Driving tests: most common failure reasons

Taking your driving test can be a daunting experience and these are the most common reasons why people fail.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a huge backlog for those wanting to book driving lessons and tests.

Multiple cancellations caused by the different lockdowns we've had in the UK over the past year have made it incredibly difficult for learners to knuckle down and get some consistency in their tuition.

Many people have struggled to book - and in a lot of cases - rebook their driving test as the surge for demand has increased every month that Covid-19 has rumbled on.

There have been instances where those that have not even taken a single practical driving lesson yet have booked and passed their theory test and then booked their practical, just to ensure they have a test date locked in for when they do eventually start learning.

It's all a bit of a mess and there have been calls for more tests to be put on evenings and weekends to try to reduce the number of people desperately waiting to pass.

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It doesn't help that the pass rate is less than 50% - between April 2019-May 2020, 45.9% of driving tests resulted in a pass, according to the official government website. This means that there is even more pressure on learners to nail their practical test the next time they can take one, or risk being at the back of the queue to book a new test again.

But, even if you can't get any lessons under your belt, it's crucial to know what examiners are looking for, and in this guide, we highlight the top 10 things that people regular fail their test on, so you can sharpen up the next time you get behind the wheel.

Not making effective observations at junctions

This is one of the more challenging - and dangerous - parts of driving and in a test environment, it can be easy to miss, with the pressure you're under and trying to get through everything as quickly as possible.

Cars can be coming from all angles, at different speeds and so it's critical to be paying complete attention to the road and what's around you before safely proceeding on the next part of your test.

The best thing to think about in this instance is you are in no rush and everyone else is a dangerous driver. That way, you should be able to safely judge in your own time when you think is best to make that turn. 

Not using mirrors correctly when changing direction

It's easy to do as you are so focused on what is in front of you, but ensuring you check your rear-view and side mirrors before changing direction, slowing down, and setting off will give you that certainty that what you are about to do next is safe.

In a test environment it may not be clear to the examiner that you are checking your mirrors if you just use your eyes, so try to move your head a little to indicate that you are taking that split second to check and make sure your surroundings are clear.

Not having proper control of the steering

Maintaining the correct hand positions when driving will indicate that you are able to comfortably control the car, reducing the chances of hitting other vehicles or mounting the kerb.

The traditional way to remember this is by picturing the steering wheel as a clock face and keeping your hands at the '10 and 2' and '9 and 3' positions, as they allow you to pull the wheel to either side with one hand, allowing the other to slide and meet it.

It is discouraged to cross your arms when steering as that could indicate you're not in full control, and removing your hands fully when turning is a definite no-no unless you want to have an accident.


Incorrect positioning when turning right at junctions

It's the old junctions again and they can be a real nightmare, especially when turning right and having to pull out and go across the other side of the road if there is poor visibility.

Always try to drive normally and keep as close to the centre of the lane. When you do want to make that right turn, position your car to the right of the lane as this allows cars behind you to know what you want to do and pass safely on your left.

Not moving off safely

When you're stationary, it's important to know your surroundings before moving off to avoid impeding - or hitting - other road users.

It's not good enough to use just your mirrors, you should check your blind spot which is behind your right shoulder. 

It's worth noting that it could also be behind your left depending on the manoeuvre you are undertaking, and anything else that could be blocking your line of vision in your left or rear-view mirror.

Not responding appropriately to traffic lights

It's all about concentration, and when it comes to the red light, preempting if it is about to turn from green to red.

If you are approaching traffic lights that have been green for a while, you should be prepared to slow down and stop as they could turn to amber and then red at any moment.

Driving through a red light is illegal and is an instant fail on your test, and something that can easily be avoided if you keep your wits about you.

The same can be said about waiting too long at a green light. If the lights tell you to go and you take too long to move off, your examiner could deem that as having a lack of concentration which on the roads can be fatal, especially if other road users aren't paying attention themselves.


Poor positioning on the road during normal driving

Keeping central in your lane is the ideal position you want to stay in while travelling if it is safe to do so.

Being too close to the kerb or other side of the road puts yourself and others in danger.

Roundabouts are particularly important to judge and you should always follow the lines of the roundabout to ensure you remain in the same lane and aren't cutting across others.

Not following road signs correctly

There are so many road signs to remember and oftentimes you will not completely understand what one fully means. But ignoring them altogether can be a criminal offence depending on what sign it was, or could put other road users at risk.

Speed limits are the most common to miss or disobey, so be alert when travelling, especially on roads that you aren't familiar with. 

Not having control of the vehicle when moving off

Even the most experienced of drivers will stall their car from time to time, it can be caused by a slip of the clutch at any moment. 

In a test environment, if you were to stall your car that would be fine, providing you recover it well and still show you are firmly in control of the vehicle.

If on a hill start, for example, you stall it and then the car began rolling backwards, that would be a major fail because of the danger it could cause to those around you.

Keeping cool and calm will help you in situations when you stall it as if you allow yourself to become stressed out, that's when you're likely to make more mistakes.

Not keeping control of the vehicle during reverse parking

In a driving test, you will be given one of four manoeuvres to undertake. They are parallel parking, reverse bay parking, forward bay parking before reversing out and driving back the way you came, and pulling up on the right side of the road and reversing backwards.

They can fixate in your mind and defeat you before you even get into the drivers' seat, so it's important to remain calm and practice them with your instructor until you are 100% confident with them.

The ways you may fail in your test is if you hit the kerb when reversing, take too long to make the manoeuvre, or don't pay enough attention to your surroundings when making the manoeuvre.

These things come with practice and if you keep at them, you will soon become a pro.

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In conclusion, the lockdowns have been a nightmare for learner drivers and trying to get out on the road for the first time.

It has set many people back a couple of years in their timeline of what they want to be doing with their life and can affect other important life situations like getting certain jobs that require you to drive or those that are a long distance away from where you live. 

Once you are able to find a test, lock it in, no matter how far away it is as there is always the possibility you may be able to pick up a cancellation or any extra tests the driving centre may put on.

Remember that the examiner is not looking for a perfect drive, they are aware that some minor mistakes will be made and as long as you drive confidently and safely, you should have no problems.

Due to the length of time to get a test right now, it's definitely worth having a few extra lessons with your instructor before it occurs just to give you the best possible opportunity to pass.

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