Wednesday 17 January 2024

Driving Instructor Provides Advice On Most Common Driving Test Faults

Image Credit: UnSplash

{This is a collaborative post}

The road to passing a driving test is a major milestone in life, often filled with excitement and tension (in equal measures) for both the learner driver and their parents. To alleviate any pre-test stress, personalised number plate supplier Regtransfers have joined forces with Sophie Stuchfield, an expert driving instructor. With a wealth of experience spanning 15 years of teaching and known as @TheOnlineDrivingInstructor online, Sophie shares essential tips on the most frequent errors in UK driving tests over the last decade.

Observation at Junctions

Sophie emphasises the need for learners to carry out detailed observation at junctions - which has come up as the top error seen in tests over the last 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.

She explains that an examiner may need to intervene in these scenarios, “An 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 is inadequate; confirming that the road is clear is crucial before joining it.”

Mirror Use During Direction Changes

Checking mirrors before signaling, turning, or changing speed is an important aspect of the test. The "Mirror-Signal-Manoeuvre" sequence should be instinctive for learners by the time they sit their test, though it can be easily overlooked in the moment.

Sophie advises, "Particularly, pay attention to your wing mirrors when changing lanes or navigating around obstacles. Ensure you check the correct wing mirror depending on the direction you're moving." She associates frequent errors in mirror usage with the pressures of being assessed, where learners may lose focus on natural hazard management.

Right-Hand Turns at Junctions

Sophie advises maintaining proper lane discipline for right-hand turns at junctions. "You should avoid cutting the corner when turning into a road on your right, even if the junction is completely clear of other road users. You should be using correct positioning at all times."

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

Sophie, drawing from her extensive teaching background, acknowledges that steering challenges, like many test difficulties, often originate from nerves.

“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, Sophie, along with other instructors, promotes flexible steering techniques, provided they maintain vehicle control: "Crossing your arms can sometimes be necessary for swift steering responses."

Responding to Traffic Signals

Sophie offers tips on dealing with traffic lights, emphasising the importance of staying focused. “Remain alert at red lights, and be ready for the change to green. Though it seems straightforward, it’s easy to become distracted, especially during a test, resulting in missed signals and heightened anxiety.”

She also emphasises 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."

Move off (safely)

In the test, examiners evaluate a candidate's ability to safely start moving from a stopped position. Learners should anticipate being asked to stop on the left at least four times during their test.

Sophie recommends a full visual check to ensure safety before moving, without causing 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."

Positioning (normal driving)

Sophie’s guidance on road positioning is straightforward: "Only use the right lane for overtaking or right turns. For drivers more familiar with right-hand traffic, it's vital to practise driving on the left until it feels natural."

Move off (control)

Addressing the issue of stalling during tests, Sophie reassures learner drivers, “Stalling doesn’t automatically lead to failing. Pause, then restart the car, keeping your composure.”

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

Adherence to Road Markings

The driving test includes evaluating how candidates respond to various road markings. 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."

She also advises that if road markings (or signs) are poor, 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)

For reverse parking exercises, learner drivers must demonstrate their ability to select a suitable spot, position the vehicle correctly, prepare for reversing, and stay 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 reasons for not passing the test: nervousness and lack of preparation. She recommends, "Maintain a serene and focused approach, akin to regular driving. Additionally, don’t rush into taking your test; make sure you and your instructor feel you are completely ready."