Driving Instructor Discusses Top 10 Common Errors in Driving Tests

Driving Instructor Discusses Top 10 Common Errors in Driving Tests

driving test L plate

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With the DVSA set to unveil the latest driving test figures for April 2023 to March 2024, Regtransfers, a supplier of personalised number plates, teamed up with Sophie Stuchfield. Sophie, an instructor with a fifteen-year track record in coaching students and offering tips on social media (@TheOnlineDrivingInstructor), shares insights on the most frequent errors in UK driving tests over the last decade.

Observation at Junctions

Sophie highlights the importance of keen observation at junctions, the foremost error observed in tests over recent years. “Lack of attention to road markings or signs could leave you oblivious to an approaching junction,” she notes.

What are the consequences? “In such cases,” Sophie adds, “an examiner might need to verbally alert you or use the dual control brake pedal to decelerate or halt.” She also emphasises the need for thorough checks when exiting a junction: “A single glance isn’t enough; you must double check to ensure the road is clear.”

Mirrors – (change direction)

Sophie stresses the need for habitual mirror checks before signalling, altering direction, or adjusting speed. The “Mirror-Signal-Manoeuvre” routine should become instinctive for drivers. Common errors here include delayed or neglected use of side mirrors before altering course.

Sophie elaborates, “particularly pay attention to your side mirrors when switching lanes or navigating around obstacles. Check the relevant mirror before moving in any direction. It’s a basic, yet frequently overlooked aspect, particularly under test conditions.” She links this oversight to test anxiety, mentioning that learners are often preoccupied with their performance rather than naturally responding to hazards.

Junctions (turning right)

Regarding right turns at junctions, Sophie advises, “Avoid cutting corners when turning right. Even with no other road users, correct positioning is essential.”  She also highlights the need for appropriate lane use: “As you approach the turn, stay in your lane until you reach the turning point, even if the road seems clear.”

Control (steering)

Sophie points out many steering errors during tests are due to tension. “Nerves make us tense, leading to rigid steering. There’s a misconception that crossing arms while steering is incorrect, causing ineffective hand movements.”

Contrary to popular belief, arm crossing while steering isn’t a test failure. Sophie, along with many instructors, encourages flexible steering techniques, as long as they’re safe: “Controlled car handling is key, regardless of whether you cross your arms.”

Response to Signals (traffic lights)

Sophie provides advice on traffic light responses: “Stay alert at red lights to not miss the green signal. Distraction can lead to missing light changes, often signalled by a honk from the vehicle behind.” She also focuses on anticipation, “You should not cross the stop line on amber. If lights have been green for a while, anticipate a possible change.”

Move off (safely)

Test candidates will be assessed on safely moving off from a stop, including complete observation, not hindering other road users, and maintaining distance from parked cars.

Sophie’s advice: “Ensure you’re in the correct gear and have released the handbrake before moving off, completing a full check of your surroundings. Don’t rush; make sure you can join the traffic without causing others to slow down.”

Positioning (normal driving)

Sophie’s advice on normal driving positioning is clear: “Avoid the right lane unless overtaking or turning right. For those accustomed to driving on the right, sufficient practice on the left is vital for it to feel natural.”

Move off (control)

Driving test in car

Pic Credit: Pixabay

Control while moving off involves complete observation, merging into traffic without affecting other road users, and ensuring adequate space from parked vehicles. Sophie reiterates the importance of composure, “As mentioned, ensure correct gear selection and don’t rush when moving off. If you stall in a manual car, remain calm; a stall doesn’t automatically result in failure.”

 Response to Signals (Road Markings)

Candidates are evaluated on their response to road markings during the test. Mistakes include using bus lanes incorrectly, failing to stop at markings, and blocking ‘keep clear’ zones. Sophie advises, “Always be proactive in reading the road ahead. Look out for directional arrows to help choose the correct lane.” If unsure due to poor markings or signs, she suggests seeking examiner guidance well in advance.

Reverse Park (Control)

For parking, candidates must choose an appropriate space, position the vehicle correctly, prepare for reversing, and monitor their surroundings throughout the manoeuvre. Sophie’s tip: “Take your time during parking. Adjust mirrors, open windows for better visibility, or even step out to check your positioning if necessary.”


Sophie identifies two additional factors for test failure: nerves and premature testing. “Being calm, focused, and comfortable is key, as is not rushing to take the test. Ensure both you and your instructor agree on your readiness.” As the DVSA prepares its latest report, mastering specific skills remains essential for aspiring drivers, combining diligent observation, precise control, and strict adherence to traffic regulations.

Note: This is a collaborative post

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