We look at some of the common faults that might prevent you form passing your driving test if you had to sit it again, and offer some tips on breaking the bad habits you may have picked up in the years since you tore up your ‘L’ plates.
What you need to pass your driving test
The UK driving test has steadily evolved, but despite all the changes designed to improve driving standards, the number of UK road deaths has remained more or less consistent since 2012, so we’re clearly not improving.
To get a full licence today, you need to make fewer than 15 driving faults and no serious or dangerous faults in the practical test.
Some of the main reasons for failing are faults such as insufficient observation at junctions and not using mirrors effectively when changing direction.
The Highway Code should be every test candidate’s – and qualified driver’s – bible.
You’ll find all the advice and guidance you need in there to drive safely, so it’s worth picking up a copy and giving it a read.
Common driving test mistakes
Even if we don’t succumb to these common test-failing faults when there’s an examiner sitting next to us, we probably will at some point in our driving life.
Bad habits are hard to break, but it’s essential to try.
Observations at junctions
The advice for observations at junctions is to look all around before emerging from a junction and not to cross or join a road until there is a gap large enough for you to do so safely.
Obvious, isn’t it? But most drivers forget to do it at some point.
Use mirrors frequently so that you always know what is behind and to each side of you and use them in good time before you signal, or change direction or speed.
Tailgating and overtaking
Tailgating is another common issue. Following another car without sticking to the two-second rule can lead to those rear-ending multiple vehicle pile-ups that you sometimes see on motorways.
The same goes for drivers who move into a small gap when overtaking: if there’s not enough stopping distance between you and the car in front and behind, there isn’t enough space to move into.
Then there’s rushing through an amber light before it turns red. Get that wrong and you could end up being T-boned by another car.
And what about indicators? How many times a day do we see drivers not indicating when pulling out to overtake or making a turn?
Signalling to the cars around you before making a move is important to prevent accidents.
Speed limits are also ‘flexible’ for most drivers.
If you want proof of that, set your cruise control for 70mph and drive on a motorway, then count how many cars pass you over the next mile.
In the UK, you should be sticking to 30mph in built-up areas and save your 70mph stretches for dual carriageways and motorways.
Distractions at the wheel
Perhaps one of the biggest problems is driving while distracted.
We don’t have to be checking our phones to take our eyes off the road: any simple task that needs our attention is dangerous.
If we did any of these things during our driving test, we’d fail, so why do we think it's OK when we have a licence?
Chances of passing your driving test
Even when we’re concentrating hard on staying within the rules of the road, the driving test first time pass rate was only 52.6% in 2021/2022.
Imagine how low it would be if we drove with our accumulated bad habits?
Most of us will never have to re-qualify for our licences, though, so we’ll never know if our bad practices are so ingrained that we can’t shake them off.
Driving test tips
Stay observant at all times - there’s lots going on around us when we’re on the road, so you need to stay alert – especially at junctions. And use your mirrors to help see other road users behind and to the side of you.
Keep your distance - make sure you have plenty of stopping distance between you and the car in front. How much will depend on the speed you're travelling at, but the two-second rule is a good guide. Choose a fixed point on the road and when the vehicle in front passes that point, make sure it's at least two seconds or more before you pass the same point.
Watch your speed - be aware of changing speed limits and stay within them at all times. Not only is it the safe thing to do, with so many speed cameras around these days, it’s easy to find yourself falling foul of penalty notices.
Don’t get distracted - if you do have to do something else while driving – answer a handsfree phone call or set a destination in your sat nav – pull over and stop somewhere safe. If you’re driving, you should devote all your concentration to it.
Don’t stress at other people’s bad driving - it’ll just put you in a bad mood which can lead to you taking unnecessary risks.