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10th March 2021

From major to minor: the faults that could cost you the driving test

Learn about the most common driving test faults and what you can do to avoid them.

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Based on the government’s list of top faults, the experts at Sterling Insurance have outlined some of the most common driving test faults and what you can do to prevent them, to increase your chances of passing first time. If you’ve got a few more lessons before your driving test, it might be a good idea to practice these before your test.

1. Observations at junctions

In 2019, 37% of road accidents were caused by the driver failing to observe their surroundings properly, and this is reflected in the most common driving test faults.

To avoid this, make sure you’re checking your mirrors and blind spots frequently, especially when you’re approaching a junction. You should also ensure that you’re anticipating the road ahead and making the right preparations. This could include observations like:

  • Noticing the road ahead is busy and slowing down to wait your turn
  • Realising that there’s a bike rider next to you who will also be turning into the junction
  • Seeing that there are pedestrians approaching the street who might want to cross the road in front of you

Whatever the situation, the mirrors-signal-manoeuvre routine is a great way of ensuring you observe the road adequately. This should include assessing the situation and acting accordingly.

It might also be a good idea to understand the differences between all the different junctions. This could include roundabouts, crossroads, T-junctions and box junctions.

2. Using mirrors when changing directions

Inadequate observations while driving causes issues once again. A good way of remembering when to use your mirrors is to perform checks every time your actions could cause other drivers to change their own behaviour (even when you think you’re the only one on the road). This includes when you make direction changes, slow down or speed up, negotiate a hazard, merge onto another road, etc.

You might think that you won’t impact anyone by changing directions, but there could be bike riders, scooters or motorcyclists in your blind spots, or other unexpected hazards in the area. As a result, it’s always best to use your mirrors when changing directions as this will help prevent an accident.

3. Steering control

Driver's hands on the car steering wheel in the 10 to 2 position
Image source: Adobe Stock

Make sure that you’re positioning your hands at 10 and 2 wherever possible as this will help you maintain control of your vehicle. Although crossing your hands isn’t an automatic fault, it’s usually best not to do this too often. A safer alternative is to use the push-pull, or shuffle steering, technique, which is where one hand pulls down the steering wheel, while the other hand pushes up the steering wheel.

It’s important that your seat is adjusted correctly so you can comfortably reach your steering wheel at the 10 and 2 positions.

4. Turning right at junctions

If only we could get through life making just left-hand turns, but sadly that would make for a very long journey! Turning right at junctions requires a lot of pre-emptive thinking, positioning your car to signal to other road users that you’re turning right, and great observation skills.

Make sure that when you’re approaching the junction, you use the mirrors-signal-manoeuvre tip to ensure you’re doing everything in your power to prevent an accident. You should also try to position your vehicle closer to the right to let drivers know your intentions. This can also allow vehicles to pass on the left if they have space.

5. Moving off safely

It’s important that you move off safely, from the first time you start the car at the beginning of your test. If you’ve pulled over at the side of the road, other vehicles that are already on the road will have right of way so it’s important that you wait your turn.

To move off safely, ensure that you’re checking your mirrors and blind spots before signalling your intention to pull out and complete the manoeuvre. Ensure you know how the manoeuvre will change if you’re performing a hill start versus moving off on the flat.

6. Responding to signs, especially traffic lights

Car stopped at a red traffic light
Image source: Adobe Stock

Be sure to read up on the Highway Code and its section on traffic light signals before your test. This resource provides you with a lot of great information. Make sure you know what a flashing amber light means.

It’s also a good idea to prepare your vehicle so you’re ready to drive off when the traffic lights change. For instance, this could mean putting the handbrake on and setting the gas.

7. Controlling your vehicle while moving off

Another one of our common driving test faults is that many provisional licence drivers struggle to control their vehicle while moving off. Make sure you’re using the accelerator appropriately when moving off. It’s important to realise that there’s no rush! It’s better to take those extra few seconds to ensure you’ve got proper control of the vehicle when pulling out.

If you’re driving a manual car, it can be easier to stall when you’re just setting off. If you find yourself stalling often when moving off, try to avoid this by setting the accelerator before taking the handbrake off.

8. Positioning your vehicle during normal driving

Ensure that you aren’t getting too close to parked cars and cycle lanes while driving as this can be quite dangerous (and nerve-wracking for the examiner!). When overtaking cyclists and other road users, it’s important that you give them enough space and ensure that you aren’t accidentally cutting them off when you reposition your vehicle.

Make sure you also don’t accidentally clip the curb – this won’t result in an immediate fail, but you could get a minor as a result. Other areas where learner drivers commonly make mistakes include:

9. Checking road markings and responding accordingly to them

Arrow merging sign on the road on Lambeth Bridge, London, UK
Image source: Adobe Stock

There are a lot of road markings to remember, so it’s understandable if you forget them. To prevent this, it’s best to regularly refer to the Highway Code and its section on road markings. It’s best to know your double white lines from your double yellow before going into the test.

Knowing your road markings will also help you react quicker to hazards. For example, if you know that the upside-down white triangle you see on the ground before a junction is an indication that you need to give way, this gives you extra time to prepare and avoid some of the mistakes above.

10. Controlling your vehicle while reverse parking

Reverse parking can include parallel parking or bay parking. In both instances, it’s important that you keep proper control of your vehicle at all times. If you’re learning in a manual, this will involve clutch control, while those learning in an automatic should keep their foot on the brake and ease off when it’s safe to reverse.

For this manoeuvre, it’s important that you take things slowly. This is because it can be difficult to gauge exactly how far away some hazards are, especially when you’re predominantly using your side and rearview mirrors to check if there’s anything before you.

Get affordable learner driver insurance from Sterling

Remember: practice makes perfect. Make sure you’ve got in enough practice before your test to prevent the chances that you’ll make one of the common driving test faults above. If you’re looking to get more hours on the road before your test, we offer flexible learner driver insurance from just 77p per day. Call us on 0344 381 9990 for a quote – our best deals are only available over the phone.

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