Home » Tennessee DMV Driver’s Handbook Part 5

Tennessee DMV Driver’s Handbook Part 5

Section A.

This section is designed for all current and potential drivers in Tennessee. It provides information that all drivers will find useful. Section A consists of pages 1 through 24. This section will help new and experienced drivers alike get ready for initial, renewal, and other license applications by explaining:

  • the different types of licenses available
  • the documentation and other requirements for license applications
  • details on Intermediate Driver Licenses and how this graduated driver license works for driver license applicants under age 18
  • basic descriptions of the tests required to obtain a Driver License

Section B.

This section is designed to help new drivers study and prepare for the required knowledge and skills for an operator license. It includes helpful practice test questions at the end of each chapter. Section B consists of pages 25 through 90.

This section of the manual provides information related to:

  • Examination requirements for the vision, knowledge and road tests
  • Traffic signs, signals, and lane markings
  • Basic Rules of the Road
  • Being a responsible driver and knowing the dangers and penalties of Driving Under the Influence of alcohol and drugs.

Section C.

This section provides information and safety tips to improve the knowledge of all highway users to minimize the likelihood of a crash and the consequences of those that do occur. This section consists of pages 91-117. It also provides information about sharing the road with other methods of transportation, which have certain rights and privileges on the highways which drivers must be aware of and respect.

It is important to read this information and learn what you can do to stay safe, and keep your family safe, on the streets, roads and highways of our great state.


Section A. Chapter 1 Your License

Section A. Chapter 2 Applying For Your License

Section A. Chapter 3 Intermediate Licenses For Drivers Under 18 – Graduated License Procedures

Section A. Chapter 4 The Examinations

Section B. Chapter 1 Getting Familiar With Your Vehicle

Section B. Chapter 2 Tennessee Safety Belt Laws

Section B. Chapter 3 Traffic Signs and Signals

  • Traffic Signs
  • Sign Shapes and Colors
  • Color Codes On Highway Traffic Signs
  • Temporary Traffic Control Zones
  • Octagon Shape – Stop
  • Triangular Shape – Yield
  • Round Shape – Railroad Ahead
  • Broad “X” Shape – Railroad Here
  • Diamond Shape – Hazardous Or Unusual Condition Ahead
  • Rectangular Shape – Special Laws, Regulations or Important Information
  • Regulatory Signs
  • Warning Signs – Diamond Shape (Yellow)
  • Work Area Signs
    • Construction Signs
    • Channeling Devices
    • Highway Flaggers
    • Slow-Moving Vehicle (SMV) Emblem
    • Object Marker
  • Guide Signs for Highways
  • Interstate Route Marker
  • Guide Signs on Interstates
  • Service Signs
  • Handicap Symbol
  • Directional Signs
  • Emergency Reference Markers
  • Traffic Signals
    • Red
    • Yellow
    • Green
    • Protected Arrows
    • Permissive Arrows
    • Malfunctioning Traffic Light
  • Pedestrian Signals
    • “Walk”
    • “Don’t Walk”
    • Lane Control Signals
  • General Principles of Pavement Lane Markings
    • Uniform Highway Markings
    • Edge and Lane Lines
    • Crosswalks
    • Stop Lines
    • High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Lanes
    • Turn Lane Arrow
    • White Crossbuck with RR
    • Chapter Sample Test Questions

Section B. Chapter 4 Rules of the Road

  • Some Basic Rules
  • Use of Headlights
  • Emergency Flashers
  • Littering
  • Slow-Moving Vehicles
  • Funeral Procession
  • The Basic Speed Rule
  • Tennessee Speed Laws
    • Interstate Speed Limits
    • Rural Interstate Limits
    • Urban Interstate Limits
  • Work Zone Crashes
  • Braking, Following and Stopping Distances
  • The Two Second Rule
  • Stops Required by Law
  • Stopping for Railroad Crossings
  • The School Bus Stop Law
  • Stopping for Police Vehicles
  • Intersections
    • Approaching Intersections Safely
    • The Right-Of-Way Procedures
    • Turning
    • Signaling a Turn
    • Making Turns
    • Left Turns
    • Right Turns
    • Special Turns: Roundabouts and U-Turns
  • Traffic Lanes and Lane Usage
  • Passing Other Vehicles
  • Passing Bicycles
  • Backing and Parking
    • Backing
    • Parking
  • Chapter Sample Test Questions

