AA Analysis of government figures has revealed poor observation at junctions was the number one reason for failing a car driving test this year. The research also showed poor use of mirrors and difficulty turning right at junctions were both among the most common issues that derailed learners.

The figures from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) showed the top 10 reasons why learners failed their driving test during the past five years. For each of those years, poor observation at junctions and poor use of mirrors when changing direction have tripped up the most candidates.

The AA also ran a survey that quizzed drivers about the parts of the test they would expect to struggle with were they to be retested. More than a fifth (21 percent) of the 14,500 people questioned said they thought reverse parking and parallel parking would be the most challenging aspects, although reverse parking didn’t even make the top 10 reasons for failure among candidates in 2020/21.

L plate (for learner driver under instruction)

At the same time, 11 percent of respondents said they thought reversing around a corner would give them the most trouble, while a worrying eight percent said they might find driving at an appropriate speed more challenging. Just three percent of respondents said they would be tripped up by parking in a bay or observation.

Robert Cowell, the AA Driving School’s interim managing director, said drivers should ensure they are prepared for their test, especially with the difficulties in getting a test amid the coronavirus-related backlog. With many drivers having tests cancelled during lockdown, there’s huge demand for test slots.

Learner student driving car with instructor

“Driving test slots are like gold dust right now due to an ever-growing backlog,” said Cowell. “As a result, learners may risk attempting a practical test before they’re ready rather than face an extended wait and fail on these common test faults. Countless learners have been caught out by poor observation and mirror skills, which sound simple to most experienced drivers but don’t come naturally to everyone.

“It’s a good reminder to anyone with a test on the horizon to spend some extra time practicing cockpit routines like ‘mirror, signal, position, speed, look’ to get into good habits early. Learning to drive is a vital life skill and it’s important learners take the time to develop their experience at the right pace so they become safe, confident drivers.

“The last 18 months have created more pressures in all aspects of young people’s lives and restrictions on learning to drive have added to this. The DVSA are releasing more test slots each month and we hope this will help the situation.”