Right Driver

30 most common reasons you will fail your driving test

Pass rates are hovering around the 40-50% mark, so what is it that is causing more than 50% of people to fail their driving test?

Failing to look or judge speed is a factor in 35-40% of reported failures. Around 10% of accidents are caused by the driver making a poor turn or manoeuvre. Well over 1000 accidents a year are caused by drivers disobeying traffic lights, and almost a thousand are caused by driver error moving off at junctions. Here are the many ways you can fail your driving test.

1. Failing to judge the speed of an approaching vehicle at a T junction

When you turn left or right at a T junction, you have to judge the speed of an approaching vehicle so that you can choose the right gap to emerge into – this is called gap selection. Lorries appear to be moving more slowly than motorbikes due to how our eyes work, so it takes some experience for a new driver to get used to this.

The driver must pull out of the junction without causing the other driver to brake unduly or swerve to avoid a collision.

2. Failing to stop for a vehicle approaching from the right at a roundabout

Signalling and lane selection on roundabouts can be really confusing, even for experienced drivers. Pulling out in front of a driver on a roundabout will earn you a fail. Experience will teach you how to judge whether a person who is indicating incorrectly will actually cross your path or not.

3. Not seeing an approaching vehicle

If the examiner has to use the dual controls to brake, or you perform a manoeuvre that forces another vehicle to do an emergency stop, you’ll be heading home early. Learn good observation skills from your driving instructor and you’ll be aware of everything going on around you.

4. Poor merging technique

When you’re on a slip road joining a dual carriageway, make sure to check your blind spot and match your speed to the traffic already on the dual carriageway. Merge like a zip, but don’t force other vehicles to take evasive action.

5. Missing crossroads signs

New drivers sometimes don’t recognise that crossroads are a junction and will go sailing straight through without looking right or left. This is a good way of giving the examiner serious anxiety about your driving.

6. Leaving it too late to make observations

If you leave your observations until too late, you increase the risk that you won’t have seen an approaching vehicle (particularly cyclists and motorcyclists), and it’ll be too late to stop as you’re already part-way through the junction

7. Not looking left when turning left out of a minor road onto a busier road

So that you’re aware of what hazards are in the road you are turning into, you have to look left where you are going as well as checking right for hazards. It would help if you had independent eyes like a chameleon, but you don’t, so you need to be actively moving your head so that the examiner can see that you’re looking. You wouldn’t be the first driver to be looking right as you’re turning left only to run into a pedestrian that’s started to cross or a car that has stopped just past the junction.

8. Not using mirrors or head checks when exiting a roundabout

As you move from the right-hand lane to the left-hand lane and signal to exit the roundabout, use your rear-view mirror, passenger side mirror and a head check to the left to make sure there are no other vehicles in your blind spot on the left.

9. Poor lane change gap selection on dual carriageways

If you cause a vehicle in another lane to brake when you change to that lane, then you haven’t checked your mirrors, chosen and appropriate gap and matched your speed.

10. Poor lane changing on roundabouts

If you’re trying to move left and there’s already a car there, and the examiner has to take control of the steering wheel to stop a collision, that’s a fail. Again, match your speed, use your indicator and check over your shoulder and in your mirrors. If you cut off another car on the roundabout, that’s not good.

11. Poor steering control in a straight line

Look as far ahead as you can and you’ll find it much easier to track in a straight line rather than weaving your way along the road (which the examiner won’t be very impressed with). You should be able to keep a consistent distance from the kerb.

12. Poor steering control in corners

If you don’t steer enough or you steer too much and you cross the centre line or mount the kerb, this shows you are not in control of the vehicle.

13. Poor steering control entering or exiting a junction

If you steer too late turning into a side road or out of a side road you create what’s called a ‘swan neck’ where you cross over to the other side of the road or onto the verge and have to correct back into the lane

14. Poor steering control when overtaking stationary vehicles

Late steering or not moving out far enough will leave you too close to parked vehicles on the side of the road. This increases the risk that someone will open a door and you’ll hit them, or you’ll clash wing mirrors.

