Read our list of the 10 most common driving test mistakes, so you know what to avoid to have a chance of passing first time
Even if you’re already a whizz behind the wheel, one serious mistake could see your driving test end with a big fat fail, rather than the pass you came for.
According to official statistics, 52.9% of driving tests in the first three months of 2022 resulted in a fail. There are plenty of ways to flunk your test, of course, but we’ve listed the 10 most common driving test fails here. You can use it as a guide to see if you’re ready to take your driving test, along with feedback and progress reports from your driving instructor.
Most common driving test mistakes
Not making effective observations at junctions
There are many types of junctions in the UK and they’re a hotspot for accidents and mistakes. Examples include pulling out of a junction or roundabout without properly judging the speed of an oncoming vehicle, not making any observations at a junction, dangerous merging onto a dual carriageway or motorway, or crossing a crossroads without looking left or right.
Not using mirrors correctly when changing direction
Your driving instructor should’ve drummed the importance of looking at your mirrors into you but, in tests, many learners fail for mirror-related faults. Often, this is about not looking in your mirrors when changing lanes on or leaving a roundabout. Another example is changing lanes on a dual carriageway without properly checking if your new lane is clear.
Not having proper control of the steering
The big wheel in front of you turns the wheels underneath you. Simple, right? Well, not always. In 2019, more than 10% of driving test fails were attributed to a ‘Control – Steering’ fault. These include not steering enough, steering too late, or mounting the pavement.
Incorrect positioning when turning right at junctions
Multi-lane roundabouts and junctions can be tricky for even accomplished drivers. You’ll fail if you choose the left-hand lane when you want to turn right – this can confuse and frustrate drivers behind you – or if you’re blocking traffic following you when you’re turning right and there should be space for drivers to pass.
Not moving off safely
Remember to always check your blind spots before moving off. If you repeatedly forget to look over your shoulder, you’ll fail under the ‘Moving off – Safety’ category. You can also fail this section if you do all your checks but pull out in front of a vehicle – whether that’s a vehicle coming from behind you or an oncoming one, which you might encounter when pulling up on the right-hand side of the road. If your examiner asks you to perform an emergency stop, you’ll need to check your mirrors and blind spots before moving off.
Not responding appropriately to traffic lights
Green for go, red for stop. But there’s a bit more to it than that for traffic lights, and you’ll fail if you don’t react to them properly. Not going when the light is green and you can move off, whether that’s for straight on or when turning right, will count as a fail. You’ll also fail if you drive through a red traffic light, or go when the light is green when you may potentially block the junction.
It’s also important to remember that some junctions have specific stop zones for cyclists. If you stop in this box when approaching a red traffic light, that’ll be the end of your hopes of passing, too.
Poor positioning on the road during normal driving
Hopefully, by your test, you’ve nailed your road positioning, but nerves and an unfamiliar route can sometimes play havoc with your perception. The examiner will fail you if you repeatedly get too close to the kerb or to the opposite lane.
They’re also looking out to make sure you don’t stay in the right-hand lane of a dual carriageway unnecessarily, and that you don’t cut straight across a roundabout when you should be following the bend.
Not responding correctly to traffic signs
After passing your theory test, your knowledge of road signs should be red-hot. If it isn’t, you might be failed for misinterpreting or ignoring warning signs. Going the wrong side of a ‘keep left’ sign, ignoring ‘stop’ or ‘no entry’ signs, or driving in a bus lane are all big no-nos. You can also be failed for choosing the wrong lane at a clearly labelled roundabout, or reacting too late to speed limit changes.
Not having control of the vehicle when moving off
Stall once and it’s usually a minor fault, provided you restart the car and carry on safely. Stall repeatedly and the examiner will fail you for not having proper control of the vehicle. Even if you stall once but forget to use the brakes and roll back a ‘considerable distance’ (that’s up to the examiner’s judgement), you’ll come away with a fail. Similarly, if you forget to select a gear when you try to move off and end up rolling backwards, you’ll be finishing your test with bad news.
Not keeping control of the vehicle during reverse parking
Parking isn’t the easiest skill, so make sure you’re well-practised before taking your test. You’ll fail for losing control of the car when parking, mounting the kerb, parking outside of a marked bay and for taking too many attempts to reposition the vehicle. Again, this is up to the examiner’s discretion.