What happens if you fail your driving test? 

Between December 2017 and December 2018 DVSA conducted 1,685,768 practical driving tests - 768,554 learners passed and got their full driving licence, but 917,214 failed. The most common reasons for failing was not looking properly at junctions and not using rear view mirrors when changing direction. So what's next if you do fail?

Failing to look properly at junctions and not using mirrors when changing direction are the biggest causes of practical driving test fails and accidents, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has revealed. 

Between December 2017 and December 2018 DVSA conducted 1,685,768 practical driving tests – 768,554 learners passed and got their full driving licence, but 917,214 failed. 

The most common reasons for driving test fails: 

Junctions – observation is the biggest driving test fail.

Not looking properly or in both directions when approaching a junction or emerging from one, which resulted in 202,139 failures

Mirrors – change direction.

Not checking the rear view mirror or wing mirrors sufficiently when changing carriageway or entering a junction, 165,908 failures

Control – steering.

Allowing the car to wander in the carriageway or not steering into a good position before manoeuvres, such as entering a roundabout, turning a corner or passing a parked car, 90,030 failures

Junctions – turning right.

Not indicating early enough, not positioning the car properly or over or under steering when turning right at a junction, 80,054 failures

Move off – safely.

Pulling away without giving other road users sufficient consideration, 76,745 failures

Response to signs – traffic lights.

Not reacting quickly enough to changing traffic lights, 75,602 failures

Move off – control.

Rolling, over-revving, stalling or kangarooing the car when pulling away, 74,652 failures

Positioning – normal driving.

Poor positioning on the road by driving too close to the kerb or too close to oncoming traffic or driving too close to the car in front, 74,420 failures

Response to signs – road markings.

Not reacting quickly enough to road markings such as “give way” and “stop”, 67,309 failures

Reverse park – control.

Hitting the kerb or being unable to manoeuvre safely into a parking space using reverse gear, 65,229 failures. For tips on parallel parking watch this video.

You automatically fail your driving test if you make a serious or dangerous fault – sometimes called ‘majors’.

Putting L plates on car after failing driving test

When can you rebook a driving test after failing?

The good news is that if you do fail, you can rebook your driving test immediately, though there are waiting lists of several months at some test centres – which will give you some extra time to practice. And you won’t have to retake the theory test when you rebook your practical.

The DVSA said the driving test fail figures highlight the fact that too many learners were taking their car driving test with insufficient experience on the roads. They say that is becoming a real safety issue.

Chief driving examiner Mark Winn said: “It is vital that learners can drive safely and have the skills to drive on all types of road before taking their test. 

“The driving test helps get drivers ready for a lifetime of safe driving and makes our roads safer for all.

“Failing to look properly at junctions is the most common serious or dangerous test fault and the largest cause of accidents in Britain. Good observation, including proper use of mirrors, is a crucial skill that drivers must learn.”

Advice on avoiding common driving faults

  • The Highway Code provides rules, guidance and advice on avoiding common faults, including: Looking all around before emerging from a junction, and not crossing or joining a road until there is a gap large enough for you to do so safely
  • Using your mirrors frequently so that you always know what is behind and to each side of you, and using them in good time before you signal or change direction or speed
  • Maintaining a steady course and positioning the vehicle correctly in the road

Learner and driving instructor sitting together going over faults

First driving test fail? It could be worse

But remember,  if even after all your preparation you failed your test first time, it could be worse. A man from Stoke-on-Trent failed 36 driving tests before passing on his 37th attempt. There is currently no limit on the number of times you can book driving tests. 

The DVSA also revealed that in 2016 a young learner driver took 21 tests in a calendar year – he passed on his last attempt, much to the relief of all at the test centre. 

And you can’t help but feel sorry for Jason Walker from Crawley who wrote off his driving instructor’s car while trying a three-point turn. 

He explained: “It was my first try doing the manoeuvre, and as I was turning towards the kerb the instructor said I was going too fast and shouted at me to brake.

“But I panicked and hit the accelerator by mistake and wrapped the car around a telegraph pole. It was a write-off.”

It took 12 attempts to pass his test.

Learner driver being tested

Theory driving test can seem just as difficult

Passing the driving test theory can be just as difficult for some. A  28-year-old woman from Southwark failed her theory test 110 times, while a 30-year-old man from Peterborough hasn’t passed after 86 attempts.

There may be a silver lining though as failure is in no way linked to intelligence.

The physicist Albert Einstein had an estimated IQ of 160 – officially the IQ of a genius – but he never learned to drive. He said driving was “too complicated”, but that didn’t stop him from going on to develop the theory of relativity.

You don’t need to that sort of IQ to realise that as a learner you will need motor insurance you can rely upon. Adrian Flux offers first class learner driver policies for less than 85 pence a day. 

And for more advice on passing your test and staying safe on the road visit the Adrian Flux learner driver hub.

Our guide to passing your driving test