Regardless of how old you are, taking your driving test can be a stressful and terrifying experience. There are those, and I am incredibly impressed by such people, who pass it first time around without batting an eyelid, and they might not have even been the ones who showed an aptitude for driving in the first place.
It might have been the quiet girl who crawled below the speed limit and panicked at the sight of a corner on her first lesson but ended up performing during her test as though she were a professional; some people are just like that. However fewer than half of us pass our driving test on the first try, so it isn’t hard to believe that the majority let nerves get the better of us.
When it comes to failures, everyone is different. If you were to list all of the areas where people failed their driving test, each manoeuvre would come up roughly the same number of times. However, if you take a closer look at why they failed, there is a clear pattern: ineffective observation, lack of accuracy and general forgetfulness are the key reasons for failure.
It’s not surprising; you were probably so stressed trying to concentrate on one thing at a time that you couldn’t think about everything else you were supposed to be looking at.
When driving, you need to be aware of everything that is going on around you, and perhaps the stress we experience during a driving test can help us prepare for that. Those who pass first time generally don’t do so because they are better drivers than the rest of us, but because they are better at handling stress.
Typically, the first-time-pass-students are the easy-going, level-headed people who think logically, remember all the rules and don’t let their stress distract them. Which might work well enough for them, but for the rest of us it isn’t so easy, particularly when an intimidating person is sitting beside you, watching your every move and just waiting to write down all your mistakes.
The most common driving test mistakes made are as follows:
Poor observation at junctions
This is one of the main reasons a lot of people fail, and it is usually because you’re feeling panicked about getting out of the junction quickly before you make a mistake. Check both directions, take the time to plan what you’re about to do and what you will do after that.
Failing to check blind spots when reverse parking
Just moving your head to make it seem like you’re checking your blind spots is not what the instructor wants to see; they want to see you showing that you are fully aware of everything going on around you. Use your mirrors properly and keep an eye on those areas the mirrors don’t cover, monitor and plan everything that you notice around you. Be sure to take an extra moment to check for cyclists; they are harder to spot at a glance.
Incorrect signal use
If you forget to use your signals, give misleading signals or forget to cancel signals then you will probably fail your driving test. Signals are a basic part of driving and very important; the sooner that using them and cancelling them becomes a habit, the better.
Incorrect positioning on the road
Concentrate on where you are, don’t think too much about it but you should still take note of it. It can be a very serious fault if your instructor notices that you’re displaying poor discipline at roundabouts or you’re going too far into the road when going around a bend.
Inappropriate speed for a driving test
During a driving test, you’re so worried about getting caught speeding that you end up going too slowly, which can be just as bad as going too fast. It doesn’t matter how worried you are, who you’re driving with or where you are, speed is an essential element of driving. It can be easy to speed up a little too much going along a nice straight or be reluctant to accelerate when you feel like the person beside you is judging your every move, but try to take a glance at your dashboard every so often and check your speed, and make sure you always know the speed of the road you are on.
If you’re not feeling confident then you don’t need to take your test yet; remember if you’re so worried about failing, you’re just wasting your time and money to experience it. There is certainly no harm in giving yourself a few more practice drives. Ask an experienced family member to give you a mock test – at least they can tell you what you’re forgetting and help you get used to the idea of being watched and graded while driving, which can be the hardest part.
Remember taking exams in school, and how if the invigilator looked at you for too long you would start to worry about what you had done wrong? Most of us are like that; someone watching you for a long period of time makes you nervous. Knowing that positive results depend on their observations is terrifying, if three minutes of having an invigilator look at you during an exam when you were fifteen or sixteen was enough to panic you, then sitting in a confined space with someone watching your every move for around forty minutes is certain to leave you on edge. Try to treat it like a lesson rather than a driving test, don’t worry about it too much and do your best to stay calm.
When you get in the car, take time to adjust your seat and mirrors, and make yourself comfortable. Not only does this show your instructor that you’re taking the driving test seriously, but it gives you a chance to calm down, concentrate on your breathing for a minute and try to relax. Most people fail their driving test for doing something they don’t normally do when driving, because they were too worried about failing to remember what they needed to do. So try to forget about the test and just think through what you need to do. Don’t worry about taking too long to do something; so long as you are planning ahead and driving safely, you’re doing fine.
More reading for new drivers
Once you’ve passed your test, you’ll need to ensure you don’t pick up any bad or dangerous driving habits. You should also know the sort of driver you don’t want to be. Or how about some suggestions for a good first car?