34 Common Reasons for Failing a Driving Test

Written by Omid Karimi

There are numerous reasons people fail driving tests for. In our previous blog post, we discussed 4 main reasons for failing a driving test. Now, this is an expansion of that post with a lot more reasons added to the list. 

On the practical driving test day, the examiner will be observing your driving skills and your behavior on the road. The number and type of errors marked by the examiner will determine the overall result of your test.

There are three types of driving errors you are scored at: 

First, Non-Critical Driving Errors (NCDE). This error doesn't compromise the safety of the road users or the safe operation of the car. If you rack up 9 or more non-critical errors, you'll still be able to complete the test. But the result of the driving test will be considered 'unsuccessful'. 

Second, Specific Repeated Driving Errors (SRDE). The number of times you constantly repeat the same driving error will be recorded, as well. Your test will be deemed 'unsuccessful' if you have reached a certain number of the same error. This shows that there is a need to improve your ability to demonstrate the skill in certain areas. For example, if you don’t indicate properly on 6 different occasions, that’s a fail. Or if you don’t demonstrate good control of the steering wheel in 6 different turns, the test is over. 

Third, Critical Driving Errors (CDE). As the word says, it compromises the safety of road users. It also indicates a lack of skill that is not related to specific performance. This would cause the examiner to intervene to avoid a dangerous situation. Making only ONE critical driving error will result in an immediate fail. If that happens, the examiners direct you back to the test centre and terminate the test.

Here are 34 most common errors students are making that result in failing their driving test.

1. Road position.

This could be being in the wrong lane at roundabouts or at intersections. Some students are unable to properly stop at an intersection or during a traffic light. This results in blocking the other car's line of traffic. Likewise, how you position your car when parking can be marked by the instructor. Driving on the wrong side of the road is an straight away fail in the test.

2. Failure to stop when necessary.

The first five minutes of your driving test are the most frightening moments. You may have gone onto the road and would come across traffic lights. With all the nerves you're feeling, you might be a little off with your timing. So make sure you leave enough time to slow down and stop at the red lights.

3. Failure to do shoulder checks.

One of the things students forget is doing a shoulder check. You should do this every time the direction of the car changes. For example, when you get to the road or start driving, when you pull over or stop driving, or when you change lanes. A similar thing that's often overlooked is checking for approaching vehicles. Or failing to estimate the speed of an oncoming vehicle. Thus, leading to a possible collision. You have to make sure that the surrounding is safe before you proceed with driving. As a result, you give off the assurance that the examiner is safe.

4. Failure to use signal lights.

Another part of ensuring the safety of everyone around you is using your signal lights. Before you make any turns or try to merge into traffic, be sure to use your blinkers. Remember this sequence before you turn or change lanes: mirrors, signal, manoeuvre. There is no specific distance as to when you turn on your blinker to make a turn. But make sure you don’t turn it too early or too late. Just make sure you make it clear for other road users what you are up to and give them enough warning.

5. Speeding.

Driving over the speed limit is considered one of the critical driving errors. You will encounter different traffic situations during your test. Either you'll be in a school zone, a road work ahead, or driving uphill or downhill. There will be changes in speed signs as you approach these areas. 

You must constantly observe and monitor the driving environment you're in. By doing this, you'll be able to adjust your speed to the traffic situation. Also, maintain a high level of awareness to avoid potential hazards on the road. 

You must obey the speed limits even if other drivers don’t.

6. Steering wheel control.

The examiner will be observing how you handle the steering wheel. You should demonstrate that you are capable to have proper control of the steering wheel. This includes steering the wheel accurately and at the appropriate time. Remember to also maintain a safe and steady course on the road. An example of a driving error that will be marked by the examiner is steering the wheel with only one hand. Another one is having your arms crossed in a way that makes you lose control of the wheel.

7. Moving off the road.

How you move off from point A to point B can be a daunting task. Examiners will observe how you move off from being stationary in different scenarios. It can be from the side of the road, hill, or behind a parked car. Keep in mind to use your indicator and mirrors correctly and do shoulder checks (head checks) when driving off.

8. Following distance.

Another mistake students make is failing to leave a safe following distance between cars. It is always recommended for you to be able to see the tyres of the vehicle in front when stopped at the traffic lights. Remember to leave a safe distance when passing or overtaking other vehicles. You must maintain a distance where you can safely manoeuvre in case of an emergency. 