Section B. Chapter 5 Interstate Driving

  • Interstate Highway Driving is Different
  • Entering the Interstate
  • Driving on the Interstate
  • Leaving/Exiting the Interstate
  • Interchanges
  • Special Interstate Driving Instructions
  • Dealing with Traffic Congestion
  • Move Over Law
  • Vehicle Breakdowns, Crashes and Emergency Stopping
  • Chapter Sample Test Questions

Section B. Chapter 6 Driving at Night and in Inclement Weather Conditions

  • Driving At Night
  • Driving in Inclement Weather Conditions
  • High Water and Flooding Dangers
  • Driving in Winter Weather Conditions

Section B. Chapter 7 Alcohol, Other Drugs and Driving

  • Impaired Driving
    • Alcohol and You
    • An Overview of the Effects of Alcohol
    • How Does Alcohol Affect the Body?
    • What is Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)?
  • Relationship of Alcohol to Traffic Crashes
  • Alcohol’s Effects on Driving Ability
    • Judgment
    • Vision
    • Reaction Time and Coordination
    • Alertness and Concentration
  • “Every Day” Drugs
  • Driving Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol
  • Implied Consent Law
  • Consequences of a DUI Arrest
  • Penalties Applying to any DUI Conviction
  • Young Driver Risks and Laws
  • Prevention of Drinking and Driving
  • Chapter Sample Test Questions

Section B. Chapter 8 Driving Responsibility

  • Problem Driver Pointer System
  • Losing Your Privilege to Drive
  • Hearings
  • Non-Resident Violator Compact
  • Reinstatements
  • Driver Improvement Program
  • Frequent Traffic Violations
  • Restricted Driver License
  • Points for Moving Traffic Violations and Crashes Table
    1. DUI.
    2. DriverImprovement
    3. Implied Consent
    4. Juvenile
    5. Failure to Satisfy a Citation
  • Physical Or Mental Disabilities
  • Re-Examination of Drivers
  • Financial Responsibility
  • Reporting Crashes
  • Traffic Crashes
    • If You Are Involved in a Crash – STOP!
    • If You Arrive First At a Crash Scene
  • Chapter Sample Test Questions
  • Study Questions Answer Key

Section C. Chapter 1 Defensive Driving and Road Rage

  • Safety Tips for Safe Driving and Sharing the Road
  • Concentration and Alertness are Important Elements
  • Drive Cautiously
  • Scanning the Road and Traffic for Defensive Reactions
  • Sharing a Safe Driving Space
  • Road Rage

Section C. Chapter 2 Special Driving Conditions and Your Vehicle

  • Avoiding Collisions
  • Collisions with Animals
  • The Driver, the Vehicle, and Road Important Facts
  • Maintenance Needs for a Safe Vehicle
  • Vehicle Tires
  • Vehicle Steering
  • Understanding Road and Traffic Conditions

Section C. Chapter 3 Sharing the Road Safely

  • Sharing the Road with Pedestrians
  • Your Role as a Pedestrian
  • Safety Tips for Pedestrians
  • Sharing the Road with Bicycles
  • Sharing the Road with Motorcycles
  • Driver Tips for Sharing the Road with Motorcycles
  • Safety Tips for Motorcycles
  • Safety Tips for Car Drivers
  • Sharing the Road with Large Trucks and Buses
  • Risky Situations with Large Vehicles
  • Learn the “NO-ZONES” for large vehicles
  • Sharing the Road with School Buses
  • Sharing the Road with Slow Moving vehicles and Equipment
  • Sharing the Road with Highway Work Zones
  • Sharing the Road with Trains
  • If your Vehicle Stalls on the Train Tracks
  • Emergency Notification System for Vehicle Stuck on Train Tracks
  • Safety Tips for 15-Passenger Vans
  • Safety Tips for Recreational Vehicles (RVs)

