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Top 5 faults that cause people to fail their driving test

There are many things that could cause you to fail a driving test. Even the most prepared, confident driver doesn't always drive away with the result they wanted. I have recently done some training with the DVSA (the people who conduct the tests) about the benefits of doing a mock test and I will write another blog about that soon. For now, I want to help you understand the faults that most commonly come up on failed driving tests so that you have a better idea of where those before you have tripped up. This might just make you aware of how important observations and judgement are when on the road.

Firstly, in case you're not aware, I will just cover briefly how tests are marked. Examiners are highly trained and are constantly making judgements about how safe your driving is. The less safe, the more serious the fault. When you make an error, they take into account the level of risk at that time and the circumstances (e.g. traffic level, weather). Although you will probably be aware that you have made a mistake, you will find it very difficult to judge how the examiner will mark something. Try to focus on your drive, even after an error. This is something that will stand you in good stead for the rest of your driving life. You will make mistakes, others will too, but you need to stay calm and focused. There is a time and a place to reflect on your mistakes, you cannot change the past.

There are actually five categories of fault, only three are marked on the form and only two would be an instant fail.

  1. If there is no risk, it is deemed no fault.

  2. An insignificant risk is deemed not worthy of recording.

  3. A sufficient risk is a driving fault. 16 of these would result in a failed test.

  4. A significant risk is a serious fault - if you pick up one of these it will be a fail.

  5. Actual risk will be a dangerous fault - if you pick up one of these it will be a fail.

Let's talk about those top 5 reasons.

1. Observation at junctions

It could be that you simply didn't look or didn't look carefully enough ('looked but failed to see'). This is not just an issue on driving tests but out in the real world too. How many times have you had someone pull out in front of you when you have been on a lesson? Sometimes the conditions make it difficult to see, for example, looking into direct sunlight. In this case, did you take it more carefully? If it's a closed junction, maybe there are a lot of parked vehicles around, did you take longer to look, especially for bikes? Did you use clues, look for reflections etc? Sometimes people are just not very good at judging the speed and distance of other vehicles, this is a skill that you develop throughout your lessons. Older drivers and those with slower processing are going to find this more difficult. During your lessons, we will have developed a strategy to help you overcome any challenges you may face with this.

2. Use of mirrors - change direction

Think of this as changing position, if you need to steer then you need a mirror check first. This could be around an obstruction like a parked car or when changing lanes. You need to know how you are going to affect others on the road. The key point to note here though is that you could check all your mirrors and still fail because you didn't respond correctly to what you saw. Similar to the junctions situation, if you only take a quick glance you may miss something. Our eyes never take in all the information, there are gaps in everyone's vision, and your brain fills in the rest with what it expects to see. Expect to see something and it's more likely that you will.

3. Control - steering

Learning how to steer correctly is one of the first things you learn on your driving lessons, but some people are better at this than others. On the test, nerves may get the better of you and you struggle to park without mounting the kerb, or you lose control whilst answering the show me question. Loss of steering could also be caused by looking in the mirrors for too long, especially on higher speed roads. This may seem to contradict what I have already said, but shorter, more frequent mirror checks are better than just staring in the mirror.

4. Move off - safety

Whenever you move off, whether it's from a parked position or at traffic lights, you need to do so safely. This is a time where you could significantly affect another road user so take care to keep good control of the car and make sure you are looking around properly. You need to judge the best time to pull out into traffic.

5. Junctions - turning right

Turning right is one of the riskiest things you can do behind the wheel. You have to accurately judge the speed and distance of other traffic to ensure you do not affect them as well as controlling the car properly for the turn and watching out for pedestrians and obstructions. There are many things that could go wrong in this category so take care to get the steps in correctly on the approach.

Reading this isn't going to make you a better driver, but hopefully it has given you an insight into what the risks are on the road. People are failing driving tests on these points because they are driving in an unsafe way, if that was post-test that could mean a collision and people getting hurt. Doing a mock test is a good way to identify if you are picking up any faults in these areas and will give us time to work on them before the real thing. I do focus on these areas during lessons anyway to ensure people are confident and capable of dealing with the risks.


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