15. Incorrect lane positioning when turning right or left out of a junction

When turning right, you’ll need to be close to the centre line, and when turning left, you’ll be towards the left kerb. If you don’t adhere to these principles, you’ll confuse drivers behind you who may try to come past you (particularly motorcyclists).

16. Obstructing traffic while waiting to emerge from or turn into a side road

If you pull too far out of a T junction you’ll block traffic crossing the top of the T. If you’re turning right into a minor road and you position yourself too far right over the centre line, you’ll put your vehicle in danger.

16. Failing to move off safely

Remember that you must indicate for at least 3 seconds, check your blind spot and mirrors and pick an appropriate gap before moving off from the kerb.

17. Causing an approaching vehicle to swerve or brake heavily when moving away from the right

When you stop facing traffic on the right, you need to be able to pull back to the left-hand side of the road without causing an oncoming vehicle to brake or swerve.

18. Not making all-round observations when moving away following an emergency stop

You must look behind and in your blind spots when moving away after an emergency stop.

19. Not complying with traffic lights

Failing to stop for a red light, speeding up to get through an amber light, or not proceeding when a green light or flashing amber light is showing but the way is clear are all a no-no.

20. Stopping in the wrong place at signal-controlled junctions

If there are advanced stop lines for cyclists, you must not stop any further than the first white line.

21. Entering a junction when the way is not clear

Even if there is a green light, you must ensure that there’s space on the other side of the junction before you go through the green light. Being left in the middle of the junction when the lights turn red will earn you a fail.

22. Lane position errors

If you repeatedly drive too close to the kerb, this puts pedestrians and cyclists at risk, as well as increasing the risk you will clash wing mirrors. If you repeatedly drive too close to the centre line, you put oncoming motorists at risk, and people who are crossing the road.

23. Choosing the wrong lane

Driving unnecessarily in the right-hand lane on a dual carriageway for a considerable length of time is not permitted. Of course, if you have to turn right from a dual carriageway, then you will be in the right-hand lane ready to turn, but the right-hand lane is usually just for overtaking.

If you go straight ahead from a lane which is marked as a left-turn only, this will be a fail.

24. Cutting corners

This is most common at roundabouts where drivers ‘straight-line’ it, cutting across lanes, rather than following the curve of the lane. The same applies when driving in the left-hand lane on a right-hand curve on a dual carriageway – don’t cross into the right-hand lane.

25. Ignoring signs

One of the most common errors is ignoring a stop sign. You must come to a complete stop at a stop sign, even if you can see that the traffic is clear. Other signs which are frequently missed are no entry signs and keep left signs.

26. Ignoring bus lanes

Another common error is driving in a bus lane for more than the permitted maximum when turning into or exiting a side road.

27. Reacting late to speed limit changes

The speed limit starts at the sign, which means you need to brake down to the right speed limit before you get to the sign, or wait until you get to the sign to accelerate up to a new speed limit.

28. Stalling or rolling back when moving away

When you move off from being stationary, you must show good car control. If your car has a manual gearbox, it’s harder to move off without rolling backwards, stalling or making jerky progress (‘kangarooing’). Your car must be in gear and remember to use the handbrake.

29. Harsh acceleration and/or wheelspin when moving off

If you lose traction, you’re accelerating too harshly. The examiner is looking for you to choose appropriate gaps so you don’t need to do this.

30. Poor parking technique

When parallel parking, if you hit the kerb, need too many attempts to reposition the car or end up too far from the kerb or at an obvious angle from the kerb, this will be a fail.

When bay parking, you must position yourself relatively equally between the lines, not run into the kerb behind and not take too many attempts to reposition the car.

In both examples, you must use good all-round observation.

Darren has owned several companies in the automotive, advertising and education industries. He has run driving theory educational websites since 2010.

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