Section C. Chapter 4 Helping Teens and New Drivers Learn to Drive

  • A SAFE Attitude for Driving and Learning
  • Planning Safe and Informative Practice Sessions
  • Reference Tools to Consider
  • Driving Contracts
  • Helping Non-English Speaking Beginners
  • A Special Final Word to Parents

Graduated Driver License Driving Experience Log

Section B. Chapter 1 Getting Familiar With Your Vehicle

Be Prepared for the Driving Task

To help you safely prepare for the actual operation of the vehicle, follow the tips below. There is much more to driving than just “grabbing the keys and getting in the car.” Give your complete attention to knowing the proper operation of the vehicle’s equipment.


Vehicle Condition

  1. Check around the outside of the vehicle. Look for small children, pets and any other sort of obstruction.
  2. Check the condition of the vehicle (windows, lights, body damage, condition of the tires and potential fluid leaks).
  3. Enter the vehicle, place the key in the ignition and lock the doors.
  4. Identify the location and purpose of all switches, gauges and pedals.
  5. Know the location of the following controls even if there is no need to use them at the moment:
    • Horn
    • Turn Signals
    • Emergency/Four-Way Flashers
    • Headlights (on/off and dimmer switch)
    • Windshield Wipers and Washer Controls
    • Parking Brake and Release Lever
    • Air Conditioner/Heater/Defroster Controls
    • Gearshift Location (and clutch if manual transmission)

Seat Adjustment

Adjust the seat and, if equipped, the steering column, for the “Proper Driving Posture”

Align your body to your seat.

  • DO NOT DRIVE WITH THE SEAT IN A RECLINED OR SEMI-RECLINED POSITION. This is dangerous and reduces both your vision and your ability to react to emergency situations.

Be sure you are the proper distance from the steering wheel and foot pedals.

  • The pedals must be easily reached.
  • Have good clear vision through the windshield, each side window and all mirrors.
  • Your foot should move smoothly from the accelerator to the brake while the heel is kept on the floor.
  • Your body should be about 10 to 12 inches back from the steering wheel with or without an air bag. At this distance, an air bag would hit the driver in the chest if there were a collision. Sitting closer could result in serious head or neck injuries from an air bag hitting the chin or face.
  • Do not move the seat so far forward or extend the steering column to a point where you cannot easily steer.
  • The top of the steering wheel should be no higher than the top of the shoulders.

Properly adjust seat head restraints to a level even with the back of the head. Head restraints are designed to prevent whiplash if hit from behind.

Mirror Adjustment

  1. Adjust mirrors properly. Remember that all three of the rear view mirrors must be adjusted so that the widest possible view is given. Also, keep blind spots to a minimum.
    • Adjust mirrors after the seat is adjusted correctly.
    (Always adjust before driving.)
  2. Outside mirrors should be adjusted to reduce blind spots and provide maximum visibility.
    • INSIDE Rearview Mirror: Adjust the inside rearview mirror to frame the rear window. To get the smallest blind spot at the right side of the car, turn the inside mirror so that only the edge of the right rear window post is seen.
    • LEFT Side Mirror: To adjust the driver’s side-view mirror, seated in an upright position place your head against the left side window and adjust the left side mirror. Set the mirror so you can just barely see the side of your car in the right side of the mirror which is the part that is closest to the window.
    • RIGHT Side Mirror: Seated in an upright position, to adjust the passenger’s side-view mirror, position your head so that it is just above the center console. Set the mirror so you can just barely see the side of your car in the left side of the mirror which is the part of the mirror that is closest to the window. If the vehicle is not equipped with remote mirror-adjustment controls, you may need assistance when properly positioning this mirror.
  3. After mirror adjustments, if you lean slightly backward and see more than a glimpse of the rear corners of the vehicle in your outside mirrors, adjust them outward.
  4. To make sure mirrors are in the correct position, let a car pass you on the left. As it passes out of view in the inside mirror you should see its front bumper in the outside left (driver side) mirror.
  5. Before driving with these updated mirror settings, see how they work while your vehicle is parked. For example, you can parallel park along a street, then see how passing vehicles move through your mirrors and peripheral vision. This can help you become oriented to the new settings before heading out into traffic.
  6. Remember, even properly positioned mirrors cannot eliminate all blind spots. To reduce risk, make a final check to the sides before attempting any lateral moves. Even with properly adjusted mirrors, always turn your head and check blind spots when you want to turn or change lanes.

