areas that you know will have a high number of trick-or-treaters, including neighborhoods, businesses doing trunk-or-treat events, or even popular Halloween attractions like haunted houses. Also, be sure to keep your headlights on, even if it is barely dusk. It’s important that pedestrians can see you too.

Another important way to drive with extra caution is to make sure you have a full range of vision and hearing. Don’t wear a mask or anything over your head while driving. If your costume prevents you from moving your arms or legs freely, just don’t wear it. You will need to have full use of your body to steer or brake quickly. It’s more important to drive safely, so change into your costume when you get to your destination if it is going to interfere with your driving abilities.

Stay Focused

Limit all distractions when you are driving. Don’t play music too loudly, do anything on your cell phone, apply makeup, eat, or get too involved in conversations with your passengers. It is important to focus on driving safely and anticipating any accidents. If traffic slows down or a pedestrian walks in front of your car, staying focused can make all the difference in avoiding a crash.

Another key to staying focused is to not drive impaired. If you are attending a party where there is alcohol and intend to drive home, stay away from the drinks. If you do plan to drink, have a designated driver for your group or arrange to find another way home. Alcohol slows your reaction time, limits your concentration, and decreases your coordination. These all interfere with your ability to stay focused on the road and driving safely.

Halloween is an evening of parties and fun that go well into the night. Being responsible by driving cautiously and staying focused, you can keep all the scary stuff in the parties and activities, away from the road.

The Four Rules of Four-Way Stops

The 4 Rules of 4 Way Stops | Swerve Driving SchoolFour-way stops, or intersections that require all four directions of traffic to come to a stop, are some of the first traffic rules discussed in driving school. They are often a frustrating experience for many drivers though because they don’t remember who should go first. Having a good, solid understanding of the four rules of four-way stops is one of the best ways to prevent collisions, road rage, and frustrations when you approach one of these intersections.

First to arrive, first to go

The first car to pull up to the stop sign is the first car that gets to proceed. If cars are all stopping at the intersection at different times, each should proceed through in the order they arrived. It doesn’t matter which direction a car is going either. Just like in kindergarten, you wait for your turn and don’t cut in line.

Tie goes to the right

Sometimes two cars stop at the intersection at the exact same time, or at least close to the same time. If it isn’t clear which car was there first, the law says the car on the right has the right-of-way. If another car has pulled up to the intersection, the cars that arrived at the same time both go through the intersection first.

Straight before turns

If two cars are across the intersection from each other at the same time, and no car is on the right of the other, it depends on the traveling direction of the two cars. If they are both going straight, they can go at the same time without any problems. If one vehicle is turning and one is going straight, the right-of-way goes to the car going straight.

Right then left

If two cars are directly across from each other and pull up to the four-way stop at the same time and one is turning right and one is turning left, the right-of-way goes to the vehicle turning right. Since they are both trying to turn into the same lane of traffic, it makes sense that the vehicle turning right would go first because they are the closest to the lane.

The best way to stay safe at a four-way stop is to communicate. The laws that dictate right-of-way based on turning direction show that communicating through signals is vital. If there is any doubt on whose turn it is, wave people through or motion that it is their turn to let them know that you intend to wait for them to go before pulling into the intersection.

Try not to get too uptight if people go out of turn. If an aggressive driver thinks it is their turn and pulls out into the intersection, yield to them, even if you know that you had the right-of-way. The rules were made to help keep the flow of traffic going while keeping everyone safe. Knowing when it’s your turn to drive through the intersection is very important, but don’t get so caught up in the way it should happen that you compromise safety.