9. Applying excessive brake.

Students must exhibit that they can apply the brake smoothly and effectively. This also goes with the accelerator pedal. Pressing on both pedals with too much pressure could be dangerous. You'd end up being unable to control the vehicle. Thus, compromising the safety of everyone inside the vehicle as well as other road users.

10. Traffic and road signs. 

You must consider the traffic and road signs. That is why it is important to keep scanning the roads for a change in speed or other regulatory signs. It is easy to overlook these signs especially when you're nervous. This is the most common reason why students fail their driving test.

11. Failing to give way.

For some students, learning the rules for giving way can be a bit tricky. There are numerous scenarios where you are required to know when to give way. Be mindful whenever you are near intersections and scan the roads. Make sure you know about all the give-way rules and confidently follow them.

12. Car failure.

Some students prefer to use their own car since they're more familiar with it. And they feel confident to do much better during the test if it's their own vehicle. But you must keep your car on its top-level performance. This is to make sure it doesn't stall while you're taking your test. Your test will get terminated if your car brakes are not working well. Or if it has other malfunctions that risk the safety of everyone, the examiner will have to mark your test as a 'fail'.   

13. Unfamiliar with the area.

Another factor in failing the test is driving in an unfamiliar area. You're already feeling nervous and now you have to worry about your route. It is recommended to take the test where you are familiar with the roads and area. You'll feel less nervous and more confident during your test.

14. Unprepared for different weather conditions.

Some students cancel their driving lessons whenever it’s raining. But an examiner won't cancel the driving test just because it rains. It will only be cancelled when the weather seems to be dangerous for driving. So you better make sure you get some driving experience in the rain. This way you won’t panic on your driving test day if it rains.

15. Not enough rest.

You should have plenty of rest before your test. Being tired or sleepy during the test could lead to a slower response rate. And as we know, a lot could happen even in a couple of seconds.

16. Forgetting to adjust seats and mirrors.

Before starting the test, you need to make sure you're comfortable. Adjust your seat to where you can sit comfortably and see the road ahead. Check your side mirrors and rear-view mirror so you won't have to adjust them while you're driving. Don't forget, most importantly, to put on and adjust your seatbelt. 

17. Not fully prepared. 

Some students are to realize that they're not fully prepared to do the driving test. They may not be confident to do the manoeuvres. We all know there are a ton of road signs and other traffic rules and it can be overwhelming for some. That is why you have to acquaint yourself with the road rules and know how to respond appropriately. Simply do not attempt the test if you are not fully prepared or if your instructor hasn't confirmed that you can go for the test. Trust your driving instructor and listen to what he/she says. They know exactly about the test requirements and they know if you can meet those requirements or not.

18. Mounting the kerb.

During your test, you'll be required to do two manoeuvres. If for example when you finish the reverse parallel parking, you mount the curb, the test is over. Mounting the curb is a critical driving error. 

19. Wrong turning position.

Aside from making sure you're safe to make the turn, it is also important to be in the correct position. You must be on the correct side of the road and only turn from the appropriately marked lane. Turning needs extra attention especially if you're in a multi-lane intersection. You just need to remember to first check your position and scan your surrounding. Then choose an appropriate lane for making turns.

20. Too nervous. 

Some students perform very well during the driving lessons. But when it comes to the test situation, they get extremely nervous. You need to find some ways to manage your nerves during the test. Read our extensive article on 21 Ways to Help You Calm your Nerves Before a Driving Test, and try to calm your nerves before the test. 

21. Afraid to ask the examiner to repeat instructions.

There might be some instructions from the examiner that you don’t understand quite well or you miss. Instead of trying to guess what they mean by it, it's best for you to clarify the instruction. Examiners try their best to give simple instructions. But there will be times when they might give you multiple directions. This will help them to test your decision-making and judgment skills. So if something's not clear, ask them to repeat. There's totally nothing wrong with it.

22. Not giving way to emergency vehicles. 

Once you hear that siren, you have to immediately and safely give way to them. You can either stop or move to one side of the road. But you can stay still if you're already stopped at a red light. This is why it's important for you to position your vehicle correctly during stops. Emergency vehicles can easily go through the road when everyone's responsible.

