††††††††††† THE DRIVING TEST

Do not be rushed into taking your driving test.


When you arrive at the test centre to take your test, if you would like the accompanying driver to go with you on test, whether it is your instructor, partner or maybe your dad, all you have to do is ask the examiner.The person will be allowed to sit in the back of the car whilst you take your test. The examiner will tell him / her they must not take any part in the test, either physically or verbally, because if they do the test will be terminated immediately.It may be you feel more confident with a friend in the car with you or on the other hand it may put you off; the choice is yours. The test will take approximately thirty-five minutes; this is all the time the examiner has to assess your driving. When you arrive back at the Test Centre after completing your test you will then be told the outcome. Hopefully you will pass and be on your merry way towards a lifetimeís enjoyment, freedom and maybe even a new hobby to practice at. Now let's say you fail; you will receive the top copy of a 'Statement of Failure'. The examiner will go through this document with you before leaving the car.Your instructor may also listen in on this de-briefing if you so wish.

The examiner then leaves the car, returns to the office, where a report is written up on the back of the ''Statement of Failure'.These reports are read by the Senior Driving Examiner to make sure they reflect the markings on the front of the Statement.


Lets take a look at some of the more common points of failure.I will divide these into two categories, vehicle control and road procedure.





You must be able to demonstrate a reasonable quality of control throughout the test of the controls of the vehicle, not only the ones that make the car move. What if you are taking your test and you get a heavy down pour of rain or snow?Not everybody knows which is the wiper switch or even the light switch.What about setting the controls of the heater to demist the screen and side windows as they are misting up, and which switch operates the rear window demister.You may have been shown them in the early part of your tuition, but make sure you remember where they are as it may not have rained during a lesson.Remember, that if you are successful, you may be out driving your car or your dadís car later on that day on your own, with no one to ask which switch does what; so be fully conversant with these controls.

Now to the controls that make the car move and stop, with your help.The skill we are looking for here is smoothness.If you are asked to pull up at the side of the road at a convenient place, and you press the brake pedal unnecessarily hard and you see the examiner disappearing under the dashboard, and you have to help him back onto his seat and put his hat straight; he is not going to be too chuffed.That would result in a cross on your 'Statement of Failure'.

Likewise with your clutch, gently does it! Donít flip him into the back seat because you have brought your foot off the pedal as if the pedal is red hot, gently does it! Control and smoothness is your aim.Itís not the first one back to the centre that gets the pass certificate.Itís no good setting off in a cloud of blue smoke because you had your accelerator to the floor and you released the clutch as described earlier.†† It just will not impress the examiner!

I have mentioned the footbrake, now the handbrake.Donít apply it before stopping as this will stop the back wheels before the front wheels, resulting in a sudden stop nor think you will get away with the handbrake turn in the middle of the road, when the examiner asks you to turn the car round to face the opposite direction.Once again you donít want to be helping him back into his seat, it just wonít go down well! Remember that the correct way of applying the hand brake is to depress the button at the end of it so it is not clicking along the ratchet each time you use it.The handbrake should be applied in a stationary queue of traffic.Imagine you have twenty cars in a queue and none of them have the handbrake applied.If something runs into the end of the queue, the whole line of cars could run into the car in front, and if pedestrians are walking between the cars, you can see the potential for disaster. If you think it is safe because you have your foot on the footbrake, this is not necessarily the case, as your feet will probably come off the pedals if you are struck firmly from behind.Some drivers will probably have first gear engaged and the foot on the clutch, which could make matters far worse if their foot comes off the pedal.Apply the handbrake when waiting to turn right across oncoming traffic, also when waiting to emerge onto a busy main road; again if someone hits you from behind you could easily be knocked into the flow of traffic.Get to be proficient as to when and how to use the handbrake.

Let us have a word about steering.Once again it is smoothness with good control that you are after.How many times do we hear that someone crossed their hands so they failed their test?It is not as straight forward as that.Imagine you are turning a corner and you get both hands in the same half of the wheel, lets say the right hand half, and something or body appears in front of you.If you have to steer to the right to avoid it, you canít do it till you get one hand to the other side of the wheel.Try it, sit in your car when it is stationary, put both hands in one half of the wheel and turn the wheel in that direction.You will have to get one hand across to the other side of the wheel before you can steer it correctly.I am not saying you will fail your test for crossing your hands on the steering wheel, but you certainly could if it put you in a potentially dangerous situation. We know it is allowed to cross your hands when manoeuvring the vehicle at slow speed; it is probably more likely you will hit something through lack of observation, than poor steering control.

If you imagine that the wheel is split in two halves down the centre, you should always try to keep one hand in each half.By doing this, you can turn the wheel in either direction.If you can find a large enough space devoid of traffic and people, it is a good idea to practice driving slowly in a tight figure of eight, going from lock to lock, without crossing your hands.


