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  • Writer's picturePaul Andrews

Top 10 reasons why learners are failing a driving test in the UK

Updated: Sep 16, 2023


Failing a driving test

Statistics from the DVSA show that the most common errors include learner drivers not checking their mirrors enough and poor road positioning.


You need to be a good driver to pass the driving test. If you regularly make any of the mistakes explained in this guide during your driving lessons or private practice, you’re not ready to take your driving test.


Use the examples with your driving instructor and supervising driver to help identify any areas where you still need to develop your knowledge, skills and understanding.


Here's a look at the top 10 reasons...

1. Not making effective observations at junctions


What you must be able to do

You must always:

  • make effective observations before moving into a new road

  • make sure it is safe before proceeding

Any mistakes you make in this area will be counted under the ‘Junctions - Observations’ fault on your driving test result.


These are some examples of mistakes that would count towards this fault.


Failing to judge the speed of an approaching vehicle

When you turn either left or right from a minor road, you make observations but fail to judge the speed of the approaching vehicle. You move off, forcing the vehicle to slow significantly.


Entering a roundabout with a vehicle approaching from the right

When you approach a roundabout, there’s a vehicle approaching from the right. You still enter the roundabout, causing the vehicle approaching to slow down.


Making no effective observations at all

When you emerge from a junction, you make no effective observations at all. This causes:

  • a vehicle approaching from either the left or right to do an emergency stop to avoid hitting you

  • the driving examiner to use the dual controls to brake

Making no observations when joining a dual carriageway from a slip road

When you’re on a slip road to join a dual carriageway, you enter the dual carriageway without making any observations, or you do not give way to the traffic on the main carriageway.


Going straight ahead at a crossroads

When you approach a crossroads, you do not recognise that it’s a junction. You emerge and cross the crossroads without making any observations to the right or left.


Looking too late

When you emerge from a junction, you look too late (either left or right) for the observations to be effective, as you’re already partly into the next road.


Repeatedly not looking left when turning left

Throughout the test, when you turn left from a minor road into a busier road, you do not make any effective observations to the left. This means you’re unaware of any parked vehicles, obstructions or other possible hazards.


Driving safety facts More than 1 in 3 collisions reported in Great Britain in 2021 were caused by people driving not looking properly. Source: Factors contributing to collisions and casualties (table RAS0701).


2. Not using mirrors correctly when changing direction


What you must be able to do

You must always:

  • make full and effective use of all the mirrors

  • check the mirrors carefully before signalling, changing direction or changing speed

  • use the ‘mirror - signal - manoeuvre’ routine effectively

Any mistakes you make in this area when changing direction will be counted under the ‘Mirrors - Change direction’ fault on your driving test result.


These are some examples of mistakes that would count towards this fault.


Not using mirrors when exiting a roundabout

You need to take the right-hand exit on a large multi-lane roundabout. When you move from the right-hand lane to the left-hand lane to exit the roundabout, you make no rear or passenger-side observations or mirror checks.


Causing a vehicle to slow when changing lanes on a dual carriageway

When you’re on a dual carriageway, you check your mirrors when changing lanes, but there’s a vehicle approaching in the lane you want to move into. You start to change lanes anyway, causing the approaching vehicle to slow down.


Trying to change lane on a roundabout when a vehicle is directly alongside

When you’re driving on a roundabout, you try to change lanes when there’s a vehicle directly alongside you. The driving examiner has to take control of the steering wheel to stop a collision.


Exiting a roundabout without checking mirrors

When you exit a roundabout, you do not check your mirrors and cut across the path of a closely following vehicle to the left-hand side of the car.


3. Not moving off safely


What you must be able to do

You must be able to move off safely while making the correct observations:

  • from the side of the road

  • on a slope or hill (gradient)

  • from behind a parked vehicle, so you have to move off at an angle

Any mistakes you make in this area will be counted under the ‘Moving off - Safety’ fault on your driving test result.


These are some examples of mistakes that would count towards this fault.


Moving off from behind a parked vehicle into the path of an approaching vehicle

When you move off from behind a parked vehicle, you check your mirrors and blind spot, but still move off into the path of an approaching vehicle. This causes the vehicle to significantly slow down.


Repeatedly moving off from the side of the road with no blind spot checks

Throughout the test, you repeatedly move off from the side of the road with no blind spot checks in situations where they’re needed.


