Updated October 2020
Want to avoid the most common mistakes that cause people to fail their driving test?
We've compiled the list of mistakes you should absolutely avoid when taking your driving test to get your US driver license. Not only should you avoid this, but by reading this list, you'll understand the most common reasons why people fail their test. We hope this helps you become an even safer and more educated driver. Our goal by publishing this is to help you be a safe driver and pass your road test successfully! For more road test tips, check out our blog or YouTube page.
How we came up with the most common driving test mistakes.
We have helped hundreds of thousands of people across the US take their driving test, also known as the behind-the-wheel test. We've helped them directly with our door-to-door road test concierge service. This data is calculated from the folks who've failed their test. The good news: Most people pass on their second driving test. Our hope is that this post can help increase your chances of passing your road test on your first attempt.
The most common reason people fail their driving test is because of intervention by an examiner
1 out of every 4 people who fail their road test do so because the DMV examiner has to intervene. Why do DMV examiners intervene? It can be a number of reasons, but usually it's because you've made a critical error that is also dangerous. A couple examples are turning the wrong way down a one-way street or making an abrupt left turn without properly yielding to oncoming traffic.
The DMV examiner may grab the steering wheel from the DMV road tester or tell the DMV tester to pull over to the side of the road or to head back to the DMV office.
It's always a bad sign when you're back at the DMV after 3 minutes of your driving test. That usually means the DMV examiner observed a critical error that has failed you automatically.
Pro-tip: We've done free road test guides for all 50 states in the US - and many of them have videos too.
The second most common reason is doing a dangerous maneuver.
This is highly correlated with the most common reason Examiner Intervention. In case you haven't taken a driving test before, the #1 goal of the DMVs in each state is to make sure you are a safe driver and you are knowledgeable about the rules of the road. Therefore, if you do something dangerous, chances are good you're going to fail. In some cases the DMV examiner might not intervene but they'll still mark down that you did a dangerous maneuver. Then at the end of the test they'll tell you you failed.
This is an important point we want to emphasize: Over 1/3 of all fails are because of something dangerous that happened, where the DMV examiner had to intervene or they marked a dangerous maneuver.
Most people do not fail because of points off
Every state has a slightly different grading system for evaluating new drivers, but the basics are usually the same: There are critical errors, or errors that are deemed automatic failures. And then there are "minor" issues, such as braking too hard or not being smooth on a turn or turning to wide. These "minor" issues might lead to a fail if you have too many of them. For example, in California, you're allowed to get up to 15 points off. Any more and you'll fail.
It turns out that only 13% of people fail because they have "too many points off".
This is also important to understand: Keep you focus on being a safe driver and avoiding the critical errors and dangerous maneuvers.
Another pro-tip: This data comes from our road test car and driver service, where our road test concierges give you tips and help set you up to pass your test. If you need a car or driver for your road test, you can learn more about the service here.
The less obvious reasons for failing your road test
There are two road test mistakes that might not seem obvious but actually account for close to 20% of all driving test failures.
11% of people fail because they disobey a traffic sign or signal. Running a red light is an extreme and rare case. Most of these fails are because of "tricky" signage: Perhaps there's a yield sign, and in a moment of confusion you do a full stop instead of yield. That can be an automatic fail. Or you roll through a stop sign.
7% of people fail because they are going too fast or too slow. In fact, many of these cases are for going too slow. That's right. Many new drivers err on the side of going slow in an abundance of caution. Turns out driving too slow is also dangerous, since you should drive at a safe speed and with existing traffic. So be careful and get to know the area you're taking your driving test in. Many people drive slower when they are nervous too, and aren't aware how slow they're going.
Summary: Prepare and practice
Everyone we've helped take their road test is nervous. You should expect to be nervous too. It gets real when the examiners get into the car next to you and starts giving you orders and asking you to perform under pressure.
Understanding the most common reasons people fail and why they fail is important to becoming a safer and better driver. Avoid these mistakes and you'll put yourself in a good position to pass your driving test.
And remember, it's common for people to fail on their first driving test, so don't put too much pressure on yourself. If you fail the first time, it means you were meant to practice a little more and try again. And if you need help booking a road test sooner, we have an expedited DMV road test service too, available in most states.
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