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Areas Learner Drivers Struggle With The Most

Areas drivers learners struggle with the most featured image

When it comes to learning to drive, things aren’t always smooth sailing. In order to ace the test and become a safe driver, learners have to build up a large range of skills—some of which are easier to grasp than others. Though all learners are different in the way they take to driving, we have spotted several problem areas that they all tend to struggle with. If not properly addressed, these problems can become a huge roadblock in your journey towards becoming a fully qualified driver.

We’re going to walk you through the areas learner drivers struggle with the most. We’ll even throw in some tips and tricks to help you overcome these struggles yourself!


Areas learner drivers struggle with the most

1. Manoeuvres

Learners struggling with driving test manoeuvres

To say that this topped the list of areas learner drivers struggle with the most would be an understatement. Over half of learners who come to us with problem areas highlight the driving test manoeuvres as the bane of their existence. It’s not surprising, of course. The manoeuvres require a lot of finesse and practice. They’re certainly one of the most advanced areas of learning to drive.

In the driving test, you’ll be asked to demonstrate one of the following: bay parking, parallel parking or pulling up on the right. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also a potential emergency stop to contend with. And that’s not all. Throughout the manoeuvre, the examiner will be keeping a watchful eye on you to make sure you’re completing observations, maintaining control of the vehicle and positioning yourself correctly. Given that there’s so much room for error, and that you could fail the test for messing it all up, it’s easy to see why so many learners struggle with the manoeuvres so much.

Our tips and tricks

The manoeuvres are difficult—we’re certainly not denying that. With practice, however, they will get easier. Your muscle memory will start to catch up and you’ll find yourself going through the motions without even realising it. To get to this point, however, we’d recommend that you spend an hour or so studying the manoeuvres properly. You need to know reference points, memorise the steps involved and also know what the examiner will be looking for during your demonstration.

Feeling overwhelmed? Not to worry! Below, we’ve included our handy manoeuvre guides that will take you through each manoeuvre, step by step. Study these guides carefully and you’ll be on your way to mastering the manoeuvres in no time!

*Though these manoeuvres are no longer on the current driving test, it’s still worth practising them.


2. Roundabouts and junctions

Different types of junctions

You can’t go far in the UK without encountering some type of junction. That’s what makes it so frustrating, then, for learners who struggle to deal with them. A large portion of learners have come to us for help with mastering the junctions and, more specifically, overcoming their fear of roundabouts. So, what exactly is it about junctions and roundabouts that learners can’t quite get to grips with?

No matter what type of junction you come across, whether it’s a crossroad or T-junction, you’ll need to put some serious thought into your actions quickly and effectively. For starters, you’ll need to make sure that your road positioning is correct on the approach. On a roundabout, for example, you’ll need to be in the right lane if you want to take the right exit. You’ll also need to move off when it’s safe to do so—this in particular is something that learners struggle with. Though there might be a gap in traffic at a junction, many learners start to hesitate because they’re not sure if they’ve got enough time to safely emerge.

Our tips and tricks

As with any other driving skill, the best way to master a problem area (other than general practice) is to understand the theoretical side of things first. To start with, it will help if you get to know the different types of junctions you might encounter on the road, how they can vary (from being open to closed), the signs involved and what actions you need to take when you come across them. You can do this by reading our extensive guide on dealing with tricky junctions!

If, like many of our learners, you struggle with roundabouts in particular, head on over to our guide covering the different types of roundabouts out there and how to approach each one safely and confidently.

Finally, if you want some tips on how to avoid hesitating at junctions (and getting driving test faults for it in your test), read up on undue hesitation!


3. Hill starts 

Learners struggling with hill starts

Next up on the list of areas learner drivers struggle with most is hill starts. Unless you live in a particularly flat area, you’re bound to encounter roads with inclines at some point in your life. You may even need to pull over on one, which means you’ll need to be able to complete a hill start. In other words, you’ll need to be able to safely move off uphill. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, not exactly.

Moving off on a flat road is no big deal. You disengage the handbrake, slowly find the biting point and apply gas, and then you’re on your merry way (observations permitting, of course). It’s a completely different story on a hill, however. When you take off the handbrake and start to find the biting point, the sensation of the car sliding back down the hill can be utterly terrifying. During this moment, many learners panic and try to rush through the motions of getting the car going. And what does this lead to? Yep, you guessed it—stalling the car.