Pulling off from the right-hand side of the road, causing an oncoming vehicle to slow or stop

After the ‘pull up on the right’ exercise, you move off with either an oncoming vehicle or a closely approaching vehicle from behind. This causes the vehicle to severely slow down or stop.


Not making any rear observations when moving off following an emergency stop

After you do the emergency stop exercise, you move off without making any rear observations, having been stationary in the middle of the lane for some time.


4. Incorrect positioning when turning right at junctions


What you must be able to do

  • You must be able to position the car as close to the centre of the road as is safe.

Any mistakes you make in this area will be counted under the ‘Junctions - Turning right’ fault on your driving test result.


These are some examples of mistakes that would count towards this fault.


Positioning in the left-hand lane when turning right at a roundabout

When you need to turn right at a roundabout, you use the left-hand lane when it’s not appropriate, and continue around the roundabout in that lane. This causes confusion to several following vehicles.


Obstructing traffic when you wait to turn right

When you want to turn right into a minor road, you position your car too far to the left while you wait for oncoming traffic to clear. This causes severe delays to the following traffic on a road where it was wide enough for the traffic to pass you on the left.


When you want to turn right at the end of the road, you incorrectly position to the left

When you reach the end of a wide road with no road markings, you position in the left of your lane when you’re actually turning right.


5. Not having proper control of the steering


What you must be able to do

  • You must be able to steer the car as smoothly as possible.

  • You must steer at the appropriate time, as steering too early or late can cause the car to hit the kerb or swing out towards another road user.

Any mistakes you make in this area will be counted under the ‘Control - Steering’ fault on your driving test result.


These are some examples of mistakes that would count towards this fault.


Repeatedly not steering enough or steering late on the approach to junctions when turning left

Throughout the test, when you turn left, you repeatedly understeer, not following the shape of the kerb. This means there’s not enough space for vehicles turning right to fit alongside your car.


Not steering enough when going around a bend

When you drive around a bend at an appropriate speed, you do not apply enough steering. This causes both passenger-side wheels to mount the pavement.


Steering late when turning right into a minor road

When you turn right into a minor road, you steer late and not enough. This causes a ‘swan neck’ effect, and you drive fully onto the wrong side of the new road to correct your position.


Repeatedly mounting the pavement when pulling up on the left

Throughout the test, when you pull up on the left-hand side of the road, you mount the pavement with both passenger-side wheels before the car returns to the road.


Steering late when moving out to pass parked vehicles

When you approach parked vehicles, you steer late and get too close to the parked vehicles.


Driving safety facts

More than 1 in 10 reported collisions in Great Britain in 2021 were caused by someone driving making a poor turn or manoeuvre. Source: Factors contributing to collisions and casualties (table RAS0701).


6. Not responding appropriately to traffic lights


What you must be able to do

  • You must act correctly at traffic lights, checking that the road is clear before you proceed when the green light shows.


Any mistakes you make in this area will be counted under the ‘Response to signs - Traffic lights’ fault on your driving test result.


These are some examples of mistakes that would count towards this fault.


Failing to react to red traffic light

When a red light is clearly showing, you attempt to proceed through the junction.


Stopping after the first white line when there are advanced stop lines for cyclists

At a signal-controlled junction with an advanced stop line to allow cyclists to be positioned ahead of other traffic, you stop beyond the first white line in the area for cyclists.


Not progressing when you’re waiting to turn right at a junction and it’s safe to proceed

When you need to turn right at a junction, you continue to wait in the middle of the junction when the repeater light has turned red and the oncoming traffic has stopped. This causes you to completely block the junction controlled by traffic lights.


Not going ahead when a green light is showing and the junction ahead is clear

When a green light or a green filter light is clearly visible, you continue to wait at a clear junction. You make no attempt to proceed.


Going ahead when a green light is showing but the junction is not clear

When the traffic lights are green, you go ahead, even though the junction is not clear. This then means you’re then blocking the junction when the traffic lights change.


Driving safety facts There were 1,683 casualties in Great Britain in 2021 where people disobeying traffic lights was a factor in the collision. Source: Factors contributing to collisions and casualties (table RAS0701).


7. Not responding correctly to traffic signs


What you must be able to do

  • You must be able to understand and react correctly to all traffic signs.


Any mistakes you make in this area will show as ‘Response to signals - Traffic signs’ in your result.


These are some examples of mistakes that would count towards this fault.


Going to the wrong side of a ‘keep left’ sign

You go to the wrong side of a ‘keep left’ sign in the road.


