The (latest) Top 10 Reasons that People Fail Their Driving Test

We’ve put together the details behind that sentence starting with, “I regret to say that on this occasion…” to help you avoid those easy-to-fall-into pitfalls on the day of your driving test.

You’ve woken up and then suddenly, you’re a bag of nerves. Why? Because today’s the day. After all that driving theory and those hours spent behind the wheel with your instructor, today is your practical driving test.

We know it’s easy to say but…breathe. If you relax, and you’ve practiced enough of your new-found skills you are more likely to pass than if you’re a curled-up ball of nerves and stress. Remember that your examiner actually wants you to pass. As do we, of course.

Facts and Figures

This month’s blog is a “heads up” The latest, 2018/2019 pass rates have recently been published by the Driving Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and they make for some interesting reading.

The pass rate currently stands at 45.8%. Interestingly, it’s slightly down on recent years (it has previously varied between 46-47%), which may – or may not – have something to do with the changes brought into the practical test a couple of years ago. You now have to drive without turn-by-turn directions for 20 minutes rather than 10, show that you can use a sat nav and answer the “show me, tell me” questions whilst driving.

Also, the reversing manoeuvres have changed. A good thing, as many inexperienced drivers considered reversing around a corner as pretty hellish.

If you’d like to avoid being one of the 54.2 failure rate, we thought you’d like to know the top 10 reasons why it happens:

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1. Junctions – Observation

If you’ve arrived at a junction and fail to demonstrate effective observation and that it’s now 100% safe to put your car into first gear and move off, your examiner will not be impressed.

2. Mirrors – Changing Direction

You know the drill: mirror-signal-manoeuvre. It’s vital to show that you’re using both your rear-view and your wing mirrors – and that you react appropriately to what you see. Use your mirrors before you pull out, change direction, increase speed, move into another lane…practically all the time, in other words.

3. Control – Steering.

Failure to maintain a steady course will not go down too well. Following the contour of the kerb is important. So, whilst avoiding gripping the steering wheel like grim death, ensure that you demonstrate that you’re in control of the steering rather than the other way around.

4. Junctions – Turning Right.

Yes, those pesky junctions again. You’ll be crossing the path of the traffic and it can be nerve-wracking for a novice. But you’re not a beginner, so remember to position your vehicle correctly, watching out for motorcyclists and cyclists as you do so. And pedestrians, of course.

5. Moving Off – Safely.

Whilst many test-takers demonstrated that they knew how to put their vehicle in gear, find the “biting point” and move off, would-be drivers still failed to move off safely. Check your mirrors. Turn fully in your seat and look behind you to make extra certain that nothing is in your blind spot. Then check again as you move off.

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6. Response to Signals – Traffic Lights.

A common mistake this one, and quite an easy one to do. Anticipating a red light is important so observation is key here. Also, make sure that you avoid waiting at a green filter light when it’s safe to proceed and also that you move away and over the stop line when it’s all systems go. Don’t broach the cyclists’ area, either.

7. Moving Off – Control.

If you keep stalling when trying to move off, you’ll get marked down. A lack of control is also demonstrated by forgetting to take off the handbrake, rolling backwards or failing to put the car in gear. Practice, practice, practice until it’s second nature.

8. Positioning – Normal Driving.

If the lanes are marked, you must drive in the middle. Straying out and straddling lanes will be penalised. If they’re not marked, assume the position that best suits the size and the condition of the road. For example, keep well to the left on a narrow country lane.

9. Response to Road Markings.

You’ll incur faults if you fail to follow the rules on the road. Never cross the solid white centre lines on the road, or stop in a yellow box junction when the exit isn’t clear. If there are directional arrows – follow them.

10. Reverse Park – Control.

You may be asked to parallel park, park in a bay or pull up on the right-hand side of the road, reverse for 2 car lengths and then re-join the traffic. If you badly misjudge these or show a significant loss of control, this is a serious fault, unfortunately. However, your driving instructor will ensure that you’re competent in this area before he or she lets you take your test, so don’t worry.

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So, there you are. The full list.

What’s your weak spot? Where do you need to practice more? Remember that your driving test examiner is looking for a future competent and safe driver. Conquer the above errors and you’ll be on your way.


From the latest stats available, 18,922 driving test candidates passed with 0 faults. Zero. Nada. Zilch. Yes, they did NOTHING wrong. To these people, we salute you. Would you like a job as a driving instructor with Steering Clear?