The most common driving test mistakes – and expert tips on how to avoid them

Drivers in England have been able to get behind the wheel and put their skills to the test since exams resumed on July 22 following coronavirus restrictions.

But the lack of lessons and tests over the past few months has most likely left many new drivers feeling out of practice, and perhaps more nervous than ever about their test.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has been inundated with people trying to book a slot since it opened, which has resulted in the booking system coming offline on multiple occasions. 

In apologising for the inconvenience, DVSA chief executive, Gareth Llewellyn said: “Coronavirus has severely impacted our business as usual operations, including by stopping driving tests in March. Since then DVSA have only been dealing with applications for emergency driving tests for critical workers.

“Following unprecedented demand for the driving test booking system with almost 7 million attempts to book a test when it opened, we need to carry out urgent maintenance so people can book tests.”

The service will reopen again on September 7 and then again on September 14 when more tests will be available, according to the DVSA.

Kyle Duddridge after successfully completing his driving test in Liverpool

According to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), the pass rate of practical driving tests was 45.9 percent during 2019/20 — a 0.1 pc increase on the pass rate the year before.

Since the new driving test changes that were implemented in December 2017, the DVLA has highlighted certain problem areas that often trip up those taking the exam.

The top reasons for failing your driving test may not be what you expect, so experts at Collingwood Insurance have provided their advice to ensure hopeful motorists get their head around these common mistakes and enter the exam feeling confident.

Junctions – observation

Proper observation is key to a successful driving test and safe driving going forward. According to the DVLA, 39 per cent of all accidents in Great Britain in 2017 were caused by a driver failing to look properly. This was the most common contributory factor, with failure to properly observe contributing to 35,993 accidents in that year.

The stakes are high, so it’s no wonder that your driving examiner will be closely watching for your every observation and check, especially when approaching a junction.

To avoid making this mistake, approach each junction or roundabout at a safe speed, and be confident that you can judge the speed and distance of oncoming traffic. Clearly you need to make sure that your observations are appropriate in challenging weather conditions and poor light and that you are always being watchful of other vehicles, including bikes and motorbikes.

Mirrors – change direction

Not checking your mirror before changing direction, overtaking, or changing lanes was found to be the second most common driving test mistake.

Mirror checks are absolutely crucial and should become a habit when driving.

Before changing direction, moving off, slowing down, turning, or overtaking, you must check your mirrors and make sure that other road users are aware of your intentions and have time to react.

Avoid making this classic mistake on your test by ensuring that you check your rear-view and appropriate side-view mirror every time you are preparing to alter your direction.

Control – steering

The key to avoiding failing your test due to a steering fault is about making sure you always stay in your lane and retain full control over the car — regardless of the weather conditions.

The best way to do this is by making sure you follow the kerb, but never veer too close to it, knock, or mount it — this will be marked as a major fault in your test and result in an automatic fail.

Junctions – turning right

Turning right at a junction can be a particularly nerve-racking manoeuvre for many learner drivers. As well as observing the speed and distance of the oncoming traffic and judging your timing perfectly, you will also need to master the turn itself and position your vehicle so that it doesn’t cut the corner.

This manoeuvre can be particularly dangerous, so be sure to stay vigilant and only take the turn when you are fully confident.

Move off – safely

In order to pass your test, you need to prove to the examiner that you can move off safely, on both level and sloped services. A single stall won’t result in instant failure, but you’ll certainly be in trouble if you stall regularly.

In order to avoid this mistake, make sure that you’re in first gear, gently put pressure on the accelerator and lift pressure from the clutch until you find the bite, slowly release the handbrake while putting more pressure on the accelerator, then gradually lift all pressure from the clutch as you keep your right foot steady on the accelerator.

Good luck!

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