Safety Belts Fastened

1. Fasten and adjust safety belts (both lap and shoulder if separate belts). Lap belts should be positioned firmly across the hips while the shoulder belt is firmly across the shoulder.

2. Make sure all passengers are using safety belts or child restraints before driving.

  • If you or your passengers are not wearing a safety belt or are not secured in a car seat or booster seat, you may have to pay a fine.
  • Full details on safety belts and child restraints are found in the Protecting Passengers/Drivers chapter.


Check the vehicle owner’s manual to determine the proper way to start the specific vehicle. The following are basic tips that apply to most vehicles:

1. Place foot on brake pedal and ensure gearshift selector is in the PARK position for automatic transmissions or in NEUTRAL for manual/standard transmissions.

• Make sure the parking brake is “on” before starting any manual transmission vehicle. In vehicles with manual transmissions, the clutch must be depressed before the vehicle will start.

  1. Place the car key into the ignition switch and turn the key forward to “on.” Check dash lights and instruments (anti- lock brake systems [ABS], air bags, fuel level, etc.) for any warnings or alerts.
  2. Turn on low-beam headlights, particularly at night or in bad weather. NOTE: In normal daylight, vehicles are visible at twice the distance when headlights are on.
  3. Using an automatic transmission: With automatic transmissions, the driver usually does not need to change gears. The vehicle is put in “R” for reverse when to back-up and in “D” for drive to drive forward. (Some newer cars have an “O” gear selection for overdrive, which is for use when driving on interstates or other expressways where there is very little stop and go traffic.)
    • Most automatic transmissions also have lower gears that will be indicated by an “L”, “2”, or “1” on the gearshift indicator. These gears are generally not used except for special or emergency situations, such as:
    • Driving down steep mountain grades.
    • Slow speed driving on icy or other slippery roads.
    • Emergency deceleration if there is a brake failure.
  4. Using a standard transmission: With a standard or manual transmission, the driver can control the gear-speed ratio and use gears, rather than brakes, to help slow down the vehicle. The following techniques for smooth shifting will help you handle driving vehicles with standard transmissions.
    • Hold the clutch pedal all the way down when starting, shifting gears and when speed drops below 10 MPH as you are coming to a stop
    • Don’t “ride the clutch”, meaning don’t drive with your foot resting on the clutch pedal if it is not needed to change gears.
    • Practice to get smooth coordination in using the clutch and accelerator pedals.
    • Don’t coast with the gears in neutral (it’s illegal) or with the clutch pedal pushed down except when shifting gears.
    • When going down steep hills, place the vehicle in a lower gear.


The basic rule a driver must follow when operating a vehicle with a steering wheel interlock system is: never turn the ignition to the lock position when the vehicle is in motion. The steering wheel will lock when trying to turn and the control of the vehicle will be lost.


To begin driving the vehicle, use a relaxed grip on the steering wheel and always drive with BOTH hands on the wheel. A firm (but not tight) grip allows you to “feel” the road (vibrations, etc.) better. Don’t develop the habit of driving with your elbow or arm propped on the door or out the window. You won’t have full control of the steering wheel and a sideswipe could take off your arm.

