There is no denying that the ability to drive is one of the most useful proficiencies a person can possess. Having a full, clean driver’s licence can be an asset when looking for work and having a car to go with it opens up a world of opportunities. Getting a driver’s licence can be quite a long process, involving many hours of effort, concentration and the acquisition of a whole new skill set: not surprisingly, more than half of those taking their practical driving test for the first time fail to achieve the required standard. The reasons for this failure are often confined to a few problematic areas:
Paying careful attention to what is happening around you is the most important aspect of driving. Without proper observation, a driver would be unable to carry out the actions necessary to avoid problems. This is why, according to the Driving Standards Agency, inadequate observation is the most common cause of failure of the practical driving test. This is most often observed at junctions, where drivers may fail to notice other road users or simply to realise how close they are.
The action which appears to be the most difficult for learners to master is ‘reverse parking’. Many people fail their test because of this manoeuvre and often continue to lack confidence in their ability to carry it out, even after they have passed. Reversing, in general, features heavily in the top ten reasons for driving test failure, as ‘reversing round a corner’ and the ‘turn in the road’ manoeuvre are also common problems. These tasks require constant vigilance and good positioning, which are both skills that can only be acquired with dedicated practice.
Whilst the use of mirrors is inextricably linked to the concept of observation, there are many faults that specifically involve neglect of the mirrors. These include forgetting to check mirrors before signalling for a manoeuvre or failing to recognise that mirrors should be used in pairs. Whilst you may have checked your rear-view mirror, it’s important to check the relevant wing mirror to ensure you have the full picture of what is happening around you.
As it is largely through the use of signals that other road users can be aware of a driver’s intentions, their correct use is paramount to safe driving. Where learners tend to make mistakes is in the timing of signals, sometimes leaving it too late, which can force another driver to slow down, stop or change direction. Likewise, a signal that is made too early can be misleading, causing a driver to believe that you are planning to turn into a particular road, when you actually intend to take the following turn. The mantra of ‘mirror, signal, manoeuvre’ is one of the first things a driver learns and should be adhered to very strictly.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, new drivers are apt to be overcautious, which can cause them to drive too slowly, making them hazardous to other vehicles. It is important to drive at a speed that is suitable for the road, the traffic conditions and the weather, so observation of speed limit signs, as well as awareness of other cars, is vital.
Even if you fail your test the first time, it’s not the end of the world and you can always try again. Sometimes your nerves might get the better of you and the only sure way to deal with that is to practise driving as much as you can before you take the test. When you finally receive your driver’s licence and find a company which offers young drivers insurance at a rate you can afford, every minute of practice will have been worth it. However many hours you dedicate to becoming a safer, better driver, you should consider it to have been time well spent.