Why People Fail Their Driving Test

Why People Fail Their Driving Test

According to the DVSA, the most common faults made during driving tests between 4 December 2017 and 3 December 2018 were:

  1. Junctions – observation
  2. Mirrors – change direction
  3. Control – steering
  4. Junctions – turning right
  5. Move off – safely
  6. Response to signs – traffic lights
  7. Move off – control
  8. Positioning – normal driving
  9. Response to signs – road markings
  10. Reverse park – control

I addition to these ten points, many people fail because they take the test too soon. They want to ‘give it a go’ or ‘see what it’s all about’. This is extremely risky and if they happen to pass the test, they find themselves on the roads without being fully prepared. The risk of having an accident is obviously increased.

On the other hand, some people just don’t feel test ready. They tell themselves that they’re going to fail, even though their instructor knows they can do it. As Henry Ford quoted’ “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re probably right!”

In this blog I’ll explain what the faults are and what to do to prepare fully for your test and reduce the risk of the faults occurring.

Mistake 1:

Junctions – observation

What should you do:

Approach junctions at an appropriate speed. Not too slow that you’re overly hesitant, but slow enough so that you are able to check right, left, right as a minimum.

Notice if the junction is a Give Way or a Stop junction. If it’s a Stop junction, make sure you come to a complete stop. I’d advise you to put the handbrake on, but this is not necessary or law.

If you are at a crossroads use the ROLO observation rule. Look Right, Opposite, Left Opposite.

If you can’t see clearly into the new road, Peep and Creep. Move the car very slowly forwards until you’re in a position to see up and down the road. At the same time, lean forwards in your seat. You will end up over the give way lines, this is necessary to observe well enough.

Never emerge unless you can clearly see that it’s safe to do so.

You need to aim to take an opportunity to emerge or turn, but not cause other road users to Stop, Slow or Swerve.

Remember: If You Don’t Know…Don’t Go!

Mistake 2:

Mirrors – change direction

What should you do:

Mirrors should be checked in pairs, well before you change position, speed or direction.

Always check the middle/interior mirror first. This mirror has flat glass and gives a true reflection of what’s behind you. Then check a door mirror for cyclists or anyone overtaking, depending on which way you’re turning.

To turn left, check middle and left mirror well before signalling.

To turn right. Check middle and right mirror well before signalling.

There is no need to make these checks obvious, just make sure you are really looking in the mirror to get a picture of what’s around.

Mistake 3:

Control – steering

What should you do:

To steer accurately, look well ahead into the far distance. Look at what you want to hit, so if you’re aiming to drive between a kerb and an oncoming lorry aim to look at the gap.

Steering faults are often made due to driving too fast and then being unable to steer quickly enough.

Steering too early can cause you to cut a corner. Steering too late can cause you to go too wide. Both of these will be faults on test and can be dangerous. Your instructor can give you a reference point, so you know exactly when to steer, if needed.

It is advised, although not necessary, to use Pull Push steering. This helps you maintain more control of the car. Crossing your hands while driving is ok when driving very slowly while reversing but can lead to loss of control when driving at more speed.

This video explains the 3 types of steering and when to use them:


Mistake 4:

Junctions – turning right

What should you do:

When turning right you need to make a judgement about when is the safe time to go, in front of oncoming traffic. You must not make the oncoming traffic stop, slow or swerve. Some people find that the ‘Walk Across Drive Across’ rule works well for them. When choosing a safe time to turn and a car is approaching, decide to yourself ‘would I walk all the way across the road, in front of the oncoming car?’

If you would walk across the road, then you can probably drive across the road.

If you wouldn’t walk across the road, then wait for a safe gap.

The aim while driving should be to keep the car moving, but only if it’s safe to do so.  Plan your approach speed so you can keep the car moving if possible.

Mistake 5:

Move off – safely

What should you do:

During your test you’ll be asked to pull up and move away several times. Look ahead and decide where is safe to pull up. Check your mirrors and signal if there is anyone to benefit. Once you’ve stopped, do a 3-point check to secure the car:

  1. Handbrake on
  2. Select neutral
  3. Cancel the indicator

Once the examiner has asked you to move off again, prepare to move away when its safe.

To move away safely you must make effective observations and then choose a safe time.

All round checks should normally start from the left door mirror, then middle mirror and ahead, right door mirror and then finally the right blind spot.

