Major mistakes - the most common reasons for instant driving test failure

Only 45 per cent of candidates passed the driving test in 2018 (Photo: Shutterstock)Only 45 per cent of candidates passed the driving test in 2018 (Photo: Shutterstock)
Only 45 per cent of candidates passed the driving test in 2018 (Photo: Shutterstock)

More than half of all student motorists fail the UK driving test every year and in 2018 only 45.8 per cent of candidates passed the test - the lowest proportion for a decade.

Student drivers are not expected to perform perfectly during the test but errors are split into three categories - dangerous, serious and ‘driving fault’. While drivers can make up to 15 driving faults, also known as minors, a single dangerous or serious, known as major, fault is an immediate fail and means they’ll have to resit the test.

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Now, figures from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency have revealed which major fault causes the most failures during the test.

Figures obtained from the agency by Hippo Leasing show that poor observation at junctions was to blame for more failures than any other major fault in 2018, with 167,000 tests failed on it, and it was the most common reason in 92 of the 121 postcode areas.

Failing to use their mirrors before manoeuvring was the second most common mistake, with nearly 140,000 drivers being refused a licence on that basis.

Danger to the public

Learners are allowed up to 15 minor faults on the driving test but a single major fault will result in a fail (Photo: Shutterstock)

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The DVSA classes a dangerous fault as one that involves actual danger to the driver, the examiner, the public or property. A serious fault is something potentially dangerous.

In total 531,345 people failed the driving test on a major fault with a combined total of 1,743,222 major faults, indicating many of them made several serious mistakes during the test.

Failing to observe at junctions was the cause of more than 40 per cent of failures in eight postcode areas, including Outer Hebrides (HS); Hemel Hempstead (HP); Motherwell (ML); Dumfries (DG); Harrogate (HG); Truro (TR); Taunton (TA) and Paisley (PA).

Behind that and failing to use their mirrors, errors in turning right at a junction (77,590), losing control of steering (73,715) and ignoring traffic light signals (72,110) were the most common major faults.

The most common serious or dangerous faults

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Rank #FaultTotal number issued 1Junctions - observation1671002Mirrors - change direction1398833Junctions - turning right775904Control - steering737155Response to signs - traffic lights721106Move off - safely716467Positioning - normal driving712488Move off - control693169Reverse park - Control6563210Response to signs - road markings65502

Failing vision

Worryingly, 577 candidates failed the test before even getting behind the wheel due to not being able to complete the sight test. You must be able to read a car number plate from 20 metres to meet the “standards of vision for driving”. Drivers are given three attempts before being failed but nearly 600 still couldn’t manage.

Tom Preston, managing director of Hippo Leasing commented: “Driving test faults reflect the factors which cause the most accidents on the road. Observation is the most common factor, according to the DfT, so while over 167,000 learners failed their practical test last year for this very reason, it’s important candidates learn from their mistakes to keep themselves and others safe once they’re qualified to drive."

The DVSA's chief driving examiner Mark Winn said: “It is vital that learners can drive safely and have the skills to drive on all types of road before taking their test. The driving test helps get drivers ready for a lifetime of safe driving and makes our roads safer for all.

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“Failing to look properly at junctions is the most common serious or dangerous test fault and the largest cause of accidents in Britain. Good observation, including proper use of mirrors, is a crucial skill that drivers must learn.”

The least common serious or dangerous faults

Rank #FaultTotal number issued1Controlled stop - Promptness02Highway Code433Reverse left - Control704Turn in road - Observations735Turn in road - Control846Reverse left - Observation847Control - accelerator2438Control - clutch4989Precautions52910Eyesight577