Lets have a look at why gears are marked quite often on failure sheets.

You must be able to demonstrate that you know how and when to change gear.It is not competent driving to hold low gear for prolonged periods, when road and traffic conditions allow you to change up and increase your speed; this will maintain your speed at lower revs for the benefit of the engine and reduce pollution.Likewise it is no good holding a high gear, after you have slowed down to the extent that the car is shuddering and vibrating, (this is called labouring).

Imagine riding your pushbike uphill; and it has gears and you are finding it hard to pedal.What would you do?You would change to a lower gear.It is just the same principal with the car: if you slow down, change down.If you are pedalling like mad on your bike but getting nowhere you would change into a higher gear.The same applies with the car, donít have the engine revving needlessly; change up to a higher gear and save engine wear and fuel consumption, at the same time reduce pollution.

Demonstrate to the examiner a degree of competence, that you do know how and when to change gear, and can do it smoothly.This involves good control with your feet, and knowing the position of your gears without looking down at the gear lever.†† For example, when coming to a halt in a high gear, you need to be able to quickly and confidently engage neutral or 1st , again, without looking down..††

A recommended and modern practice is to carry out block gear changes, if appropriate, i.e. changing directly from 5th to 3r,d or from 4th to 2nd.Assume that you need to change from 5th to 2nd as the road conditions ahead of you calls for a significant reduction in speed. The simplest way of approaching this is to get your speed right for the gear by applying the footbrake, make a block gear change from 5th to 2nd, and release the clutch smoothly.Conversely you may change down through each gear, releasing the clutch on each gear change. Failure to release the clutch between gear changes will result in the car 'coasting' for a considerable distance.†† If the latter was a pattern of your driving, this could result in a test failure under the heading of 'gears'.So remember do not Ďcoastí


Now let's look at vehicle manoeuvres.

This still encompasses vehicle control, but observation is of equal importance, along with accuracy.

You may have very good control over the car whilst carrying the manoeuvres and be able to put the car just where you want to.†† However, if you have not been aware of what has been going on around you and you have inconvenienced other road users by your lack of observation, you will probably have Observation marked on your Statement of Failure.Notice how I referred to other road users, because pedestrians are very important, and need as much consideration as anything else; and if those pedestrians are children, then you need to watch them closely, and greater awareness is needed because of their unpredictability.

Remember it is up to you to let other people or vehicles pass when carrying out the manoeuvres, whether on test or any other time, as you are causing the obstruction; so be aware all the time of what is going on around you.If a car approaches whilst you are carrying out a manoeuvre and it is obvious that the other vehicle is quite happy to wait for you, then proceed, and a wave of thanks wouldn't go a miss as you complete your manoeuvre.

Earlier I made the comment that you might be able to put the car just where you want to.You do not have to be so precise, as long as you carry out the manoeuvres with reasonable accuracy. Take the reverse exercise.As you reverse into a side road try to keep parallel with the kerb edge; do not wander all over the road or go well onto the footpath. It is also important that you do not finish wide of the kerb or at an acute angle to it.It must be done with reasonable accuracy and proper observation.

If you were judging someone's ability and they made some of the above errors, I doubt that you would pass them.Remember they would be trying to show you that they are safe to be let out on their own.All the manoeuvres must be carried out with a reasonably good standard of control of the clutch and accelerator, whilst being aware of what is going on around you.If you have set the accelerator (revs) to where you want them, and you take your foot straight off the clutch, the car will most likely take off too quickly and you will loose control of the steering and not have time to take proper observation.This will result in a Failure as you have created a potentially dangerous situation. By all means set your revs, take proper observation, but control your clutch, i.e. don't release it fully.Control the speed of the car by slipping the clutch; this is totally different to coasting as explained in section two. Make the car creep very slowly, and this will give you time to control the steering wheel and turn it very quickly from lock to lock especially on the turn in the road exercise. Please remember, take good observations. You should do this on any of your manoeuvres whether you are travelling backwards or forwards.††††††






Lets take a look at what might be marked under this section.

Probably the most common points of failures are; 'Not taking proper observation before emerging at junctions' and 'Speed on approach'. These two separate faults often occur at the same time, and either one could result in Failure. If you have a cross by the side of 'Not taking proper observation before emerging at a junction'; what does this mean?It means that you have driven onto a roundabout or emerged at a junction impeding the other road user who is in the priority position, due to your lack of observation.

At one extreme, the other driver may have had to reduce speed very slightly to accommodate you. This, on it's own, would not warrant a cross on the Statement of Failure.Conversely, if your action causes the other driver to brake, to significantly reduce his speed, this would be deemed potentially dangerous, and result in a cross on the statement of failure.At the other extreme, if the other driver has to brake heavily and swerve, or indeed there is a collision, this would be assessed as dangerous, result in a cross on the Statement of Failure, and be written up as a dangerous (D) occurrence in the examiner's report.