Ignoring a ‘stop’ or ‘no entry’ sign

You ignore either:

  • a ‘stop’ sign by crossing the line on the road and not making sure the way ahead is clear

  • a ‘no entry’ sign (these are usually at the end of a one-way road, where all traffic would be heading towards you)

Driving in a bus lane

You drive in a bus lane when a sign shows that you cannot use it at that time.


Choosing the wrong lane at a roundabout with clear signage

When you approach a roundabout, you get into the wrong lane when a sign clearly shows which lane you should go in. You then go around the roundabout in the wrong lane.


Acting late or not at all to speed limit changes

You either act far too late or not at all when a clearly visible sign shows a change of speed limit.


8. Poor positioning on the road during normal driving


What you must be able to do

You must be able to:

  • position the car correctly for your intended route

  • position the car in the middle of marked lanes

  • only change lanes when necessary

Any mistakes you make in this area will be counted under the ‘Positioning - Normal driving’ fault on your driving test result.


These are some examples of mistakes that would count towards this fault.


Repeatedly driving too close to the kerb or centre of the road

Throughout the test, you repeatedly drive too close to either:

  • the kerb, putting pedestrians at risk

  • the centre of road, putting oncoming drivers at risk

Unnecessarily driving in the right-hand lane of a dual carriageway

When you drive on a dual carriageway, you unnecessarily drive in the right-hand lane for a considerable length of time.


Cutting across the normal road position when you go ahead at a roundabout with no lane markings

When you go ahead at a roundabout with no lane markings, you ‘straight-line’ the roundabout with no consideration for following vehicles. ‘Straight-lining’ means you drive in a straight line in the road, rather than following the bend of the roundabout.


9. Not responding correctly to road markings


What you must be able to do

  • You must be able to understand and react correctly to all road markings.


Any mistakes you make in this area will be counted under the ‘Response to signals - Road markings’ fault on your driving test result.


These are some examples of mistakes that would count towards this fault.


Not following direction arrows on the road

Example 1

When you’re driving in a lane that is clearly marked to only be used to turn left, you turn to the right.

Example 2

There are 3 lanes ahead of you. The left lane has an arrow pointing left to the city. The centre lane has an arrow pointing straight ahead for the A3. The right lane has an arrow pointing right to York Street. You are being asked to follow directions to the city, but you drive into the centre lane, and still attempt to turn left.


Straddling lanes on a roundabout

When you approach a roundabout, there are clear road markings showing the different lanes. You drive the car so that it’s straddling 2 different lanes.


Crossing double white lines where the line nearer to you is solid

When driving on a road with double white lines marking the centre, and the line nearer to you is solid, you unnecessarily cross it.


Check rule 129 of The Highway Code to see the situations you are allowed to cross a solid white line.


Ignoring a box junction

When you approach a box junction (these have criss-cross yellow lines painted on the road), you enter it either partially or fully when the exit is not clear.


Not following road markings at mini-roundabouts

When you’re approaching and driving around a mini-roundabout, you do not steer correctly because you do not follow the road markings.


10. Not keeping control of the vehicle during reverse parking


What you must be able to do

You must be able to control the car accurately when you:

  • parallel park at the side of the road

  • reverse to park in a parking bay

Any mistakes you make in this area will be counted under the ‘Reverse park - Control’ fault on your driving test result.


These are some examples of mistakes that would count towards this fault.


Wheels ending up on the pavement at the end of a parallel park

When you complete a parallel park, either the front or back wheels (or both) on the passenger side end up on the pavement.


Too many attempts to reposition when parking

When you park in a bay or at the side of the road, you take too many attempts to either:

  • position the car to park within the bay lines

  • position the car close and parallel to the kerb

Losing control of the car when parking in a bay

When you park in a bay, you lose control of the car.


Ending up parking outside of the bay

When you park in a bay, your final parking position is outside of the lines of the bay.


For more information on learning to drive in Minehead, Watchet, Williton, Taunton, Bridgwater and the surrounding Somerset areas speak to Drive It School of Motoring on 01984 555321, email learn@driveit.co.uk or visit our website at www.driveit.co.uk


The Drive It School of Motoring extensive sylabus covers all the core competencies of learning to drive and our instructors will coach learners in the most suitable way for each individual to be confident in taking mock tests and eventually their actual driving test.


Driving School Car, Watchet Harbour
Drive It School of Motoring, Manual & Automatic driving lessons - 01984 555321 www.driveit.co.uk

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