✅ Updated May 2022

Most common California road test mistakes revealed

Ever wonder what the most common errors are for folks who are taking their behind-the-wheel road test in California? We’ve now helped tens of thousands of people pass their road test and here’s what we’ve learned from the results. Whatever you do, avoid these mistakes and you’ll substantially increase your odds of passing on the first attempt!

📌 Want the latest data for most common road test mistakes for all US states. See our latest blog post. 

California Road Test Mistakes, Number 5:

Not Looking Over Right Shoulder for Bicyclists

When you are taking your road test, you need to be sure you’re checking over your right shoulder for bicyclists. This is most especially true when you are making a right-hand turn, and it is true even if there is no bicycle lane present.

We’ve started telling every road test taker about this as part of our concierge service. It seems as though it’s become a favorite “DQ” for DMV examiners. There are 8 disqualifying mistakes on the DMV behind-the-wheel test. Often examiners can choose to lump this into the “dangerous maneuver” category. If there was a bicyclist to your right, you might have hit them!


Key takeaway:

Be sure to check your right (and left) blind spots, not only during lane changes but when you are making a right-hand turn. This way, the examiner will see that you are being safe and looking for bicyclists!


California Road Test Mistakes, Number 4:

Not “Driving Safely”

Next on our California road test mistakes list is not “driving safely”. Just because you have a license from another country or you’ve driven before does not mean you know how to drive for the California test. This is incredibly important: The California road test is strict.

Every DMV examiner is evaluating you based on your ability to be a safe driver. That means actually being a safe driver and showing that you’re a safe driver. You should have both hands on the steering wheel at “10 and 2”, check your mirrors consistently, and look to the left and right even when crossing through intersections.


Key takeaway:

All of this “looking” shows the examiner that you take driving safety seriously and you take the test seriously. The test is usually 15 minutes long, so be sure to drop any bad habits you have and stay focused on being a safe driver. The test will be over before you know it.  


California Road Test Mistakes, Number 3:

Not Yielding Properly on Left Turns

During the California road test, the vast majority of people are nervous. The reaction to nervousness is that you might not drive like your usual self: you might slow down too much or speed up too much. One symptom of speeding up too much is feeling rushed and making dangerous maneuvers. This can lead to a dangerous maneuver of rushing a left-hand turn when it’s not safe to do so.

This happens a lot. Examiners love to test you on your left-hand turn ability: Do you yield properly? Do you stay in the correct lane when turning? So, our advice is always: Be patient. There’s no harm in waiting until you are sure that it is safe to make the left-hand turn.


Key takeaway:

Be patient when making left-hand turns and do not rush! Also, if you can, drive around the area before your test to familiarize yourself with the area including the intersections, so you know what to expect.


California Road Test Mistakes, Number 2:

Not Making Full Stops at Stop Signs and Red Lights

Stop at stop signs and red lights! It sounds easy but it is a very common disqualifying mistake. Examiners lump this mistake under the “disobeys traffic sign and signal” category. There are a few common scenarios, so be sure to watch out for them.

If you roll through a stop sign, that’s bad. You need to make a full stop. Pro-tip: Make a stop then count to two before proceeding. If you roll through a right turn on a red light, also bad. You need to stop at the right light, even if you are going to make the right turn. The advice we often give: Just chill at a red light. You don’t need to turn on red, it’s optional.


Key takeaway:

Be aware of making full stops at stop signs and red lights. This should not be confused with yield signs, where you should slow down but not completely stop.


California Road Test Mistakes, number 1:

Not Showing Up with the Right Car and Documents

The most common California road test mistakes are actually made before the actual test itself has started. It has to do with not showing up with the correct car or documents for your test. This happens far too often. By our rough DMV estimate, this happens around 20% of the time. You’ve been warned:


  • By and large, you cannot use a rental car on your road test. The exception is if the rental car company agrees to sign a special insurance agreement for you, but this is not common and it’s also time-consuming. So, if you show up with a rental car, you’ll most likely be rejected and told to reschedule.
  • You need to have registration and insurance documents. If you show up without these, you’ll also be told to reschedule your test. In all of our tests we’ve helped with, we haven’t seen exceptions to this.
  • You need to show up with a licensed California driver. Even though this rule is only a few years old, it’s enforced. This is true even if you have a Canadian license, for example. You need to have a California licensed driver check-in with you.
  • You need to go to the correct DMV location. This is less common but still happens from time to time. Show up to the DMV you actually have your road test appointment at and show up on time!  


California Road Test Mistakes Conclusions

If you can remember these California road test mistakes you are already ahead of most people who take their DMV test. A little preparation can go a long way. While you cannot control whether you will pass or fail completely, these tips will help increase your chances of passing. And if you ever need help with the car, driver, or other tips, feel free to check our our car and driver concierge service.


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