According to data released by the government, the ten most common reasons individuals fail their driving test have remained the same with little variation for the last three years. In fact, a lot of the common mistakes have stayed the same since 2006, when the government started recording this data. It’s a good idea to practice these manoeuvres before your test. Asking your driving instructor for a practice driving test is also a good idea as it can help you identify where you might need to improve. Doing both these things will help reduce the likelihood that you’ll fail your driving test.
1. Observations at junctions
A large amount of road accidents were caused by the driver failing to observe their surroundings properly in 2022, and this is reflected in the most common driving test faults.
To avoid this, make sure you check your mirrors and blind spots frequently, especially when approaching a junction. Anticipating the road ahead and making the right preparations can also help to reduce the likelihood that you’ll be blindsided by a hazard when approaching a junction. Performing the following observations can be useful:
- Noticing the road ahead is busy and slowing down to wait your turn
- Realising that there’s a bike rider next to you who will also be turning into the junction
- Seeing that there are pedestrians approaching the street who might want to cross the road in front of you
Whatever the situation, the mirrors-signal-manoeuvre routine is a great way to ensure you observe the road adequately. Through this, you should also assess the situation and act accordingly.
It might also be a good idea to understand the differences between all the different junctions. Junctions encompass a number of different road types, including roundabouts, crossroads, T-junctions and box junctions. There are different rules for each type of junction.
2. Using mirrors when changing directions
As you can see from the list so far, not fully using your mirrors and observing your surroundings is often a reason people fail their driving test. Ensuring you’re aware of your surroundings will help you anticipate potential dangers, which will in turn make you a much safer driver. You’ll need to demonstrate these skills to your examiner.
A good way of remembering when to use your mirrors is to perform checks every time your actions could cause other drivers to change their own behaviour. This includes when you make direction changes, slow down or speed up, negotiate a hazard and when you merge onto another road.
Although you might think you’re alone on the road and don’t need to perform any of the checks, there could be bike riders, scooters or motorcyclists in your blind spots. As a result, it’s good to get into the habit of using your mirrors and checking your blind spots when you’re about to change directions.
3. Turning right at junctions
If only we could get through life making just left-hand turns, but sadly that would make for a very long journey! You might think we’re joking, but in actual fact, this has been the topic of debate in the US for a good few years, with many sources suggesting that crossing oncoming traffic is ten times as dangerous as a regular turn.
Unfortunately, we don’t currently have that luxury, so it’s important that you don’t rush turning right at junctions. Whilst it might seem like a simple thing in concept, turning right at junctions requires a lot of careful thinking. You must also position your car properly to signal to other road users that you’re turning right. Again, great observation skills are integral here.
Make sure that when you’re approaching the junction, you use the mirrors-signal-manoeuvre tip to ensure you’re doing everything in your power to prevent an accident. You should also try to position your vehicle closer to the right to let drivers know your intentions. This can also allow vehicles to pass on the left if they have space.
4. Responding to signs, especially traffic lights
Traffic lights are among the first challenges that you’ll face when you learn to drive. They’ll crop up in both your driving theory test and your practical test. They’re not particularly complicated, but you should make sure you understand what the traffic light sequence means and how to react to it. Failure to react correctly to traffic lights could cause you to fail your driving test or, even worse, cause an accident.
Remember your MSPSL (mirrors, signal, position, speed, speed, look) routine. Anticipate what the lights might do. For example, if you’re approaching a set of traffic lights and they’ve been green for a while, chances are that they’ll change very soon. Don’t speed up in an attempt to ‘beat’ the lights.
5. Steering control
Keeping your hands in the 10 and 2 position helps ensure you can maintain control of your vehicle. Thankfully, contrary to popular belief, crossing your hands isn’t an automatic fault, but it’s not best practice to use technique. This is because crossing your hands means that you’ll only have one hand on the steering wheel, which can result in more mistakes than usual.
A safer alternative is to use the push-pull, or shuffle steering, technique, which is where one hand pulls down the steering wheel, while the other hand pushes up the steering wheel.
It’s important that your seat is adjusted correctly so you can comfortably reach your steering wheel at the 10 and 2 position. The cockpit drill is extremely important to ensure that everything is set up correctly so you can drive safely without strain.
6. Controlling your vehicle while moving off
Another one of our common driving test faults is that many provisional licence drivers struggle to control their vehicle while moving off. When you’re first in line of a queue of traffic, it can be quite easy to put your foot down a little too hard on the accelerator. Remember to bear in mind that there’s no rush! It’s better to take those extra few seconds to ensure you’ve got proper control of the vehicle when pulling out.
If you’re driving a manual car, it can be easier to stall when you’re just setting off. If you find yourself stalling often, try to avoid this by setting the accelerator before taking the handbrake off. You can do this when you’re waiting in a queue of traffic to ensure you set off in a timely manner.R
7. Your Response To Road Markings
There are a lot of road markings to remember, so it’s understandable if you forget them. To prevent this, it’s best to regularly refer to the Highway Code and its section on road markings. Whilst there are many to wrap your head around, practical practice will also help you understand the difference between the various markings.
Being comfortable with all the various road markings will also help you react quicker to hazards. Say, for instance, you know that the upside-down white triangle you see on the ground before a junction is an indication that you need to give way, you’ll have extra time to prepare. This can therefore help prevent some of the common mistakes at junctions mentioned above.
8. Positioning your vehicle during normal driving
There are a number of things to look out for when you’re driving normally. For starters, make sure you’re leaving enough room between yourself and parked cars or cycle lanes while driving. This will help prevent any nasty accidents – and it’ll have the added benefit of giving your instructor peace of mind.
Be sure to give cyclists and other road users enough space when you’re overtaking them. It’s also important that when you move your vehicle back after overtaking someone, you don’t accidentally cut them off.
Make sure you also don’t accidentally clip the curb. Whilst this won’t result in an immediate fail, you could get a minor. Other areas where learner drivers commonly make mistakes include:
- Positioning your vehicle at a roundabout (rules 184 to 190)
- Knowing when you can use the bus lane (rule 141)
9. Keeping to an appropriate speed whilst driving
Inappropriate use of speed is one of the major reasons for failing the driving test. This will typically involve a learner driving too fast for the circumstances or conditions although remaining within the speed limit. These commonly include:
- Approaching junctions too fast
- Driving past parked cars or cyclists too fast with no clear view of the road ahead
- Inappropriate speed for maintaining safe driving distance behind other vehicles
- Inappropriate speed for approaching a hazard
- Inappropriate speed for the weather conditions