The Top 5 Reasons People Failed Their Driving Test 2016/17

Traffic signs with warnings

You’ve passed your theory, completed hours of lessons and memorised the highway code (sort of). Now, it’s time for the main event: the practical driving test. This can be a nerve-wracking 40 minutes in which your ability to observe, judge and navigate the road will be examined by a stranger with a clipboard. Hopefully, your instructor has trained you well for this moment, but there are a couple of extra things to consider that will help you on the big day.

First off, make sure you’re fully aware of the changes that came into effect on December 4th. Though studies have shown that the new driving test pass rate is almost identical to the old one, it’s always good to be aware of the specifics of the test.

Next, it’s always good to know the most common issues that stumped those who came before you. Thanks to a recent government report, we’re all the wiser.

So, here we go, the top 5 reasons people failed their driving test in the last 12 months:

#5 Moving Off Safely

A frequent presence on the top 10 list, this issue peaked in 2016-17 as a problem area for test takers.

  • How is it tested? At a number of points in the test, the examiner will request that you pull up at the side of the road. Once this has been carried out safely, the examiner is watching how you go about re-joining traffic. Setting off correctly involves making sure the car is ready, carrying out the classic mirror-signal-manoeuvre, judging when it is safe to move off and doing so with good control of the car.
  • Example of a fail: Indicating that you intend to pull out but waiting for traffic to pass you by, thus creating confusion for other road users, causing them to alter their driving.
  • Tips to consider: Always consult mirrors and check your blind spot before setting off. Use distance and speed of other traffic to judge the appropriate moment for you to make your move. Only indicate when you are sure it is safe to set off and pull out in a timely manner.

#4 Junctions (Turning Right)

Bird's-eye view of a road junction

Junctions make a double appearance on this list and those involving a right turn can be a particularly daunting prospect. Not to worry, though! With good timing and correct procedure, junctions of all shapes and sizes can be a doddle.

  • How is it tested? Quite self-explanatory, this one: you’ll approach a junction and the examiner will ask you to turn right. It’s time to use mirror-signal-manoeuvre’s fancier sibling: mirror-signal-position-speed-look. Once you’ve judged it is ok to emerge, use correct indication and keep to a safe speed.
  • Example of a fail: Pulling out into the junction too quickly, forcing other traffic to slow down or stop.
  • Tips to consider: The sooner you notice that you are approaching a junction the better, so keep an eye out for signs. It’s important to take note of the width of the road (whether your lane fits 1 or 2 cars) and position yourself accordingly. Take right turns slower than you would a left.

#3 Control (Steering)

Should your hands be at 10 and 2? 9 and 3?? As long as it’s safe, it’s best to go with whatever position gives you control and comfort.

  • How is it tested? As you would imagine, this is an aspect of your driving that is monitored throughout the test. There is a certain amount of personal choice when it comes to a driver’s push and pull technique, just make sure you’re consistent. By the time you take the test this is probably something that comes naturally anyway.
  • Example of a fail: The car is moving and you don’t have any hands on the wheel. ALWAYS have at least one hand on the wheel.
  • Tips to consider: Different speeds require different levels of steering. Try not to cross your arms over one another too much.

#2 Mirrors (Change Direction)  

Car wing mirror going through dark tunnel with lights

When driving, your mirrors are your best friend – allowing you to be aware of everything going on around you and keeping you wise to any potential hazards. However, like all relationships, this one requires a delicate balance. This may be why use of mirrors (or lack thereof) is one of the main reasons people slip-up on their test.

  • How is it tested? You should be checking your mirrors frequently but they are particularly vital when changing lanes, overtaking and using junctions. Before setting off or changing direction, the examiner wants to see that you consult your mirrors in order to judge when it is safe to move and what speed is required.
  • Example of a fail: Turning left without checking mirrors first.
  • Tips to consider: At the beginning of the test, make sure you adjust every mirror to your preferred position. Try to maintain a balance between consistently checking your mirrors but not focusing on them too much.

#1 Junctions (Observation)

This pesky point has been the number 1 cause of failed tests for the last 10 years. 10 years! That statistic should motivate you to get your mirror-signal-manoeuvre technique down.

  • How is it tested? Frequently. Throughout the test, keep an eye out for signs, lights or new traffic that may indicate you are approaching a junction. Consider the speed and distance of surrounding traffic when deciding how to proceed.
  • Example of a fail: Noticing a junction too late and being forced to stop abruptly, in a way that endangers other road users or pedestrians.
  • Tips to consider: In residential areas it can be harder to spot junctions, so keep an eye out for road markings or gaps in housing as clues. Whether turning left or right, you need to be checking your mirrors before and after emerging from a junction. Be particularly careful at pedestrian crossings and make sure you know the rules surrounding each type.

Taking Your Test

There you have it, the main culprits that dashed the hopes of some of those who came before you. Obviously it’s important to polish up on all aspects of your driving, but statistics don’t lie and it might be helpful to pay particular attention to these areas. Master those junctions, keep checking your mirrors and, yes, study the highway code. Before taking the test, be sure to check out the best ways to Avoid Test Day Nerves. If you’re thinking about taking lessons in the upcoming months, it’s a good idea to read up on the pros and cons of learning to drive in winter.

The location of your test can determine the different skills you will be required to show. Our post on Driving in the City Vs Driving in the Country can give you an idea of what these may be. Or perhaps you want to know your chances of snagging a weekend test? If you feel like you’ve failed during the test, know what your options are. Check out the average number of attempts it takes people to pass the test, it might put your mind at ease. It’s also a good idea to weigh up if a manual or automatic car is suitable for you. Armed with this information and a full understanding of the new test format, there’s no reason you can’t ace it! If you’ve failed your test and don’t feel it was conducted fairly, you might have grounds to appeal your driving test.

Perhaps you’ve already passed your test, and would like to know about the best type of sat nav for your needs? Or, you might be planning a trip, and need to know about using your European licence in the UK. At PassMeFast, we’re here to steer you in the right direction.

By Isobel Robb

Isobel enjoys the freedom of the open road and loves driving to new places. She's here to offer helpful hints and tips to improve your motoring skills. When not keeping up to date with the latest driving info you can find her discovering new restaurants or exhausting her Netflix subscription.