Passing the driving test is a significant milestone for many young motorists, allowing them to drive independently without relying on lifts or public transport. But with national driving pass rates under 50%, passing the driving test is difficult.
Here are some reasons why driving can be hard and how to make the process easier.
Why do learners fail their driving test?
Knowing the common reasons why learners fail their driving test will allow you to spend more time practising in those areas to avoid making the same mistakes as others.
The DVLA has revealed the main reasons why learners fail their driving test:
- Not making effective observations at junctions.
- Not using mirrors correctly when changing direction.
- Not having proper control of the steering wheel.
- Incorrect positioning when turning right at junctions.
- Not moving off safely.
- Not responding appropriately to traffic lights.
- Poor positioning on the road during normal driving.
- Not responding correctly to traffic signs.
- Not having control of the vehicle when moving off.
- Not keeping control of the vehicle during reverse parking.
Nerves will inevitably play a role when learning to drive, which can make the process more difficult. It’s natural to feel nervous when driving, but the more you can get behind the wheel and practice your driving skills, the more confident you’ll become.
Learning to drive is difficult because it requires the learner driver to carry out several tasks simultaneously. For example, while turning the steering wheel, the learner may have to operate the car’s pedals, indicate, and scan the road ahead. Similarly, other tasks may require the learner to control speed, change gears, and steer simultaneously.
Multi-tasking gets easier as the learner becomes more familiar and comfortable with the vehicle they’re practising in.
Overconfidence can be a problem with young drivers who may think they are better at driving than they are. This can often result in the learner driver ignoring the instructor’s advice and taking unnecessary risks behind the wheel.
Passing the driving test becomes harder with age
Not everyone learns to drive when they turn 17. Statistically, passing the driving test on the first attempt gets harder as you get older.
Driving data from the Department for Transport shows that from April 2021 to March 2022, first-time pass rates for a 17-year-old are 61%, whereas pass rates for a 43-year-old are around 44%.
Developing bad habits from parents
The DVSA recommends 22 hours of private practice, as well as professional driving lessons to reach test standards.
Private practice should be used to build on the skills the learner has developed from the professional during lessons. However, many learner drivers pick up bad habits from their parents, which can affect their progress.
One of the hardest parts of driving is to perform a manoeuvre, such as a parallel park. During the practical test, the learner will be asked to perform at least one driving manoeuvre. Performing the manoeuvres successfully requires good control, accuracy, and observation.
The driving manoeuvres that are typically carried out on a driving test include:
- Parallel park at the side of the road – This involves parking your car between two other cars within a designated space. You will need to reverse into the space and straighten up your car.
- Park in a parking bay – This involves parking your car within a designated parking bay, either by driving forwards or reversing into the bay.
- Pulling up on the right-hand side of the road – This involves pulling up on the right-hand side of the road, reversing back a short distance, and then moving off again.
- Reversing around a corner – This involves reversing your car around a corner while keeping a safe distance from the kerb and other road users.
- Turning in the road – This involves turning your car around on a narrow road using a three-point turn.
You may be asked to perform a controlled stop during the practical driving test. The controlled stop exercise requires you to stop the vehicle in good time and under full control, as if in an emergency.
Scanning the road ahead
When driving, you should be scanning everything around you. But knowing where to look and how long for can often be confusing. Good observation, including effective use of mirrors, is a skill all drivers must learn.
Learner drivers often find roundabouts intimidating. During the practical driving test, there’s every chance the candidate will face a few roundabouts.
Some learner drivers find roundabouts difficult initially but gradually find them easier with regular practice.
How to make driving easier
Regular driving practice is a great way to build confidence as you prepare for your driving test.
Familiarise yourself with the rules of the road
The Highway Code helps keep you and other road users safe. To prepare for the driving test, learner drivers must have good knowledge of The Highway Code.
The DVSA provides several resources to help learners prepare for the road.
- Know your road signs.
- Essential Skills.
- The Highway Code.
You can also take our road signs quiz to test your knowledge.
Commentary driving is a technique that encourages learner drivers to describe what is going on around them and what they think might happen next. Commentary driving can help sharpen alertness, focus and concentration, skills young drivers often lack.
Try not to compete against your peers
Many learners see passing their driving test as a competition with other drivers to see who can pass quicker. Some ignore the importance of learning to drive safely and responsibly and are more focused on passing.
Practice driving in all conditions
Learners should practice in different conditions to broaden their driving skills and experience. For example, practising in dark and wet conditions will help the learner prepare for driving independently.
New drivers often feel nervous or intimidated by motorway driving, even though UK motorways are among the safest types of roads to drive on. Therefore, motorway driving lessons are often a good idea to help learners become safe and competent on these types of roads. However, legally learner drivers can only take motorway driving lessons with an approved driving instructor (ADI) in a car with dual controls.
Choosing the right instructor
An important step when learning to drive is to choose a driving instructor who can teach you to drive safely and responsibly. A good instructor should be reliable, keep you motivated and know how to get the best out of you.
Building a positive relationship with the instructor can make driving easier and more enjoyable. A clear and structured lesson plan should broaden the learner’s experience, develop their skills, and get them up to test standards.
If there are areas of concern, the learner should address those with the instructor and put in extra practice to iron out any weaknesses.
Practice makes perfect
As with most things, practice makes perfect. The more you can practice, the more driving will feel automatic and natural. Put the work in, and the rewards should follow.
Make sure you’re practising in a suitable vehicle
It’s vital to ensure that the vehicle the learner is practising in is reliable, safe, roadworthy, and easy to drive and control. For instance, a tall person may not feel comfortable learning to drive in a small car, such as a Mini.
On the other hand, larger cars can be difficult to park and manoeuvre, and a shorter person may find reaching the pedals difficult.
Driving is a complex task that requires a combination of skills and knowledge. However, with practice and experience, most people become competent drivers.
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