It’s important to check your blind spot every single time you move away.

If you find you’ve stopped in an inappropriate place, move the car to a better place when you can. Make sure all the observation checks are completed before moving.

Mistake 6:

Response to signs – traffic lights

What should you do:

When approaching traffic lights, check your mirrors and ease of the gas. You need to know what’s behind you; whatever action you take will affect the driver behind.  Never accelerate towards a hazard.

Stop, behind the line, when the lights are red or amber.

Both red and amber mean Stop and Wait!

Green means go if it’s safe.

Some traffic lights have a filter arrow. If the green arrow is pointing in the direction you want to go, you can proceed. Always check that other road users are responding correctly to their lights first.

Flashing amber lights mean you can go if no pedestrians are still on the crossing.

Before moving away check all three mirrors. You are checking your left mirror for cyclists and your right mirror to check if anyone is overtaking. As you start to move away, check that other traffic is responding correctly to their red light.

Mistake 7:

Move off – control

What should you do:

When you pull up, firstly secure the car by putting your handbrake on, selecting neutral and cancelling the signal. Doing this gives you time to make sure you do everything needed to move away again under good control and select the correct gear.

If you’re in the wrong gear you are more likely to judder and stall the car.

If you don’t apply the handbrake you may roll.

If you don’t cancel your left indicator you may move away with it still on.

Before you do move away, notice if you’re on a downhill or uphill slope. Not setting enough gas or bite may cause you to roll.

Mistake 8:

Positioning – normal driving

What should you do:

Aim to drive in the centre of your lane or, on a wider road, 1 metre from the kerb.

To help judge this, imagine you’re walking/running down the road and put your body where you want the car to be positioned.

Keep 1 metre away when driving past parked cars, if that’s possible. If the road is very narrow and has parked cars, you may not be able to drive 1 metre away from parked vehicles. In this situation, drive at a slower speed.

Remember: Less Space…Less Speed!

Leave a 1.5 to 2 metre gap when passing cyclists as they are vulnerable and may wobble.

Mistake 9:

Respond to signs – road markings

What should you do:

Road markings tell you where to position your car while driving along. How to stay in lane and where to stop the car at traffic lights.

Look out for road markings and make sure you’re staying in the correct position.

If you find yourself in the wrong lane for the direction you are being asked to go, then it’s absolutely fine to go the wrong way. You are being judged on your ability to drive safely, not your ability to follow directions accurately.

Mistake 10:

Reverse Park – control

What should you do:

The important elements of performing any reversing manoeuvre are:

  • Control – this is to control the car at a very slow pace, using clutch control
  • Observations – this is to check all around, finishing with checking over your left shoulder and out of the rear window. Look out of the rear window while you take the handbrake off and start moving. As you’re reversing, continually look all around to check if another road user is approaching. Don’t forget to check the pavement to look out for pedestrians
  • Choices – this means to react correctly to what you are seeing when you make those observations.

Keep a ‘Safety Bubble’ around your car, and don’t let anyone ‘Pop the Bubble’! This    means, don’t let anyone get too close to you while you are moving.

If another road user approaches, this means vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians, you

must pause and allow them to pass by. If they decide to wait and allow you to continue to

manoeuvre, then continue with the manoeuvre, but watch out for them driving on

before you’ve completed the manoeuvre.

  • Accuracy – this is the least important of all the elements of manoeuvring. Nevertheless, you will get a fault if you have to correct the manoeuvre to finish more accurately.

A minor fault for correcting your position is better than a serious fault (=fail) for not completing it accurately enough.

If you are Parallel Parking you need to finish reasonably close to the kerb, aim for about 1 tyres width.

To complete a Bay Park accurately all 4 wheels must be inside the bay lines.

At Spot On we never take a pupil to test until we feel they are safe and test ready. This is because we care about the safety of our pupils and that of other road users. We have a free eLearning course with notes, quizzes and videos to help learners prepare for their lessons and get a head start. This means they need less lessons overall and can pass their test quicker.

Books like:

  • Driving the Essential Skills
  • Highway Code
  • Know your Traffic Signs

will all help you to know how to be a safe driver.

The link below is to our YouTube channel with more videos that demonstrate how to deal with aspects of the learning to drive syllabus and driving at test standard to eliminate driving faults:


I hope you found this blog useful. Let me know how you got on in your driving test.