23. Not stopping at the yellow light when possible. 

Remember that the yellow light is the start of the red light and not the end of the green light. Some students speed up to go through a yellow light thinking they'll be able to make it. But suddenly, they are caught in the middle of the red light. This is an immediate 'fail'. Remember you need to think about stopping first when you come across a yellow light. You can only go through a yellow light if you are too close to the intersection. And if your speed is not slow enough to have a smooth and safe brake.

24. Not giving way to pedestrians. 

This also comes down to your observations. For example, some pedestrians may be crossing at an intersection. If you don't check well enough, you might be charging the pedestrians. Wait for the pedestrian to reach the kerb before you go or make your turn.  

25. Cutting off other drivers. 

Cutting off other drivers may lead to a dangerous situation. How so? Other drivers would need to suddenly step on their brakes, which could cause a collision. Again, check your surrounding before you try to proceed. Taking a few seconds to check could save you from disaster and failing your test.

26. Striking a fixed object. 

Make sure you don't bump into a fixed object like a barrier or fence. Check your distance every time you do reverse parking or other manoeuvres. This will help you avoid hitting any concrete barriers or other objects.

27. Failing to give way to other vehicles already on the roundabouts. 

Make sure you know about the give-way rules on the roundabout. Jumping in front of other cars which are already turning on a roundabout is an immediate fail.

28. Reverse parallel parking confusion. 

This can be one of the manoeuvres the driving instructor will ask you to do. Constantly practice this to help you get yourself familiar and learn the skill. Make sure you know when to turn the wheel to reach a certain area for parking. You can download our FREE step by step guide on how to do a reverse parallel parking in the test and master this manoeuvre once and for all.

29. Turning too late. 

Good steering control is also part of this. But how much or how little you steer the wheel greatly affects your turn. Steering the wheel too early or too late could cause you to run the kerb during your turns. So make sure you turn just enough so you don't end up on the wrong side of the road or run up the kerb. 

30. Disobeying examiner’s official directions. 

It goes without saying that you should carefully listen to the examiner's instructions. But deliberately disobeying their instructions would end up in failing your test. Not only would you fail your test but you'd put yourself in danger as well as other road users.

31. Repeatedly moving off with handbrake up. 

You could fail your test if you keep driving off with your handbrake up over and over again. Keeping your handbrake on while in motion will affect your vehicle control and drag the car. It will be a fail if the driving examiner has to let you know it's still on. So remember to put your handbrake down every time you move off.

32. Not looking to the left when making a left turn. 

Students oftentimes look to their right when they want to turn left. But they tend to forget to also look at their left. Make sure to look for oncoming traffic, pedestrians crossing, or other possible hazards. Checking your left side is as important as your right side. So do both checks to make sure you're safe to proceed.

33. Getting too close to other vehicles. 

This is either while driving on the road or driving off. Steer clear from getting too close to other cars to avoid accidents. If you see a car is too close to where you're parking, it is best for you to slowly reverse so you can safely get off. Also, make sure not to drive too close to the other lane so you're not invading their space. 

Driving too close to the parked cars on the side of the road is dangerous and will get you in trouble big time. Make sure when you drive past parked cars, you maintain a safe distance with them just in case they suddenly open the door and jump in the middle of the road! Believe me that happens!

34. Failing even before going for the test.

Sounds weird huh? What the heck do you mean by that? Well let me explain! Bruce Lee says it best: "Defeat is not defeat unless accepted as a reality in your own mind." If you think about something, you create a picture of that in your head. And when you do that, your body physiological reaction to that picture is triggered. This reaction makes you feel certain way that corresponds to that picture. So if you think of failing the test, you feel like a failure even before the test starts. 

One common question some students ask me on the test day is this: "What happens if I fail the test?" And my response is: "Don't even think about it." And then I distract them so they think about something else or about the things they need to keep in mind in their test. As soon as this distraction happens, they don't think about failure anymore. Always go for the test with a WINNING MINDSET.

There are loads of other reasons why people fail their driving tests. But this list sums up the most common ones. If you have no issues with car controls, reading this list will set you up for success in your driving test.

To get support from other learners from all over Australia, feel free to join our private Facebook group (Driving test support Australia).

Driving in Australia is easy, if you know the rules.
*Some of the reasons mentioned in this article are taken from driving test fail reasons survey conducted by Budget Direct.
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