When you are studying for the car theory test you will need to study and practice 14 car theory test subjects. These subjects range from your attitude towards road users around you to the rules regarding the motorway.

Here we cover the fourth subject (in alphabetic order)

Safety Margins – a total of 33 theory test car questions, safety margins consists largely of stopping distances, driving in fog and icy roads. The DVSA put these car theory test topics together in order to ensure that learner drivers will be able to deal with dangerous road situations like icy roads and understand the precautions that they should take when driving in these conditions. Of the 33 questions one of the least understood car theory test question is listed below

How can you avoid wheelspin when you’re driving on an icy road?

  • Drive at a slow speed in the highest gear possible
  • Use the parking brake if the wheels start to slip
  • Brake gently and repeatedly
  • Drive in a low gear at all times

Lets start by explaining what a wheelspin is. A wheelspin is when the wheels on your car are spinning uncontrollably fast losing so much friction that the car isn’t actually moving. This can happen if there is too much acceleration going on or in icy conditions when the wheels are struggling to grip the road. If you find yourself driving in icy conditions and the wheels start to spin too fast then the driver needs to able to change the situation. Before that is explained it is important to understand the difference between driving in high gears and driving in low gears. 1st gear is considered the lowest gear and 5th gear (6 in some cars) are considered a high gear. When you drive in 1st gear the wheels are spinning the fastest they can and in 5th gear they are spinning the slowest they can. So when you are moving off in icy conditions, it is always a good idea to drive in as high as gear as possible i.e. 2nd gear or even 3rd gear as that way the wheels will spin slower meaning that the vehicle will have more road friction. Hence the answer to the theory test car question above is ‘drive at a slow speed in the highest gear possible.’ If you ‘use the parking brake if the wheels start to slip’, then the car can skid. If you ‘brake gently and repeatedly’ then the car can also skid as its easier to skid when you over brake in icy roads. ‘Driving in a low gear at all times’ mean the wheels will spin too fast and the car will struggle to gain friction.

Another car theory test question that causes some confusion is as follows:

You’re following other vehicles in fog. You have your headlights on dipped beam. What else can you do to reduce the chances of being in a collision?

  • Keep close to the vehicle in front
  • Use main beam instead of dipped headlights
  • Keep up with the faster vehicles
  • Keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front

Before trying to work this question out it is important to understand what dipped beam is and this seems to create a lot of confusion with many learner drivers. Cars have different front lights, and it is important to know the difference between them. Sidelights are basically the weakest lights and you can use them in the day or when it is slightly gloomy in order to make yourself more visible to oncoming traffic. They are not powerful enough to benefit the driver so are used more to aid the visibility for other road users. Headlights (or dipped beam) are the vehicles most commonly used lights. These headlights point towards the ground in order to prevent dazzling other road users but being strong enough to use at night and in normal darkened situations. Main beam or (full beam) are the most powerful front lights and are commonly used when driving at night in country roads that do not have any lighting on the road. You should switch them off when you see oncoming traffic or when you’re following traffic as you risk dazzling the drivers if you don’t. Fog lights are an optional extra that some cars but not all have built in. They are to be used in foggy conditions, heavy rain or snow. They are designed to penetrate fog rather than reflect the fog back to the driver.

Going back to the theory test car question, if you ‘keep close to the vehicle in front’ then you run the risk of the car in front stopping in an emergency which could mean that you crash into the car in front. If you ‘use main beam instead of dipped headlights’ then the fog could be reflected back to the eyes of the driver. This answer seems to be very popular amongst many learner drivers but in this case it is not the correct answer. ‘Keep up with the faster vehicles’ is also unsafe as you may be driving faster than what is safe for the road conditions. The correct answer to the car theory question above is ‘keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front.’ By keeping a safe distance from vehicles in front in foggy conditions, you will have more time to react to changes, see a lot more in front as well as giving less pressure to the vehicle in front of you thus making you a better and safer driver.