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Five ways to avoid a driving test fail

For all learner drivers there is one immediate aim when starting driving lessons - to pass your driving test first time. Unfortunately the national pass rate indicates that most people will be unsuccessful on at least one occasion and there are several common reasons for this.

To help, we've enlisted the help of an experienced instructor to help you. Here, he'll take you through the top five reasons for failing and give you those all important tips to avoid the pitfalls.

1 - Observations at Junctions

Problem: Emerging or turning at junctions without making the necessary safe checks before proceeding resulting in adversely affecting other drivers.

Solution: This can be down to approaching junctions too quickly and not having enough thinking time which leads to bad decisions. Learner drivers don't always have the anticipation skills of an experienced driver and so you need to afford more time to assess different situations. Remember, if you can't be sure it is safe to proceed then it must be a risk, and drivers should never take risks. It is also important to understand what type of junction you're approaching and who has right of way (i.e. roundabouts) so always read the road signs and markings as early as possible.

2 - Left Reverse - Observations

Problem: Not making effective observations during the manoeuvre and/or not showing consideration to other road users.

Solution: The number one rule is don't start reversing without looking where you're going, because you can't react to what you can't see! 90% of observations should be over the left shoulder so that if you have traffic approaching, you can stop and wait until it is safe to proceed. The blind spot over the right shoulder should be checked frequently, especially before the front of the car swings out as you enter the side road. Keep the car slow as it will not only help with the observations but also give more time to make the correct decisions and complete an accurate manoeuvre.

3 - Steering

Problem: Steering too harshly or steering too early or late leading to hitting the kerb or moving towards oncoming vehicles.

Solution: Losing control of the steering is clearly a bad thing (for very obvious reasons!) and yet surprisingly it appears as the third most common reason for a failed test. One factor for this is the nerves associated with a driving test. It is harder to drive smoothly when you're gripping the steering wheel tightly and your arms are rigid, so take steady breaths and try and relax into your drive - it's never as bad as you imagine it to be! Always plan ahead and slow down in narrow roads and tight spaces as it's easier to steer at slower speeds and of course, always feed the wheel between your hands.

4 - Mirrors

Problem: Changing direction or speed without assessing the road behind to consider the impact on other road users.

Solution: MSM. The most famous three letters in driving! Mirror Signal Manoeuvre is the most effective way of safely dealing with a planned course of action or reacting to a potential hazard. If you have to change your road position or speed for any reason (parked cars, overtaking cyclists, road works etc) you must check that it is safe by using your both interior and relevant door mirror first. In failed tests it is often a series of minor mirror faults which the examiner will eventually change to a major fault rather than one serious or dangerous moment during the drive, so aim to be consistent and check regularly.

5 - Reverse Parking

Problem: Not completing the manoeuvre safely and under control. Failing to park parallel and reasonably close to the kerb.

Solution: The reverse park exercise is similar to the left reverse in terms of where to look when reversing but most candidates fail this manoeuvre due to bad control or poor accuracy. When reversing towards the kerb remember that the road will often start to slope as you get closer (called ‘the camber') so use the footbrake as well as clutch control - if you move quickly you'll get too close and have little time to correct it. Once again, try to keep calm and focus on the routine you've learnt for this manoeuvre - treat it as if you're in a lesson and take your time!

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