You not only steer with your hands, but also with your eyes! Always look where you want to go. This tells your brain what to do with your hands. Your peripheral vision (i.e., your vision to each side) helps you to keep your road position.

The following information outlines the steering methods for safe vehicle operation:

  1. Looking at the steering wheel as a clock face, drivers should place the left hand at the 9 o’clock position and the right hand at 3 o’clock position on the steering wheel. This position helps avoid injury from air bag deployment during an accident.

    When using the turn signal indicators, headlight dimmer and windshield wiper controls, hand placement will change. You should have a slight bend in the elbow when the palm of your hand reaches the top of the steering wheel. Never sit in a position where your elbows are locked in a “stiff arm” type position.
  2. Do not let the steering wheel slip through your fingers when turning/steering. Reverse the hand and arm movements made during the turn when coming out of a turn. This “counter-steering” makes for smooth turns and will also help in skids and when driving on snow and ice.
  3. Do not cross your arms when steering or turning. It is OK to cross wrists while turning. But crossing arms may cause clothing and jewelry to interfere with safe turning. Also, you would suffer more serious injuries should the air bag deploy.
  4. There are two generally accepted steering methods: Push- PullandHand-over-Hand.
    • The Push-Pull method is recommended because it slows down turning movements making for a smoother, safer turn. It also keeps both hands on the steering wheel through the entire maneuver. Both hands move in an up and down motion on the sides of the steering wheel—the right hand on the right-hand side and the other on the left- hand side.
      • Left Turn: Start with your hands at the proper placement of 9 and 3 o’clock positions. Pull down with your left hand to approximately 7 o’clock, and then push up with your right hand until it reaches approximately 1 o’clock. As your left hand pulls the wheel down, during the same movement you will move the right hand down to the three o’clock position so it is ready to take over. The right hand then pushes the wheel up as you reposition the left hand up to repeat this pattern until you complete your turn. Counter-steer to straighten out the vehicle.
      • Right Turn: Start with hands at the proper placement of the 9 and 3 o’clock positions. Pull down with your right immediately 5 o’clock. Then, push up with your left hand until it reaches approximately 11 o’clock. Repeat this pattern until the turn is completed. Counter- steer to straighten out the vehicle.
    • The Hand-over-Hand: When turning the vehicle with this method, be careful to keep speed down. Steering this way crosses the hands at the top of the wheel. This method allows for quicker wheel movement, but there will be times when only one hand is on the wheel. Also, loose clothing or jewelry can get in the way, and the body can become unbalanced. For these reasons, the Push-Pull method is recommended for normal everyday driving.
      • For a right turn, start with hands at the proper 9 and 3 o’clock positions. Lean forward and grasp the outside of the rim at the 1 o’clock position with the right hand palm down. Lean back and pull with the right hand to the 5 o’clock position. Lean forward and grasp the outside of the rim with the left hand, palm down at the 1 o’clock position. Lean back and pull to the 5 o’clock position with the left hand. Repeat the process until the front wheels of the vehicle are at the desired angle. Before you straighten out, return hands to the original 9 and 3 o’clock positions. Counter-steer to straighten out the vehicle.
      • For a left turn, simply follow the steps above, reversing the hand references and steering wheel references to the opposite of what is indicated above in each step.


The following instructions are for vehicles with automatic transmissions:

