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What Happens If You Get Stuck In Traffic On The Driving Test?

View of traffic ahead from windscreen of car

Concerned about what’ll happen if you get stuck in traffic during your driving test? Well, let us clear things up: you’ll get an immediate fail and be banned from the roads for life. Juuust kidding! But, seriously, you’d be surprised how many learners worry about this. When it comes to rush hour tests and the prospect of getting stuck in heavy traffic, the driving myths are ten a penny. The truth is out there, as they say, but it can be pretty hard to find.

Thankfully, though, PassMeFast is here to set the record straight and put your mind at rest. Read on to find out the best (and worst!) case scenarios if you get stuck in traffic on the driving test…

Test timing is everything. …Or is it?

Pile of clocks showing different times
Image source: Jon Tyson

Once you start digging, you’ll find that there are reams of articles available regarding the perfect time to take a driving test. The ultimate truth, though, is that the time you take your practical is not going to determine whether you pass or fail. Stop focusing on factors like this and put your energy into the driving itself.

Sure, different times of day often come with different driving conditions, but you can never really predict what’s going to happen on the UK’s roads! Of course, you’re more likely to find yourself stuck in traffic on the test if your appointment falls around rush hour. So, if your test is scheduled for any time around 9:00am or 5:00pm, you can expect more people to be on the road.

We would urge you not to avoid sitting a driving test at these times for fear of getting caught up in traffic. If you live in a town or city (or plan to drive anywhere other than the middle of nowhere!) they are conditions you need to be able to tackle confidently. Even if you do get stuck in traffic, it’s unlikely you’ll be there for a full 40 minutes.

Trust the examiners

Cartoon red car with woman driving attached to car key

Look, most driving examiners know the roads surrounding the test centre like the back of their hand. It’s in no one’s best interest for you to spend the majority of your driving test stuck in the middle of a traffic jam. It won’t give you the opportunity to show off enough skills and it will be very dull indeed for everyone involved. As a result, the examiners are going to do everything in their power to avoid this scenario.

And their knowledge of the local area is pretty powerful! Even if the roads are completely jammed when it comes time to take your test, we’d put money on most examiners having a few short cuts or alternative routes up their sleeve that can help you swerve the worst of it. They’ve seen it all and done it all, so trust their instincts.

If you do end up driving on extremely busy roads, it’s probably because the examiner wants to see how you handle it. Push aside any fears that you’ll be stuck in the thick of it for the entire test and get on with impressing them!

Don’t sit back and relax!

Cars in stationary traffic

Rather than worrying about it, some learners actually hope to get stuck in traffic on their driving test. Weird, eh? This is largely due to a surprisingly common assumption that if you get stuck in traffic on your test you can get away with doing barely any driving and still achieve a pass. Unfortunately, this is another example of a driving test myth!

First off, even if you do get stuck in traffic on the driving test, you certainly won’t be left with nothing to do. In fact, this kind of scenario requires the use of a variety of skills. What gear should you be in? How close to the car in front is it safe to stop? When should you use the handbrake? The list goes on. So, as you can see, crawling along in chockablock traffic is no walk in the park.

Know which hazards to look out for

When surrounded by other cars, you need to be acutely aware of everything happening around you and be ready to deal with potential hazards. The stressful nature of these situations can cause drivers to be impatient and even angry. As a result, be prepared for dodgy driving and poor decision-making. Fun!

You might notice an increase in tailgating, cars cutting each other off and people ignoring stop signs or changing traffic lights. No matter what others are doing, make sure you maintain a suitable speed for the road in question and leave enough space to brake if hazards should develop.

It’s not just other cars you need to be keeping an eye on, either. Pedestrians and cyclists can very easily go unnoticed when the roads start to get a little chaotic. If you get stuck in traffic on your test, get ready to flaunt those observational skills and defensive driving techniques!

What happens if you get stuck in traffic on your driving test?

So, we’ve established that it’s very unlikely you will spend the majority of your driving test sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Nevertheless, we know that anything is possible when it comes to driving, so we won’t leave you with zero advice on how to deal with this scenario, should it arise.

Whether you’re there for 5 minutes or (gulp) 40 minutes, below are the pros and cons of a driving test traffic jam…

Potential advantages

To do book with a timer next to it

  • The to-do list might be shorter. You won’t have as much time to spend on other road conditions, so certain skills might have to be skipped over. If you’re very lucky, you might just run out of time to tackle that major roundabout. What a shame!
  • You’ll get plenty of time to practice clutch control. (This may actually be a disadvantage, depending on your viewpoint.) Stop and start traffic often means you spend a lot of time working the clutch. A bit uncomfortable? Yes. Useful skill you need to master? Definitely.
  • It reflects what driving in the real world is like. It might not be ideal, but the truth is that day-to-day driving often involves sitting in traffic for at least a short amount of time. Handling it well on your test will show that you’re ready to hit the road on your own. 
  • You have more time to think. Driving in heavy traffic is inevitably slower, which means you’re left with more time to think about your next move.

Potential disadvantages

Traffic lights on red against blue sky with clouds
Photo © Horia Varlan (cc-by/2.0)
  • It’s not a sufficient test of your driving skills. If you manage to spend most of your driving test crawling through traffic and come out with a pass, have you really been tested? While no one likes the process of being judged by an examiner, it is reassuring when they give your abilities the thumbs up. You might not get that confidence boost if they only see 10% of what you can do.
  • Accidents and other unforeseen circumstances can throw a spanner in the works. Heavy traffic that even an examiner can’t avoid is usually caused by an unexpected accident of some kind. Who knows when you’ll be able to get out or what you’ll be faced with?!
  • Hello road rage! The only thing drivers dislike more than congestion? Getting stuck behind a learner driver. Yeah, that’s you. Those L-plates make you stick out like a sore thumb, and if people are already feeling aggravated, they may take it out on you. It’s not fair but it’s also not uncommon. Sigh.
  • Your test may be voided. In extremely rare cases, an examiner may decide to void a test if they feel that you did not get the opportunity to present the necessary skills a qualified driver needs. It’s not a fail, but it’s also not a pass. Get ready to go through the process alllll over again…

The bottom line

Forget all of those stories you’ve heard about learners spending their entire test stuck in traffic. It’s highly unlikely that a DVSA examiner will let this happen. If it’s something you’re worried about, be sure to brush up on the relevant skills. At the end of the day, you have very little control over what’s going to happen on test day.

The best thing you can do is swerve the urban myths and focus on being the best driver you can be!

For all of the latest driving news and tips, keep checking in with the PassMeFast blog.

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.

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