5 Reasons Why People Fail Their Driving Test

Driving tests can be a nerve wracking experience. All learners want to prove to the examiner that they are a good driver and can make the right decisions when it comes to safety on the road. But it’s easy for nerves to take over, and sometimes they result in a combination of driving faults and silly mistakes that could cause even the best of drivers to fail their test. 

Whether you’re a learner driver who’s about to take their test, or a qualified driving instructor who wants to know what drivers are most likely to fail on, you can find the top five reasons why people fail their test below.

Not making the right observations

Observations and decision making is such a huge part of driving, but around 37% of accidents are caused by drivers failing to look properly, so this is something that examiners will be looking out for during a test. It’s imperative that you are aware of what’s around you, particularly before pulling out of a junction or roundabout. 

Observation errors that would result in a ‘driving fault’ or a ‘minor’ would include looking too late before moving off, incorrectly judging the speed of an approaching vehicle and pulling out in front of them or making too little observations when using a slip road to join another road. 

When you do either of the latter two things, you may cause another vehicle to slow down and this would be considered a fault. It’s important to remember that any move you make shouldn’t cause another vehicle to change their speed or direction. 

Similarly, making no observations at all is extremely dangerous, and you can’t possibly know whether it’s safe to pull out without first knowing what is around you. You must always check on what is around you, and don’t forget to look left even when you’re turning left for obstructions and other hazards.  

Failure to use mirrors

Our mirrors are there for a reason. As a driving instructor, you should remind your drivers to use them consistently, checking for times when they haven’t done so properly.

As a learner driver, you should be fed up of your instructor reminding you to check your mirrors.

To use your mirrors correctly, you should always check them whenever you’re changing direction or speed or you’re signalling to change direction. You should also use them before any manoeuvre, such as parking or turning around. This means you must check your mirrors: 

  • When moving lanes
  • When entering a roundabout (unless you’re going straight on)
  • When exiting a roundabout
  • When pulling into a parking space

You can fail if you don’t use your mirrors enough, but also if you use them and make an observation error, such as failing to notice that a vehicle is quite close to you. Should you change lanes anyway and cause the other vehicle to slow down, you could receive a minor fault. 

Incorrect or ‘lazy’ steering

Steering is something that many drivers can get lazy with, and there are other errors to be made too, such as steering too early or late. 

Correct steering should mean you never mount a pavement, never drive too far on the wrong side of the road when making a sharp turn and never get too close to a parked car.

It’s also common for drivers to let the wheel slip through their hands and correct itself to a straight position upon turning a corner, but this means you’re not fully in control of the vehicle. After turning a corner, you should use your hands to guide the wheel back into a straight position. 

Not moving off safely

Incorrectly moving off is another big reason why people fail their driving test, and there are a number of ways in which you might have to ‘move off’ during the exam. 

It’s expected that you should be able to move off, making the correct observations, from the side of a road, from a traffic jam, from behind a parked car and on a hill. 

You could fail if you decide to pull out into the path of an approaching vehicle. This would mean that you haven’t checked your mirrors or blind spot properly and would likely cause the other vehicle to slow down. 

During the test, the examiner might also ask you to ‘pull over on the right’. This is a basic test to see how you will react and that you will find a safe place to pull over, away from any junctions, double yellow lines, etc. Once you have pulled over, you will be expected to move away again. You could receive a fault should you move off too close to other vehicles. 

Not listening to traffic lights

We must all listen to traffic lights to stay safe on the roads, but some people choose to test the boundaries of what is safe, going through amber and red lights. 

A common reason for failing a test is failing to react to the traffic lights in time. When a light is red, you absolutely must stop and not attempt to go through it. This example seems obvious, but there are some further examples that can be a little more confusing for learner drivers

For instance, should you need to turn right at a junction, you could receive a driving fault should you wait in the middle of the junction after the light has turned red. In this case, you would either be blocking the junction, or have to go through a red light to unblock the junction. Neither of these options is particularly safe. 

And it’s not just red lights that can catch drivers out. Not moving ahead on a green light when the junction is clear could result in a fault, as it potentially shows you aren’t paying attention to what’s around you. 

In 2019, there were around 1,300 accidents caused by not listening to traffic lights in the UK, so be sure to brush up on your traffic light rules before test day. 

Failing your test can be a concern, but it isn’t anything you should panic about. During your test, you should be sure to keep the above reasons for failing your test in mind. 

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