Driving test failures: the most common mistakes made by learner drivers

New drivers most likely to fail their test because of poor observation, according to DVSA statistics

Learner driver

More than half of learner drivers taking their driving tests so far in 2023 have failed to make the grade, while last year those taking their practical exam made on average one serious or dangerous (major) fault, and 5.4 minor faults, according to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).

So what are the biggest pitfalls for L-test hopefuls? Figures from the DVSA, acquired by insurance site Confused.com, show that new drivers have been making similar mistakes for at least the last five years. Poor observation at junctions tops the list of major faults that result in an instant failure on the UK driving test.

Since 2018 a whopping 864,522 learners under examination have committed major driving faults by failing to keep a proper eye-out for traffic before committing a manoeuvre at junctions.

Next on the list of most ‘instant fails’ is inadequate use of mirrors prior to a change of direction, a fault responsible for 681,977 driving test disappointments since 2018. This can cover a number of scenarios, including failing to check mirrors before and after joining a roundabout, and changing lanes on a dual carriageway.

Third on the list of serious or dangerous faults responsible for test failures gets marked on the test sheet as ‘control - steering’, meaning a candidate hasn’t fully mastered the basics of steering when driving around bends, passing other vehicles, or keeping clear of the pavement when pulling up.

When it comes to minor faults, driving examiners allow a bit more latitude and you’ll generally need to tot-up 15 or more to risk failing the test. That’s unless you commit the same minor fault three times on the same test, in which case the minor fault is likely to be upgraded to major, with a resultant automatic test fail.

Over the last five years, the most commonly recorded minor fault is a failure to move off safely, with 3,743,692 instances. ‘Maintaining progress - speed’ is next on the list with 3,359,605 faults recorded since 2018, while failing to maintain progress thanks to undue hesitation counts for 3,033,495 minor faults.

For the full list of the most common ways to fail your driving test, check out the tables below:

 

Major driving test faults (instant failures) since 2018

 

Rank

Manoeuvre

Number of faults

1

Junctions - observation

864,522

2

Mirrors - change direction

681,977

3

Control - steering

363,224

4

Junctions - turning right

354,299

5

Move off - safely

353,477

6

Response to signs - traffic lights

334,382

7

Positioning - normal driving

303,260

8

Response to signs - traffic signs

299,893

9

Move off - control

291,580

10

Response to signs - road markings

290,953

 

Most popular minor faults on driving tests since 2018

Rank

Manoeuvre

Number of faults

1

Move off - safely

3,473,692

2

Maintain progress - speed

3,359,605

3

Maintain progress - undue hesitation

3,033,495

4

Control - steering

3,001,146

5

Move off - control

2,626,785

6

Mirrors - signalling

2,058,366

7

Junctions - observation

1,763,985

8

Mirrors - change direction

1,554,788

9

Control - gears

1,512,315

10

Mirrors - change speed

1,419,034

Taking your practical driving test soon? Here are our top tips on how to prepare and pass first time...

Current affairs and features editor

Chris covers all aspects of motoring life for Auto Express. Over a long career he has contributed news and car reviews to brands such as Autocar, WhatCar?, PistonHeads, Goodwood and The Motor Trader.

Recommended

Electric car tax cuts needed to boost sales, says SMMT
BMW i5 - front static
News

Electric car tax cuts needed to boost sales, says SMMT

The Chancellor is under pressure to slash VAT on new EVs to provide a ‘fair tax for a fair transition’
1 Mar 2024
Plenty of UK car buyers still love a new car number plate
Volkswagen ID.7 - tailgate
News

Plenty of UK car buyers still love a new car number plate

Is a new number plate still the status symbol it once was? Our exclusive poll suggests that car buyers do care
24 Feb 2024
UK road maintenance work slashed by almost half in five years
Road resurfacing
News

UK road maintenance work slashed by almost half in five years

Council road repairs are down by 45 per cent compared to 2017/18, the latest data shows
24 Feb 2024
6,600 arrested in police annual drug and drink driving purge
Drink driving
News

6,600 arrested in police annual drug and drink driving purge

The Police ‘Op Limit’ campaign over xmas 2023 resulted in 6,616 arrests, with 14 per cent of over 50,000 tests showing positive results
22 Feb 2024

Most Popular

New MG2 will beat Volkswagen to the baby electric car market
MG badge
News

New MG2 will beat Volkswagen to the baby electric car market

MG has confirmed it is working on an entry-level electric car to rival Citroen e-C3 and new Fiat Panda
29 Feb 2024
Car Deal of the Day: Tesla Model 3 ownership can be a reality from just £238 a month
Used Tesla Model 3 - front cornering
News

Car Deal of the Day: Tesla Model 3 ownership can be a reality from just £238 a month

This hugely desirable used Tesla Model 3 looks great value at this bargain price, and is our Deal of the Day for 27 February
27 Feb 2024
Car Deal of the Day: new razor-sharp Toyota C-HR hybrid SUV for £257 a month
Toyota C-HR 2.0 Hybrid GR Sport front corner static shot
News

Car Deal of the Day: new razor-sharp Toyota C-HR hybrid SUV for £257 a month

The recently-launched second generation of Toyota’s funky hybrid SUV is our Deal of the Day for 29th February
29 Feb 2024