Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Three common mistakes made in driving tests – and how you can avoid them

For the UK, driving is still a hugely popular mode of transport, despite recent downturns in interest amongst younger generations; 1.6 million practical driving tests are carried out yearly.

However, the average fail rate for practical driving tests sits just above 50%, in some cases reaching as high as 54%. This might be a concerning statistic for learning drivers preparing for their practical test – so what tends to trip up prospective drivers in their test? Here are four of the most common reasons for a test failure, and ways in which you can keep yourself from failing to them also.


In 2021, the single greatest cause for failure in the practical driving test was observation at junctions. Simply put, observation at junctions is an examiner’s evaluation of your awareness in approaching junctions, and decision-making with regard to those decisions. You might have looked one way before pulling out; you might have missed a cyclist approaching behind to your left; you might not have noticed pedestrians on your right, intending to cross before you pulled out. These constitute a major fault, owing to the risk of injury to either driver or pedestrian from inattentiveness. Taking your time to assess your environment is vital, as is using ‘mirror-signal-manoeuvre’ before setting off.


‘Mirror-signal-manoeuvre’ could well be a test-saver for another common way in which many people fail their practical year on year: failing to use mirrors when changing direction. The pressure of the test may get to those attempting it, causing them to undertake potentially dangerous movements, from pulling out of a roundabout without checking for traffic on the left, to changing lanes on a dual carriageway without using mirrors to see if the lane is clear and beyond. Checking mirrors needs to become a habit for new drivers, to ensure they never miss a potential hazard before carrying out a manoeuvre.

Turning Right

Interestingly enough, turning right is a common reported reason for test failure – but turning left is not. This is commonly a result of incorrect position in the road; drivers want to position themselves as close to the centre of the road as possible when turning right, and not doing so can result in the obstruction of traffic as you cross lanes to make a turn. Situational awareness is key again here, as reading the road to understand where you need to be at your next junction can save you from getting stuck in the wrong place.

Other Aspects of the Test

An often under-studied part of the driving test is the ‘show me, tell me’ portion, where the examiner asks you two questions regarding car safety – one ‘show me’ question, and one ‘tell me’ question. These can range from demonstrating the windshield wipers to communicating your understanding of recommended air pressure for the tyres on your car. Though this may be a small portion of your test, you should nonetheless dedicate some time to understanding the locations of car features, and other such safety requirements.

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