AA Driving School

Top 10 reasons for failing driving test this year revealed

Bad observation at junctions is top reason for test failure

27 July 2021

New government data shows observation at junctions was the number one reason for failing a car driving test this year1.

The annual figures released by the DVSA found learners were most likely to be caught out on issues with mirrors, junctions and responding to signals like traffic lights and signs.

Junctions and mirrors have remained the top two reasons for test failures for the past five years1. However, in 2019/20 faults for steering, reverse parking and moving off safely all ranked higher than this year’s data.

The top 10 reasons for failing a driving test in 2020/211 were:

  1. Junctions (observation)
  2. Mirrors (change direction)
  3. Junctions (turning right)
  4. Response to signals (traffic lights)
  5. Control (steering)
  6. Response to signals (traffic signs)
  7. Response to signals (road markings)
  8. Move off (safely)
  9. Positioning (normal driving)
  10. Move off (control)

The AA Driving School also polled qualified drivers on which parts of a practical test they would find most difficult. The survey2 found one in five felt parallel parking, also known as reverse parking, would be the hardest to demonstrate if they had to re-take the test today.

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Drivers were asked if they had to re-take the driving test which skills or manoeuvres they would find hardest to demonstrate to pass.

The top five most challenging parts of the test were:

  • Reverse park / parallel park 21%
  • Reverse around a corner 11%
  • Drive at appropriate speed 8%
  • Park in a bay 3%
  • Observation 3%

One third of women said they would find parallel parking the hardest part of a driving test (32%), compared to just 16% of men. However, men were more likely to say they would find driving at an appropriate speed more difficult (10% men vs 5% women).

Robert Cowell, AA Driving School Interim Managing Director said: “Driving test slots are like gold dust right now due to an ever-growing backlog. 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 month3 and we hope this will help the situation.”

There are three types of driving test faults in Great Britain: dangerous, serious and (minor) driving faults. Learners will fail their practical driving test if they have more than 15 minor driving faults or just one serious or dangerous fault4.

Visit theaa.com/driving-school for more tips on learning to drive and to enquire about instructors.

The practical driving test changed in 2017 and the manoeuvres were updated. ‘Reverse around a corner’ and ‘turn in the road’ were replaced by ‘pull up on the right-hand side of the road, reverse for 2 car lengths and rejoin the traffic’ Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/driving-test-changes-4-december-2017

1DVSA Driving test failure reasons data. This data table shows the top 10 reasons for failing the car driving test since April 2006. Update 24 June 2021: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/driving-test-failure-reasons-data

2AA-Yonder survey of 14,544 members between 8th – 16th June 2021. Yonder is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.


4Driving test fault rules on GOV.UK: https://www.gov.uk/driving-test/driving-test-faults-result