Nobody passes their driving test first time, right? Wrong! The majority of our pupils pass first time! Driving School Dave explains how…
This article looks at how to pass the driving test first time in the UK. With pass rates around 45% in many test centres it appears that more than every driving test taken, more than half fail. To put it another way, you are more likely to pass on your second attempt. So why do people fail and are there any tips on how to pass the driving test first time.
First let’s look at the reasons people fail the driving tests. According to the research done every year by the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) the reasons in 2017 were as follows;
- Junctions (observation)
- Mirrors – (change direction)
- Control (steering)
- Junctions (turning right)
- Move off (safely)
- Positioning (normal driving)
- Move off (control)
- Response to signals (traffic lights)
- Reverse park (control)
- Response to signals (Traffic Signs)
This has been almost the same for over ten years so given a list of the top ten fails, we can do something about this. I would be interested to know how many driving instructors actually have this list.
Let’s look in a little more detail of how you can avoid failing and how to pass the driving test first time.
The Highway Code tells us ‘observations must be effective’. To make your observations effective, pause a little when you look. Just long enough to ask yourself “is there anything coming?” If your head or eyes do not pause, you may not believe me but your eyes do not see when they are moving. If you don’t believe me, look in a mirror and look at your right eye first then left eye and keep moving to each eye. I bet you did not see your eyes move. Now get a friend to watch you and ask did they see your eyes move. They will say yes. This is known as ‘secades.’
So; you need to look well at junctions and just ask is there anything coming. Roundabouts are an area where some learners struggle and this is a key failure on the driving test. The only way around this is practice, practice and more practice until you are confident.
Mirrors (changing direction)
The Highway Code tells us to check mirrors frequently and I paraphrase, before you change speed, direction or overtake. You will have been asked to check centre mirror before changing speed or direction and left mirror as well when going left and right mirror before moving right. Where I see many problems with ‘mirrors changing direction’ is when a pupil finds themselves is a wrong lane or a situation where they suddenly change lanes for fear of being failed for being in the wrong place. How to pass the driving test first time on this issue is remember, being in the wrong lane is not necessarily a problem and as long as what you are doing is safe, you can’t fail. So you find yourself in the wrong place and want to move over? What will you do first? Check if it’s safe by checking any appropriate mirrors and if it’s not safe STAY WHERE YOU ARE. Even if this takes you down a wrong road it’s better than a sudden change of direction. I have seen hundreds of tests where this happened and the examiner simply redirected them down another route and they passed of course.
Many driving instructors will tell you ‘you must use pull push steering’ and it’s been the debate of more forums than I care to remember, The DVSA (remember the people who run the driving tests) will tell you, it doesn’t matter if you cross your hands a little as long as you have control. How to pass the driving test first time with steering is to never let the steering wheel come back on its own. A bad practice with many drivers is to let it slip though the hands to return to the normal position. This article is not about the many reasons why that is dangerous but about how to pass the driving test so I will stick with that. The often cause of a driving test fail is the steering too late or too soon into maybe a corner. So ensure you are confident at when and where to steer. As a rule your hands follow your eyes or as I used to say to my pupils ‘look at what you want to hit’ so look at the space or side of the junction where you want the car to go.
Move off (safely)
The Highway Code tells us to make effective observation before moving off and to check our blind spot before we move. I often hear people say before moving off you must signal, well that’s not entirely true. If nobody will benefit from a signal then who are you signalling to. I have seen many fails for inappropriate signals. So let’s explain, before you move off I want you to think ‘is there anyone who needs my signal?’ Now to make this decision you have to look effectively behind you using the mirrors and to the right hand mirrors at the least and over you blind spot. Now did you see anyone who needed a signal? If they were coming from behind you might actually think its not safe to pull out and therefore you won’t signal because you decide to wait. Maybe you look and there is nobody to signal too, great it’s safe to pull out and actually do you need the signal as there is nobody there? Probably not but don’t forget vehicles coming towards you might benefit from that signal. This simple change of thought can alone show you how to pass the driving test first time
Positioning (normal driving)
We should always drive on the left and we should drive in the centre of our available space. Are two rules that can help you to see how to pass the driving test first time? When driving between parked cars try to keep about one metre (3 feet if old school) from them if you can’t slow down or if necessary stop. When in a lane stay in the middle of that lane whenever possible, practice by looking far ahead and following the position of the car ahead. We should always drive in the left lane under normal circumstances unless road marking or signs tell us differently or when overtaking.
Move off (control)
Ah the dreaded hill start, they just require practice and really should be easily managed before moving on to other subjects. Hill starts are not difficult when practised in quiet locations but, and it’s a big but, if you are not confident and you are trying to do a hill start in a busy junction, with an impatient car behind you, you will struggle with all the demands. Hill starts are like any other subject, you have to get the basics right first. So if you are not confident get your driving instructor to take you to a quiet area with a few hills where it does not matter if you roll back and practice. Seriously it might feel like going backwards (pun intended) but even 15 minutes getting this right can put your mind at ease.
Response to signals (traffic lights)
The traffic light ahead is green great you can go right? But what should we be thinking really. What if the light suddenly changes as you get there? What will you do? Panic, what’s behind OMG can I stop. None of which is a recipe for how to pass the driving test first time. So; the rule is next time you see a traffic light check your rear view mirror regardless of the traffic light colour. Ask yourself, ‘what’s behind me and can I stop?’ If the answer is no, then even if the light is green ease of your gas if it’s red you need to stop anyway. Do this with plenty of time and as soon as you see traffic lights start planning. The car behind will slow down too and if the light changes you will know you can stop.
Reverse park (control)
I am always surprised to see that so many fail for this. Any manoeuvre is just a matter of practice and doing it from every angle possible. Yes the reverse park can be done from different angles. I know many instructors like to teach ‘their’ proffered method but there are lots of ways and it’s up to you to choose what method is best for you and each given situation. 90 degree, 45 degree it does not matter as long as it’s under control and safe.
Response to signals (Traffic Signs)
Interestingly this is a new one for 2017. Previously we would see faults for ‘response to signals (road markings). This I am sure has come about due to the new elements of the driving test where pupils now have to read road signs to direct themselves during the independent drive. I know from my educational degree that if you are not confident or are worried about one task then an additional task will be difficult. If you are not fully confident in your driving ability of controls etc. then trying to read road signs at the same time will be difficult. To pass first time, you need to be fully confident in the basics before the more complex tasks of reading road signs and making decisions. Each task on their own seems simple but to put the two together seems impossible.
To summarise how to pass the driving test first time
I have met many people over the years who when they find out what I do tell me ‘I failed my driving test because of nerves’. I always ask them;
- How do you feel about roundabouts? They reply with phrases such as they don’t like them or they are difficult.
- How are you on the manoeuvres? Is met with replies such as they are horrible and I get them right mostly.
- Are there any complicated junctions you don’t like and I’m told of lots of horror stories.
I always reply with ‘if I had all that going on inside me while sitting in the test centre waiting for the examiner, I would be nervous too’. My learners would come back having passed disappointed they didn’t get that roundabout or junction. Strange I know but they were ready for the test and anything it had to bring and yet they still took fewer hours than with other driving schools!!
Dave Foster MA, Dip.DI (or Driving School Dave) is the most qualified driving school owner in the country, after completing his Master’s Degree in Driver Training Education in 2011 at Middlesex University. He also holds a diploma in Driving Instruction and is a Cert Ed. qualified teacher. Dave is the founder and Managing Director of 1st 4 Driving Ltd, and also looks after over 15 driving schools across the country on a consultancy basis.