There’s no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented many of us from carrying out the activities we’re used to. Since the government imposed the first national lockdown and put restrictions in place back in March 2020, we have been unable to live normally – and something many people have not been able to do is take a driving test or even learn to drive.

On average, there are 1,632,000 driving tests conducted in the UK each year. However, between April 2020 and December 2020, only 436,044 tests were carried out. This is just 26% of the number of tests normally completed in one year, meaning there is now a serious backlog of budding drivers waiting to get behind the wheel to secure their licences.

As of April 22nd, the government gave the go ahead for driving tests to resume. But with 1,624,680 tests waiting to take place, you might find that you’re having to hang on a little longer to take yours. The good news is, this gives you extra time to practise your parallel parking and emergency stops, and you could even brush up on your Highway Code.

After waiting so long to take your test, you’re probably eager to pass as soon as possible, which means avoiding making mistakes while you’re in the driving seat. As part of our latest campaign, we’ve looked at the top 10 reasons for failing according to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and put together a list of useful tips so that you don’t fall short of a pass on the big day.

You can check out our full infographic here, but if you want a sneak peek in the meantime, keep reading…

Judging junctions

According to the DVSA, observing junctions is the most common reason for failing a driving test. In fact, it has been the top reason every year since April 2006, meaning that drivers haven’t been making the grade due to incorrectly observing junctions for over a decade. So, what can you do to ensure you don’t fail your test in this way?

There are many different types of junctions, from roundabouts to T junctions, but there are a few general rules you should keep in mind when approaching them. Make sure you’re on the lookout for clues that a junction is up ahead, such as an increase in traffic, vehicles slowing down and, of course, road signage. If there are designated lanes as you get closer to the junction, you should use your signals to make sure you’re in the correct one in plenty of time. You should also drop into a lower gear and slow down before coming to a complete stop.

More specifically, turning right at a junction is something that often catches out many learners. If you’re asked to make a right turn during your test, use your indicators to give a right-turn signal and position yourself so that the vehicle is just to the left of the middle of the road, or the space marked for right-turning traffic. If possible, you should also leave room for other vehicles to pass on your left so that you’re not holding up traffic.

Mirror, mirror

When you’re behind the wheel, it can be easy to focus all of your attention on what’s happening right in front of you. While this is an essential part of driving safely, it’s also important that you’re frequently checking your mirrors so that you’re aware of what is behind and to the side of your vehicle at all times.

The truth is, misuse of mirrors is a common mistake made by a lot of learner drivers, so it’s worth noting that you should be checking your rear-view mirror and both wing mirrors every time you want to turn left or right, change lanes or overtake another vehicle or a cyclist, making sure you check them both before and after.

Staying in control

In order to drive safely, you will need to ensure that you’re in control at all times. This means maintaining control of the steering wheel – something that causes many learners to fail their tests. In general, you should keep both hands on the steering wheel except when you’re changing gears or indicating, for example.

To avoid a driving fault, you should make sure that you don’t let the steering wheel spin back on its own after turning a corner. While you won’t be given a fail for crossing your hands on the steering wheel, you are likely to have less control when doing this. So with this in mind, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of using the push-pull technique to move the wheel through your hands instead, as this will allow you to maintain full control when turning sharp corners.

On the move

During your test, your examiner will expect you to go from a stationary to a moving position safely, so it’s imperative that you know what you need to do before you put your foot on the accelerator. First of all, you should check all of your mirrors to make sure the road is clear, not forgetting your blindspots too. You should then signal your intention to move off before carrying out one final check before moving off.

You’ll also be expected to move off with control. This means gently pressing your foot on the accelerator, steering carefully into the road and releasing the clutch slowly.

Reading the signs

As obvious as it sounds, it’s crucial that you pay attention to all the traffic signs you see. Ignoring just one could be the reason you fail your entire test. Some of the most common sign-related mistakes include exceeding the proposed speed limit, turning into roads that are marked as ‘No Entry’ and ignoring signs that indicate priority for oncoming traffic, such as ‘Give Way’ signs.

Learning to drive and organising a driving test has been a challenge for many over the past year, but it seems that it won’t be long before you’re able to get your licence once and for all. Share your experiences of learning to drive and taking a test during a pandemic using the hashtag #LearnerToDriver.