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10 common reasons why teenagers fail their driving test

By Paul Connolly

Learning to drive can be a very stressful affair - and that’s doubly so if you fail the test.

And of course whilst it’s commonly referred to the “driving test” it’s really not just one test, but two: the Driver Theory Test, and the Practical Driving Test.

Driving test angst victim is a label often applied to teenagers but, of course, in fact it applies equally to all newbie drivers, be they young or older.

All of the rules and tips below apply to new drivers of all ages.

So, you’ve applied for and got your provisional driving licence, you’ve got used to your awful photo (nearly as bad as your passport!), and you’re ready to roll.

What next? What can you do to increase your chances of success, and what are the most common reasons people fail their driving test, both the theory and the practical aspects.

Let’s split them up:

Driving Theory Test

In days gone by, the Driver Theory Test was little more than a flip sheet of road signs that the instructor randomly showed you at the end of your practical test.

Now, it’s much more difficult, and involves a trip to a computerised test centre where your phone and all potential note-taking devices and paper are taken from you.

So, what are the main reasons people fail – and what can be done to mitigate these?

1. Not being sorted beforehand: Arrive at the correct time (30 mins before), totally relaxed, and with the right paperwork (both parts of your provisional licence, your booking confirmation number, and ideally your whole confirmation letter)

2. Failing to practice: This is an intense, rapid-fire knowledge test. Practice, practice, practice is the mantra – there are lots of good CDs/DVDs and software available in shops and online. There is no excuse for not practising!

3. Lack of basic road knowledge: Learn the Highway Code, and your road signs, etc. Treat it as you would a school exam. No ifs or buts. Do the multiple choice practical test first and leave the hazard perception test to later.

4. Leave enough time for review, then take a short break: If you do the practical first, make sure to leave some time to review your answers. Then take a quick break before the hazard test: calm, relax and get focused.

5. Lack of hazard recognition skills: You really must get your Driving Instructor to get you used to the idea of Advance Hazard perception – i.e. recognising potentially dangerous situations before they become acute. Be aware of when you need to reduce your speed, swerve or stop.

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Learning to drive can be a daunting task for anyone

The Practical Test

This is how you behave on the road, in real time. Essentially, the examiner wants to see if you can drive safely and understand the complexity of driving and interacting with other road-users.

The main issues:

6. Arriving unprepared: As above, arrive early with the right paperwork (including your Theory test certificate) and glasses if needed. Know the Highway Code inside out.

7. Caught out by ‘Show me, Tell me”: Before you even begin, the examiner will ask you questions about vehicle safety. Make sure you’re prepared. Your instructor should have brought you through this.

8. Ignorance of the basics: keep hands at 3 and 9 o’clock, use mirrors frequently with every manoeuvre (remember MSM – Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre), keep speed appropriate and NEVER go above a speed limit. Etc. etc. Practice the manoeuvres like reverse parking with your instructor. Memorise the list and make sure you can properly do them all.

9.  Failing to do proper observations: At junctions, reversing, when confronted with pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable road users – always take proper time to observe appropriately. Cursory glances or half-glances are a no-no.

10. Not maintaining proper control of your vehicle: Use gears and speed properly. Whilst being in the wrong gear won’t fail you in its own right, not being able to judge the correct gear for the speed of the vehicle, and then not being able to match the appropriate speed, will. Your driving must be appropriate to road and traffic conditions. Coasting is a obviously big no-no (it’s dangerous).

Remember, stalling isn’t a disaster. Simply stay calm, restart the engine and, importantly, check and observe properly for hazards before setting off (when it’s safe to do so, of course).

Good luck!

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