  1. Backing – Common mistakes committed by new drivers when backing are (a) moving too fast, (b) providing too much steering input and (c) turning the steering wheel in the wrong direction.
    • With foot on the brake, move gear selector lever to “R” for reverse.
    • Grasp steering wheel at 12 o’clock position with left hand.
    • Turn to the right and place right arm over the back of the seat.
    • Look over your shoulder through the rear window for a safe, clear path.
    • Use idle speed or accelerate gently and smoothly, keeping a slow speed.
    • Turn the wheel to the right to back to the right; turn to the left to back to the left.
    • Continue looking to the rear until coming to a complete stop.
  2. Moving Forward -Learning to avoid sudden or quick jolts forward will take some practice as follows:
    • With foot on brake, move gear selector lever to “D” for drive.
    • Check forward for safe, clear path.
    • Check for traffic to the sides and behind.
    • Signal if pulling away from a curb.
    • If safe, pivot foot to accelerator and press down gently.
    • Look at least one block ahead and steer toward a reference point.
  3. Stopping – Planning ahead for smooth stops will help you avoid brake wear and potential rear-end collisions. Like most states, Tennessee reports that rear-end collisions are the most common type of accident recorded annually.
    • Check mirrors to the side and rear for traffic.
    • If moving to the curb or other lane, check over the right (or left) shoulder and signal intention.
    • Release accelerator and pivot foot to brake pedal slowly.
    • Press down on the brake pedal with a steady pressure for a smooth stop. Do not “stomp” on the brake pedal.
    • If stopping at stop sign or traffic signal light, stop before the crosswalk, a marked stop line, and if there is no stop line, at the point of the nearest intersecting roadway, where you can view the approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway, before entering the intersection.
    • If stopping at a curb, move to within 18 inches of the curb for proper parking.

As you may have noticed, driving is a complex and detailed activity that requires your complete attention. The “safest” thing you can do is to make sure you don’t let your attention to driving safely decline after you have become competent.


Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning:
Carbon monoxide gas from a car engine can kill (it has not taste, no smell or visibility). It generally leaks when the car heater is running, when the exhaust system is not working properly or in heavy traffic when breathing fumes from other vehicles.

How to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Have the exhaust system checked regularly.
  • Be alert for unusual roars from under the car.
  • Never let the engine run in a closed garage
  • Do not use a heater/air conditioner in a parked car with the windows closed.
  • Close the fresh-air vent in congested traffic

The information in this chapter covered how to become “prepared for the driving task.” It will take some practice for new drivers to translate these written details into common habits for safe driving. Therefore, review this information frequently. Once you are comfortable with the operation of the vehicle, you will be ready to drive in various traffic situations, such as interstate driving.


Effective July 1, 2009 drivers are prohibited from using a hand-held telephone or hand-held personal digital assistant to transmit or read a written message while the driver’s motor vehicle is in motion. Violations can result in a fine not to exceed Fifty Dollars, and court costs not to exceed Ten Dollars. Law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical persons and emergency management agency officers when in the actual discharge of their official duties, are exempt from the provisions of the law.


Effective January 1, 2018, it is an offense for persons 18 years or older to use a hand-held mobile phone while a motor vehicle is in motion in any marked school zone in this state, when a warning flasher or flashers are in operation. There is an exception if the phone is being used in hands free mode. This exception also does not apply to persons under eighteen (18) years of age and creates a delinquent act for these individuals.


Careful planning and consideration should be given for the placement of video devices in vehicles. State law prohibits the installation of a video monitor or video screen capable of displaying a television broadcast or video signal that is intended to display an image visible to the driver of a vehicle while in motion. A navigation or global positioning device, a vehicle information system display, visual displays for the driver’s view forward, behind and the sides of the vehicle are not prohibited. Careful consideration should be given to the placement of this equipment to insure no visual obstructions.

Chapter 1– Chapter Sample Test Questions

Here are some sample test questions. Because these are just study questions to help you review, you may receive a test with completely different questions, in whole or in part. The page number is shown for where the correct answer can be located for each question. Also, answers to all study questions can be found in the back of the book.

1. Properly adjusted seat head restraints:

A. Are designed to prevent whiplash if hit from behind.
B. Both A and C
C. Should always be at a level even with the back of head.

2. The driver should drive with both hands on the steering wheel approximately in the:

A. 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock positions
B. 11 o’clock and 6 o’clock positions
C. 7 o’clock and 5 o’clock positions

3. When adjusting the driver’s seat for best driving posture, set the seat in an upright position where your body is about how far from the steering wheel?

A. 6 to 8 inches
B. 10 to 12 inches
C. 18 to 24 inches