As one prepares for the all-important driving test, it’s vital to not only master the rules of the road but also understand the common pitfalls. From inappropriate speeding and poor steering control to mishandling pedestrian crossings and maintaining incorrect distances with the vehicle ahead, these errors can be the difference between passing and failing the test.

This article will explore a range of common driving test mistakes and provide the correct procedure to help you obtain your driving license successfully.

common driving test mistakes

Not Checking Mirrors

Failing to check your mirrors before signalling, only checking the rearview mirror or forgetting the side mirrors for their blind spots can result in accidents or collisions with other road users.

‘Mirror-signal-manoeuvre’ is about understanding and reacting to what you see. It’s crucial to use mirrors before any action that can affect other drivers, like increasing speed, braking, navigating hazards, altering lanes or directions or merging onto different roads or roundabouts.

Driving too Closely

Following too closely to the vehicle ahead will give you less reaction time if it brakes suddenly. One of the most common driving test mistakes is misjudging the space between you and the cars ahead in poor weather conditions, especially when stopping at the end of a traffic light queue.

To ensure a sufficient reaction time, you should allow at least a two-second gap between you and the vehicle in front. However, the gap should be at least doubled when wet and up to ten times greater when icy.

Poor Observation at Junctions

Not observing appropriately at junctions will lead you to make severe mistakes such as misjudging the speed and distance of oncoming vehicles, failing to notice pedestrians or overlooking essential signs and signals.

Proper observation lets you understand other road users’ movements and intentions, helping you navigate the junction safely. This can involve looking out for vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, as well as being familiar with traffic lights and road signs.

Inappropriate Speeding

Failing to adjust your speed limit to the road’s speed sign ranks among the most common driving test mistakes. Another is not adapting speed to your surroundings, for instance, failing to slow down in school zones, around tight corners, in heavy traffic or in poor weather conditions.

Appropriate speeding means always adhering to the posted speed limits as they are designed with safety in mind. It’s important to note that these limits represent the maximum speed under ideal conditions.

Lack of Steering Control

Erratic movements, oversteering or understeering are known to be problematic when making turns, changing lanes or negotiating roundabouts. Steering one-handed or using improper hand positioning on the steering wheel can also reduce control over the vehicle.

During your driving lessons, you would have learnt the general rule of keeping both hands on the steering wheel, typically positioned at 9 and 3 o’clock, like on a clock face. Turning should be executed smoothly and gradually, without sudden or jerky movements, to ensure a smooth and controlled motion. Remember to always return your hands to the correct position after turning the handwheel.

Failing to Prioritise Pedestrians

Failing to stop or slow down for a pedestrian waiting to cross, or proceeding too quickly after pedestrians have crossed, may result in a dangerous fault.

Understanding rules is crucial for handling pedestrian crossings. Upon approach, slow down and be ready to stop. At zebra crossings and light-controlled crossings, stop if pedestrians are waiting. Wait until they’ve reached the other side before proceeding, and exercise caution with children or the elderly. At junctions, the highway code states the pedestrian’s right of way; always ensure it’s clear before turning.