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Wednesday 17 January 2024

Driving Instructor Discusses The Most Common Driving Test Faults


Image Credit: UnSplash

{This is a collaborative post}

A driving test represents a major step during our years as a young adult, and it’s often accompanied by a considerable amount of nerves for both the test-taking teen…and their parents! To help lessen these anxieties, Regtransfers, a provider of personalised number plates, partners with Sophie Stuchfield, an experienced driving instructor. With a rich experience of 15 years teaching students and an online presence as @TheOnlineDrivingInstructor, Sophie imparts key advice on the most common faults made in UK driving tests over the past decade.

Observations at Junctions 

Starting off at the top, Sophie highlights the need for vigilant observation at junctions - the leading fault seen in driving tests over the past ten years. “If you don’t pay close attention to road markings or road signs, you may be completely unaware that you are approaching a junction,” she warns.

In fact, an examiner may need to intervene in these scenarios. “If you miss a junction, your examiner may have to step in verbally or engage the dual control brake to manage the vehicle’s speed or bring it to a stop.”

Sophie also highlights the importance of carrying out proper checks when leaving a junction: “A single glance isn’t enough; confirming that the road is clear is a really important step before joining it.”

Mirror Checks During Direction Changes

Mirror checks should be carried out before signalling, turning or changing speeds. The "Mirror-Signal-Manoeuvre" process should be second nature to learners by the time they take their test, but it can easily be overlooked under the stress of test pressure.

Sophie emphasises, "Focus on your wing mirrors when changing lanes or moving around obstacles. Check the corresponding wing mirror for the direction you’re heading." She relates these common mirror-related errors to the stress of being assessed, where learners might lose focus on their natural hazard management, and instead be concerned with how their test is going.

Right-Hand Turns at Junctions

For executing right-hand turns at junctions, Sophie insists on strict lane adherence. "Remain in the proper lane at all times, irrespective of the traffic situation," she advises.

She further explains the importance of proper positioning: "Approaching the turn, if there is no oncoming traffic, drivers will often drift to the wrong side of the road before turning. It’s really important to stay on your side of the road until you reach your point of turn".

Steering Control

Drawing from her lengthy history as an instructor, Sophie knows that steering difficulties, like many test issues, are often rooted in nervousness.

“Test nerves can lead to tension in the body, causing us to stiffen up,” Sophie notes. “This, coupled with the mistaken belief that crossing arms while steering is not allowed, often results in rigid steering and ineffective hand manoeuvres.”

In fact most instructors - including Sophie - promote flexible steering techniques, provided they maintain vehicle control: "Crossing your arms can sometimes be necessary for swift steering responses."

Responding to Traffic Signals

Sophie’s advice on handling traffic lights focuses on the need for constant attention. “Stay alert at red lights, and be ready for the green signal. Though it may seem simple enough, it’s easy to lose focus, especially during a test, resulting in overlooked signals and added stress.”

She also promotes foresight as an important skill for learners to develop. "Do not cross the stop line at an amber light. If you’re approaching a green light that’s been on for a while, it’s best to prepare for a possible change."

Moving Off Safely

In the UK driving test, examiners will evaluate a candidate's ability to safely start moving from a stopped position. It will come up a few times in a test, and learners should expect to be asked to stop on the left at least four times.

Sophie recommends completing a full visual check to ensure safety before moving, and moving only when doing so won’t cause other vehicles to change their speed.

“Check you're in the correct gear, the handbrake is down, and perform a full surroundings check before moving," she advises. Highlighting safety, she adds, "Avoid making other vehicles reduce their speed, and only move when there’s a safe gap."

Normal Road Positioning

Sophie’s direction for typical driving positioning is straightforward: "Reserve the right-hand lane for overtaking or right turns only - other than this, stick to the left. For those accustomed to right-side driving, sufficient practice on the left side is crucial to become comfortable."

Move off (control)

Addressing the issue of stalling during a test, Sophie reassures, “Don't worry, stalling doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Pause, take a deep breath, then start again”.

She reiterates the importance of composure when starting to move, "Stay calm and ensure you're properly prepared before moving off.”

Following Road Markings

Responding correctly to road markings is a significant part of the test, assessing responses to lines like stop and give way, box junctions, and traffic calming measures.

Sophie's guidance focuses on alertness: “Always read the road”, comments Sophie. “This means keeping an eye out in advance for any arrows which will help you to select the correct lane for your direction at all times."

If road markings (or signs) are poor, Sophie reminds learners an examiner will direct test candidates. “Remember, you can always ask for clarification if you need it, provided you ask in plenty of time."

Reverse Park (Control)

In reverse parking tasks, candidates need to demonstrate their ability to choose a suitable parking spot, correctly position the car, prepare for reversing, and remain aware of their surroundings.

“Take your time when parking”, comments Sophie. “You can make adjustments, dip door mirrors, open windows to see and even get out and check that your position is correct."


Sophie identifies two main causes for not passing the driving test: nerves and insufficient preparation. She advises, "Keep a calm and focused mindset, similar to how you would drive normally. Additionally, avoid rushing into your test; make sure you're thoroughly prepared in agreement with your instructor."

With these insights from an experienced driving tutor, candidates and their families can approach the driving test with more confidence, focusing on the key areas that need attention for success.

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