Driving instructor explores 10 most common test faults

As the DVSA prepares to unveil the newest driving test data for April 2023 to March 2024, personalised number plate supplier Regtransfers spoke with Sophie Stuchfield, a driving instructor with a 15-year background in training students. She is also known for sharing driving test advice on social media under the alias @TheOnlineDrivingInstructor. Together, they discuss the most frequently seen faults in UK driving tests over the last decade. teenager driving car

Observation at Junctions

Sophie emphasises the necessity of careful observation at junctions, the top fault identified in the past ten years of driving tests. She notes, “Lack of attention to road markings or signs could lead you to overlook an approaching junction.”

What are the consequences? Sophie explains, “In such cases, an examiner might need to verbally alert you or use the dual control brake to reduce speed or stop.” She further underlines the need for thorough checks when leaving a junction: “A single glance is insufficient; you must ensure the road is clear before proceeding.”

Mirrors – Change of Direction

Sophie insists on the importance of checking mirrors before signalling, changing direction, or adjusting speed. The routine of “Mirror-Signal-Manoeuvre” should be instinctive. Common errors include delayed or absent use of external mirrors before changing direction.

Sophie says, “This particularly pertains to wing mirrors when switching lanes or navigating around obstacles. Always check the relevant wing mirror before moving in a particular direction.” She links these frequent oversights to test nerves, causing learners to focus more on how their driving may be being assessed by the examiner, rather than on natural hazard response.

Junctions – Turning Right

For right turns at junctions, Sophie advises against cutting corners. She states, “Maintain correct positioning at all times, even if other road users are absent.”

Sophie emphasises maintaining the correct lane: “Avoid drifting into the opposite lane before making your turn. Stay in your lane until you reach the turning point.”

Control – Steering

Sophie notes that many steering errors stem from nervousness.”When nervous, our bodies tend to tense up”, says Sophie. “Combine this with the fact most drivers incorrectly believe that we are not allowed to cross arms, and suddenly steering becomes stiff – which leads to understeering with an uncomfortable and ineffective shuffling of hands on the wheel.”

Sophie, amongst other instructors, encourages flexible steering techniques as long as they ensure car control: “Crossing your arm can be necessary for quick steering actions.”

Response to Signals – Traffic Lights

Sophie provides practical advice for reacting to traffic signals: “While waiting at a red light, remain focussed to avoid missing the transition to green. This might seem like simple advice, but drivers – not just learners – can allow their thoughts to wander. Before you know it, the vehicle behind you is honking, the light has turned green, and you’re left feeling embarrassed! In a test situation, this can make your nerves worse.”

She also stresses the significance of anticipation: “You must not cross the stop line when the light is amber. When approaching traffic lights that have been green for an extended period, it is always best to anticipate that they might change”.

Move Off Safely

During tests, examiners assess the candidate’s ability to resume driving from a stop – and you can expect to be instructed to stop on the left at least four times. 

Subsequently, the instructor will assess the driver’s ability to move off safely from the roadside, including their observations, ability to avoid inconveniencing other road users, and allowing ample clearance for parked vehicles.

Offering advice in this area of the test, Sophie states, “take your time to make sure you have the correct gear selected, the handbrake is down and you complete the six point check to ensure your surroundings are safe before moving.” She insists on the importance of not rushing and ensuring safety: “You must not cause any other cars to slow down. Wait until you have a safe gap!”

Positioning – Normal Driving

For regular driving positioning, Sophie provides straightforward guidance: “Do not use the right hand lane unless you are overtaking or turning right. If you’re an international driver who is used to driving on the right, make sure you get enough practice driving on the left so it feels more natural and normal to you.”

 

Move Off – Control

Similar to moving off safely, control includes thorough observation and joining the road without impacting other road users.

Regarding control during the move-off phase, Sophie reiterates the impact of nerves and the need for a cool head. “As mentioned earlier, when moving off it’s important to take your time and make sure you have the correct gear selected. If you stall while driving a manual, take a moment to catch your breath(!) before getting started again; stalling isn’t an automatic fail”.

Response to Signals – Road Markings

The examiner will check appropriate responses to road markings. This could be  lane markings,stop and give way lines, box junctions, or traffic calming measures. Faults include driving in bus lanes, not stopping at stop markings, and stopping in “keep clear” zones.

“Always read the road”, comments Sophie. “This means keeping an eye out in advance for any arrows which will help you to select the correct lane for your direction at all times.” She also advises that if road markings (or signs) are poor, an examiner will direct test candidates. “Remember, you can always ask for clarification if you need it, provided you ask in plenty of time.”

Reverse Park – Control

During parking manoeuvres, candidates must choose a suitable parking space, position the vehicle accurately, prepare for the reverse, and maintain awareness of their surroundings both before and during the manoeuvre. Parking should be executed with precision, control, and an awareness of the environment.

“Take your time when parking”, comments Sophie. “You can make adjustments, dip door mirrors, open windows to see and even get out and check that your position is correct.”

 

Beyond these common faults, Sophie identifies two primary reasons for test failure: nerves and rushing into the test. She advises, “Stay relaxed and focused, just as you would on a regular drive. And don’t hurry to obtain your licence; ensure you and your instructor agree that you’re ready.”

As the latest DVSA statistics are awaited, mastering key skills is essential for aspiring drivers. Success in a driving test requires preparation, practice, and a blend of vigilant observation, precise control, and adherence to traffic regulations.

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