Mirrors – Signal – Manoeuvre for the learner driver

Motorcyclist behind car, captured in driver-side wing mirror.

Published 9 April 2021
Last updated 27 April 2021

Learn the Mirrors – Signal – Manoeuvre (MSM) driving technique and give clear signals to other road users. Understand how to use MSM to safely manoeuvre your vehicle.

If you’ve been keeping up with our blog posts (and if you have not, where have you been?), you’ll know that we’ve packed them chock full of top driving test tips.

Why? Well, in addition to being incredibly nice people, we want you to feel confident and well prepared on the day of your test – and ready for a lifetime of safe driving.

So, in this post, we’re going to give you some additional tips to boost your confidence and help you enjoy your driving. Try to contain your excitement as we enter the murky world of 'Mirrors – Signal – Manoeuvre' (MSM) …

Mirror image

Before we get to exactly what MSM is, we’d just like to remind you that your mirrors are there to help you, so use them.

Using your mirrors is really important, as frequent glances in them will help you to assess the position and speed of other road users behind you. Mirrors give you the information you need about the road behind before you commit to any manoeuvre.

What’s a manoeuvre?

Apart from being the devil of a word to spell, ‘manoeuvre’ means a movement or series of moves requiring skill and care. In driving, that means moving the car carefully into a specific position or in a particular place. These are all examples of driving manoeuvres

  • turning in the road (often referred to as a three-point turn)
  • reversing around a corner
  • parallel parking.

Routine stuff

So, now you’re ready for the secrets of the MSM routine. The MSM routine is a rock-solid technique that’s important to practise because

  • you must always know how your driving is likely to affect traffic behind you
  • it includes interpreting what you see in the mirrors and acting appropriately.

What do you actually need to do? These are the steps:

  1. Mirrors – use them to check the speed and position of traffic behind you – the earlier, the better.
  2. Signal – consider whether a signal is necessary. If it is, signal your intention in good time. Remember: never signal without checking your mirrors first.
  3. Manoeuvre – only manoeuvre if it’s safe to do so.

At this point, you’ve probably got questions like

  • But when do I actually use the MSM routine?
  • Is it something purely designed for fast roads?
  • Can I ignore it when I’m moving off?

I can answer all of those questions by saying that MSM should be applied before pretty much every manoeuvre. That includes

  • moving off
  • turning left or right
  • overtaking or changing lanes
  • slowing down or stopping.

Reflect on it

So, there’s your MSM crib sheet. Let us know if you found it helpful and we’ll see if we can come up with some more.

If you want the full-fat explanation of the MSM routine, then head over to the Safe Driving for Life shop and pick up a copy of The Official DVSA Guide to Driving – the essential skills.

Stay safe and enjoy your driving.

Back to top