Our tips and tricks

Though it’s certainly easier said than done, you should try to remain calm when doing a hill start. You’re just going through the same steps as you would when moving off from a normal road. The only difference is that you’ll need slightly more revs in order to get going. If you’re learning in a manual car, it can be tempting to bring the clutch up too quickly to try and get moving faster. As we highlight in our manual hill start walkthrough, this is something you’ll want to avoid. If you’re learning in an auto, check out our guide on how to do a hill start in an automatic car instead.

Try to bear in mind as well that most modern cars come with hill start assist, which should make the process a bit easier. When you disengage the handbrake, the assist will hold the car temporarily. This should give you more than enough time to find the biting point, apply the gas and be on your way. If you don’t know if your instructor’s car has this feature, ask them. If you’re using your own car, you’ll find this information in your vehicle’s handbook.


4. Confidence and nerves

Emojis showing lack of confidence and nerves

Another area that learners come to us for help with is confidence. Many of our learners have had lessons in the past with bad instructors, have taken a long break from driving, or have had the wrong type of course—leaving them with a lack of trust in their own abilities and a bad case of nerves. Even beginners suffer from these types of feelings. Whilst some people are just born to sit behind the wheel, others tend to overthink everything. Whether it’s due to how intimidating the roads can seem, or from the thought of causing a mass car pile-up because of one tiny mistake.

The worst part about lacking confidence behind the wheel isn’t just that you feel physically or emotionally drained—it’s that it ends up having a detrimental effect on the way in which you pick up driving skills. The more nervous you get, the more likely you are to make a mistake. As you can imagine, this starts to create a vicious cycle that doesn’t seem likely to end any time soon.

Our tips and tricks

There are plenty of ways in which you can boost your confidence, get rid of your nerves and become the best driver you were meant to be. For starters, if you’ve not yet chosen a driving instructor, make sure you pick a DVSA-approved one. You’ll also want to make sure that you’re learning at a suitable pace. Hourly lessons tend to make it difficult to properly pick up skills, so you might want to think about an intensive or semi-intensive course instead. If you’ve got the right insurance cover, you should also try practising outside of lessons with friends or family.

If you’re still not completely in the right headspace for learning to drive, or you’re still struggling to shake off those nasty butterflies in your stomach, here are a few handy guides that might help:


5. Use of mirrors

Learners struggling with using car mirrors

When you’re behind the wheel, it’s important that you check your mirrors on a regular basis. You need to be aware of what’s going on around you at all times. You never know when a hazard might appear, so you need to be on the ball. Additionally, when you take action on the road, e.g., making a right-hand turn, you need to know that it’s safe to do so. If you’ve spotted a driver tailgating you, you know that it’s absolutely not safe to stop right away.

Though it seems simple enough, this is an area that stumps plenty of people. In fact, it was one of the top reasons why learners failed the test in 2016/17. During the test, examiners are keeping a careful eye on how frequently you check your mirrors. More specifically, they’re checking to make sure that you look at them whenever you move off, change lanes, overtake and so on. If they catch you taking action on the road without consulting your mirrors first, they’ll give you a driving test fault.

Our tips and tricks

Observations are key when it comes to driving. If you intend to do anything on the road, you should check your mirrors first. It doesn’t matter if you’re pretty sure that the road is empty—you still need to make sure that there aren’t any errant cyclists coming up from behind you when you intend to make a left-hand turn. Even when you’re just driving down a long stretch of road, you should still be glancing in your rear-view and side mirrors to maintain an awareness of the road behind you.

There are a couple of ways in which you can ensure you’re using your mirrors correctly. For starters, you’ll want to make sure that you’re actually familiar with the car mirrors at your disposal and how you should be using them. Next, you’ll want to keep the MSM routine at the front of your mind whenever you’re behind the wheel. If you intend to change speed or position, tell yourself that you need to check your Mirrors, then Signal before finally going through with the Manoeuvre.


6. Bad habits

Examples of bad driving habits

Everyone in the world has some type of bad habit. For the most part, they’re something that we can laugh at, sigh at, or try to swear off for all of five minutes. When it comes to driving, however, bad habits can lead to life or death situations. (Yes, it might sound dramatic, but it doesn’t make it any less true.) Whether it’s forgetting to check your mirrors when making a turn, not putting your seatbelt on properly, or checking your mobile every now and then, these habits can make you a hazard to other road users—not to mention lead to a serious accident.

Failing to address a bad driving habit can lead to you failing the driving test over and over again. Examiners don’t miss anything when they’re in the car with you. They’ll see right through to your bad habits and give you faults for them. It’s not just about the test, either. You’ve got to bear in mind that you have a responsibility to other road users to be as safe on the road as you can be.

