Driving test examiner making notes

The 3 most common reasons why people fail their driving test

18th Dec, 2023

A driving test is an inherently stressful experience, even if you’ve got plenty of practice in beforehand. So if you’re nervous, don’t worry – that’s normal! To some extent, passing your test is a state of mind. If your examiner thinks you’re ready to take your test, then you almost certainly have all the key skills and know all the principles involved – it’s just a case of not letting nerves overtake you. 

If you’re still a bit concerned, then it’s worth taking particular care to avoid some of the most common mistakes that people often make when taking their driving test – mistakes that might end up in a situation in the real world where they’d need to scrap their car. With that in mind, here are the biggest errors to watch out for! 

1. Not making effective observations at junctions

Junctions (particularly roundabouts) can be one of the most difficult parts of everyday driving, even for seasoned drivers. And while most have been specifically designed to make them easy to navigate, there are still plenty that are inherently awkward, often because of constraints from the surrounding environment. So you need to be able to navigate the lot. 

You need to be able to “make effective observations” before moving onto a new road, however safe or unsafe you think it may be. Then you need to ensure that it’s safe before proceeding.  

More than 1 in 3 collisions reported in Great Britain in 2021 were caused by people driving not looking properly.

The major things to avoid:

  • Looking the wrong way (or looking too late) before entering a roundabout, so you’d be in danger from vehicles approaching from the right
  • Misjudging the speed of an approaching vehicle, so that it has to slow down significantly to avoid you as you pull out
  • Going straight ahead at a crossroads, because you’ve failed to recognise it as a junction

As ever with these sorts of situations, always default to the most cautious approach, and don’t be afraid to take your time, even if it feels like an eternity under test conditions. (In the real world, sometimes you are indeed stuck at a junction for a while.) 

2. Not using mirrors correctly when changing direction

The practical driving test requires you to be able to “make full and effective use of all the mirrors”, because it’s essential to your general driving awareness. Your mirrors give you a crucial sense of your distance to buildings, obstacles or other road users, as well as how quickly or slowly they might be moving towards you or away from you, and whether or not they’re aware of your presence. 

That’s exactly why your test examiner will be so strict on making sure you’re using the “mirror, signal, manoeuvre” routine effectively. In other words, it’s about ensuring that you’re properly assessing the safety of a movement before you start making it – not during, and certainly not after.  

Some of the most common mistakes (once again) often revolve around their usage on dual-carriageways and roundabouts:

  • Failing to check your mirrors on a dual-carriageway before you change lanes – or changing lanes regardless – causing a nearby vehicle to slow down to avoid a collision
  • Failing to check your mirrors before trying to change lanes on a roundabout when a vehicle is directly alongside you, requiring your examiner to take control to avoid a collision
  • Leaving a roundabout without checking your mirrors, risking cutting into the path of a vehicle existing along with you

3. Not moving off safely

It’s all too easy to pick up a major fault before you’ve even properly got onto the roads. That might seem unfair, but it’s a situation that’s reflective of real life, too – moving out onto the road is one of the most dangerous jobs that drivers complete every day, especially since some environments are a lot harder to navigate than simple parking bays. 

That means you need to be able to move off safely while making the correct observations, either from the side of the road, on a slope or hill, or from behind a parked vehicle, requiring you to move off at an angle. 

Here are some of the most common errors that entrants often make: 

  • Pulling off from the side of the road without checking blind spots (or just in general, failing to make blind spot checks where they’re required)
  • Moving from behind a parked vehicle, into the path of a moving vehicle – causing the driver to have to brake sharply
  • Not making any rear observations when moving off following an emergency stop

In general, moving off safely requires a healthy amount of caution, proper checks, and then decisive action. Note that “decisive” doesn’t necessarily mean “fast” – so bear that one in mind!

While these are the most common criteria by which you can fail your driving test, they’re still far from the only ones – so make sure you do plenty of reading up in advance of your test, and if you can, get some real-world practice out on the roads with someone who’s experienced and qualified enough to accompany you. 

As long as you’re careful, once you’ve passed your test, you’ll hopefully be able to get many years of service out of your first car. But when it inevitably reaches the end of its operational lifespan, or even if you just fancy upgrading from your first car, rest assured that we’ll always be here to help. 

With more than 40 years of experience behind us, we’ve refined our process to make sure it’s never been easier to scrap your car. All you need to do is enter your car reg and postcode into the fields on our site, and we’ll have your scrap car quote to you in seconds. So… curious to find out how much your car is worth?

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