Nobody wants to hear those fateful words “I’m sorry to tell you but on this occasion you have not been successful.” Here at JSF Driving School we figured that during lessons we are usually so busy being positive that we rarely talk directly about how you actually fail your driving test – the top ten reasons why learners do fail!  

Just recently though, we’ve had a few learner drivers ask us about faults, and the most common problems causing test failures, so we thought we’d write a quick blog countdown of the top ten reasons for failure!

The Failure Facts

The overall pass rate for the driving test nationally is 42%, with the first time pass rate being even lower. That means, if our maths is correct, 58% of UK learners fail their driving test at some point… quite a shocking figure!

So How Do You Fail Your Driving Test?

You’ll fail your driving test if you make 16 or more driving faults, or manage to clock up a serious or dangerous fault. A dangerous fault involves actual danger to you, the driving examiner, the public or property, whilst a serious fault could be potentially dangerous. Driving faults are not potentially dangerous, but if you make the same fault throughout your test it could become a serious fault.

Generally, reasons for failing can be put down to:

lack of experience

lack of technique

nerves on the day

not being confident in your ability to pass.

Luck shouldn’t come in to it, which is why it’s always best to listen to the advice of your driving instructor who will let you know when you are test ready, and will aim to get you a first time test pass.

Okay, so here’s the top 10 countdown, in no particular order of popularity.

No.1 Fail – Inappropriate actions at junctions and crossroads.

Caused by not looking ahead and anticipating. You end up taking either a rushed, late or inappropriate response, the most common test fail being stopping over the line at junctions. You need to be able to think ahead and read the road, so that you can demonstrate the techniques and methods involved in this situation. There’s a lot going on. By slowing down you’ll give yourself more time to go through your procedures, view the road ahead and respond accordingly.

No.2 Fail – Manoeuvres.

You need to avoid hitting the curb abruptly and mounting the pavement whilst maintaining all-round observation. This is the part of the test where you’re in complete control of events, so failures are usually due to rushing and lack of confidence. By keeping the car as slow as possible you maintain control, whilst being able to keep a constant look out for traffic and pedestrians whilst making effective observations out the rear window. The old party trick of only learning some of the required manoeuvres can easily backfire, as every single manoeuvre appears in the top failure list, so always practice until you are completely confident performing them all.

No.3 Fail – Clearance.

Examiners will score you on how you manage distances when passing other road users so this is a common cause of failure. Just slightly too close and you’ll be given 1 minor. 3 or more of the same fault can result in a failure. Judged as way to close, then you’ll receive either a serious or a dangerous and fail instantly. It’s well worthwhile getting to know your vehicle width, being confident about your road positioning, and reading the road ahead to avoid swerving or getting yourself into situations where width becomes an issue.

No.4 Fail – Moving off from a stationary position.

You’ll be asked to pull over and park on the left at some point in the test, a seemingly easy task, but one that can result in failure. The examiner will note lack of mirror checks, inappropriate indication, lack of observation, abrupt mounting of the curb, positioning, use of gears and procedures, and use of blind spot, amongst other things. Again, experience and confidence will show.

No.5 – Use of speed.

Experience counts for a lot with this fail. You’ll be expected to drive at appropriate speeds on city or town roads, on narrow residential roads with hazards such as parked cars, and A roads. Extremely slow or fast speeds will cause a fail, but adjusting your speed to different road situations is just as important.

No.6 – Inappropriate use of mirrors or observation.

The occasional mirror use miss may result in a minor, but depending on the situation, lack of observation can result in failure and an instant test fail. Turning, lane changes, moving off, all require mirror use, including checking your blind spot, with a correct response to the information gathered. Failure to do this can give you an immediate fail.

No.7 – Incorrect use of gears and clutch.

Lack of experience and not knowing your engine sound is the cause of failure here. Holding down your clutch too much or too little causing excessive coast can result in a failure. Correct use of gears for your speed, situation and engine is important so that you don’t lose control. A stall may not cause a test failure, but several may, and a stall in a hazardous situation will.

No.8 – Incorrect positioning.

This applies to your general positioning in the lane itself as well as to your positioning at roundabouts, at junctions and on bends. On a test, if you find yourself in the wrong lane or realise that you are late in preparation for a junction don’t panic, rush and suddenly swerve to get the correct lane or turn into that junction! Just carry on and let the examiner know that you are in the wrong, but you need to carry on if you’re to keep it safe for you and others. It then becomes the examiners problem in that he has to change the route.

No.9 – Incorrect steering.

For steering, wheel spin between the hands when turning is not good. A push and pull method, with a general ten-to-two on the wheel is preferred to show that you are in full control of the car. Linked to No.8 above, once you have mastered the techniques, experience in different road situations is the key.

No.10 – Eyesight check.

Nearly forgot this one! At the start of your test you will be given an eyesight test where you have to be able to read a number plate of a stationary vehicle at a distance of approximately 20 metres. If you fail to read the first plate you’ll be given another plate to read. If you fail that then the examiner will measure out the distance exactly for the third number plate before you are asked to read it. Fail that third plate and the examiner will not proceed with the test. If you need to wear glasses or lenses for the eyesight test, make sure you bring them with you and wear them throughout the test as it is a legal requirement that you wear corrective lenses when you are driving.

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