Our tips and tricks

If you’re not entirely sure whether or not you actually have a bad habit, check out our list of top 10 bad driving habits you should stop right now. If you’re nodding your head at one or more, you need to note them down. Then, hand the list over to your driving instructor (or the person supervising you) and ask them to keep their eye out. If you have someone telling you off on a regular basis, it should be enough to eventually help you curb the habit entirely.

If you’ve previously failed your test, you’ve already got a potential list of bad habits. Your driving test mark sheet will contain a list of the areas in which you picked up faults in. If you picked up more than one fault in a particular area, you know that it’s something you need to improve on.

Still struggling to overcome your bad driving habits? We’d recommend taking a refresher course with a DVSA-approved instructor!


7. Lane discipline

Learners struggling with lane discipline

Next on our list of areas learner drivers struggle with the most is lane discipline. Dual carriageways, motorways and multi-lane roundabouts all have lanes, separated by solid or broken white lines. If you’re following correct lane discipline, you’ll keep within the lines of your lane and also make sure that you change lanes (to match your intended destination) safely, with time to spare.

Unfortunately, when learners start to tackle motorways and roundabouts, for example, their nerves can sometimes cause them to forget to pay attention to simple things like their positioning. Before they know it, they’re straddling two lanes and wondering why the drivers behind them are beeping furiously. This is something that most learners tend to shake off quickly enough.

What is slightly more challenging to tackle, however, is changing lanes. Instead of looking at the road ahead and anticipating the actions they will need to take early on, such as switching to a certain lane to take a certain exit, they wait until the last possible second to move. This can cause major problems for other road users, potentially even leading to an accident.

Our tips and tricks

When it comes to changing lanes, preparation is key. Keep an eye out for road signs when you’re driving. If you spot one that tells you a roundabout is up ahead, for example, you’ll know that you may need to change lanes in order to get to the right exit. Once you know this, you can follow the MSM routine to move into the correct lane—check your Mirrors, Signal your intention and then Manoeuvre into the lane. If you’d like more help on which lane you should be in and when, check out some handy tutorials in our list of top YouTube channels for learner drivers.

Don’t start panicking if you ever find that you’re in the wrong lane. If it’s too late for you to safely and legally change lanes, stick to the one you’re in and let your instructor (or sat nav) guide you back onto your intended route. Don’t worry if this happens on your test. You won’t get marked down for going in the wrong direction. The examiner will only penalise you if you do something that could endanger yourself or other road users.


8. Clutch control

Pictures showing clutch control and gearstick

Last on our list of areas learner drivers struggle with the most is an unsurprising one: clutch control. If you’re learning in a manual car, you’ve likely encountered this problem yourself (unless you’re in the minority of learners who seem to just get clutch control from the very first lesson). Unfortunately, a poor grasp of clutch control isn’t something that you can just breeze over. If you don’t master it, it will cause serious problems further down the line.

So, what is it that makes clutch control such a pain? In order to move a manual car, you need to depress the clutch pedal and then slowly bring it back up until you feel the biting point. As you do this, you’ll apply some pressure to the gas pedal. Unfortunately, though a simple process on paper, it can often be difficult to achieve the perfect balance. If you bring the clutch pedal up too quickly, you’ll end up stalling the car. Whilst it might not seem like a big deal on quiet residential roads, it’s another matter entirely when you do it on a multi-lane roundabout and end up holding up a queue of traffic.

Our tips and tricks

The main reason why learners struggle with clutch control is because they let their panic get the better of them. On quiet roads, clutch control is simple enough to get to grips with. Upon moving to busier roads, however, the urge to not hold up traffic often leads to learners rushing through the steps in order to get going. All too often, this results in them stalling the car. Instead of worrying about what other road users think of you, you should instead focus on driving as safely as you can. Unless your instructor tells you that you’re moving too slowly, feel free to take your time.

If you’re struggling to wrap your head around the intricacies of clutch control (been there, done that), then we’ve got a couple of things that will help. Start off with our guide on getting to grips with clutch control. It will take you through finding the biting point, pulling off and using your clutch in traffic. Once you’ve made your way through that, move onto our top tips for clutch control.

Still can’t make heads or tails of the dreaded clutch pedal? You might be destined to learn in an automatic car instead!


And there you have it—our full list of areas learner driver struggle with the most, along with some (hopefully) handy advice to help you overcome them if they’re one of your problem areas too. For more advice, head on over to our other driving tips and keep an eye on the PassMeFast blog!

By Bethany Hall

Whether you’re a learner or a pro driver, Bethany is here to help. From defensive driving to the Highway Code, she’ll tell you everything you need know about driving. If she’s not on the road, you’ll probably find Bethany with her head in a book or binge-watching the latest TV show.

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