The other fault mentioned was 'Speed on approach to junctions'.†† If this is marked as a cross, it is most likely that you have approached the junction far too fast, even though you have every intention of stopping at the junction, and indeed do so.This could cause the drivers on the major road considerable concern because of your 'Speed on approach to the junction'; you may have caused them to reduce speed due to your driving technique; which has left a lot to be desired.

Another instance for the marking would be if you approach a junction too fast, not giving yourself time to take proper observation before emerging, thus causing concern to other drivers in the priority position.In this instance, you would most likely have had both the faults marked with a cross.Any one fault considered dangerous or potentially dangerous, is enough to fail your test. This does happen and rightly so.

If at the end of the test you are not satisfied with the assessment, you can write in and appeal.†† However, because it is difficult to recreate the situations that arose on the test, it is very unlikely the decision of the examiners will be changed.

Another very common failure point is, 'Not making normal progress and driving with undue hesitancy'.Before I go any further, I will say by all means be cautious, when driving but donít be over cautious.

When you arrive at a junction and sit there waiting needlessly, missing many opportunities to emerge on to the major road, this is likely to result in a considerable queue of traffic building up behind you, with the drivers showing their frustration.You are clearly driving with undue hesitancy and this can result in a point for failure.At some junctions you may be sat there a considerable length of time, but if an opportunity to emerge hasn't presented itself you may start thinking 'I've been here a long time, I'd better get going'.If you then set off causing another car on the major road to reduce speed considerably, this would again be a point of failure. You may have been sat at a junction for 5mins, so what, if you haven't missed an opportunity, then you can't go.On the other hand if you're there 30 seconds and nothing comes past and you aren't making any effort to proceed you may get marked for undue hesitancy. We are not talking of a fine line of judgement here, you will be allowed a considerable amount of leeway, and even if you miss the odd opportunity to emerge it will not necessarily result in failure.However if it is a pattern in your driving it will be picked up and marked accordingly.

Donít drive at 30mph in a 70mph limit if it is safe to drive at 70mph; no one is saying you have to drive at 70mph but you should make normal progress.Donít drive at 20mph in a 30mph limit when it is safe to drive at 30mph; make normal progress, but donít be over cautious.

If you are being over cautious in your driving, it is probably that you aren't competent to be allowed out on your own with the car as yet; and more practice is needed. You are not driving with due consideration for other road users which can be very frustrating for them; although at times, their impatience leaves a lot to be desired.

Make proper use of the mirrors throughout the test; and act on what you see in them.Don't go through the motions of looking in the mirror then signalling regardless of what is happening.Check the mirror, decide what to do; if you are thinking of turning right and a motorcycle has started to overtake you, then delay your signal.This can only be done if you have checked your mirror well in advance.If you want to stop at the side of the road and the car following is very close to you; signal your intention and brake over a longer distance.Again you can only do this correctly if the mirror was checked well in advance of your manoeuvre.

Most people gain experience after passing their test and become more proficient at controlling the car; this allows them to concentrate on what is happening outside the car.Unfortunately concentration is not easy to maintain when you have distractions in the car, i.e. passengers, radios, pets, mobile phones. You may be even eating or drinking, or lighting a cigarette. None of these things are allowed when you are taking your test, thereby ensuring that you are totally focused on what you are doing.†† Then there maybe numerous things happening outside the car that can take your mind off the particular piece of action you should be concentrating on. Don't let this happen, concentrate on your driving.

Another very important point after passing your test is; few people continue to drive as they were taught.

This section has covered many of the basics of driving and if you adopt them you won't go far wrong, no matter how long you have a driving licence.It would reduce much of the carnage on our roads, and so much human suffering.

The above are just a few common faults that are the cause of many people failing the driving test marked under, Road Procedure and Vehicle Control. To minimise the possibility of failure make sure you are ready to take your test, read and absorb the points I have discussed as they can definitely help you get through your driving test.


To summarise :-


Vehicle Control.


Be familiar with your instrument panel/ symbols.

To control the car - 'gently does it'.

Ensure that the gear selected matches your speed and prevailing conditions.

Remember to carry out your manoeuvres, under control, with reasonable accuracy and proper observation.



Road Procedure.

Donít emerge at junctions without taking proper observation.

Don't approach or emerge at the junction travelling too fast; you weren't allowed to during your lessons, and if you did it on your test it's not surprising that you failed.

Use your mirrors well before you have pulled up at the side of the road, or before changing lanes and before signalling.

Get your speed correct on approach to hazards and give yourself time to think.

Read the road ahead, concentrate, anticipate and think defensive.


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