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How to Get Over Failing Your DMV Driving Test (+ Stats)

How to Get Over Failing Your DMV Driving Test (+ Stats)

by Zutobi · Updated Jan 27, 2021

Contrary to popular belief, failing the DMV road test is not an uncommon occurrence. Thousands of Americans fail their driving test every year. Students attribute a variety of factors to their failed tests – anxiety, car problems, forgotten maneuvers, etc. However, the majority of student drivers ace the road exam by their second or third attempt.

If you’ve failed your driving test, there is no need to worry. More than 4 in 10 people fail on their first attempt. Does that surprise you? If so, you’ll find the following stats useful when learning to cope with your first failed road test.

Most Americans Are Licensed Drivers

Over 227.5 million people held valid driving licenses in the United States in 2018. In most U.S. states, the minimum age to be behind the wheel is 16 years old. There are slightly more female licensees than male. (Statista, 2018)

With 227 million licensed drivers and 328 million residents, nearly 70% of the United States’ population is made up of licensed drivers. When the number of US inhabitants is adjusted to remove children under the legal driving age, the percentage of licensees vs. non-licensees shoots up.

This is proof that your first failure is not the end of the world. At some point or another, the majority of Americans will gain their driving privileges, allowing them to operate a motor vehicle freely throughout the country.

Teen Drivers are Becoming Less Prevalent

The percentage of teenagers who hold a driver’s license has declined since the 1980s (although there has been a slight uptick since 2014). For example, in 1983, 46.2% of 16-year-olds held a driver’s license; in 2018, only 25.6% of 16-year-olds held a driver’s license. (Federal Highway Administration, 2018

Often times, teen drivers are incredibly eager to start the process of learning to drive as soon as their state allows it. Gaining driving privileges is one of the first concrete symbols of freedom in the life of a young teenager. This is why teenagers are more sensitive to failing the road test portion of the DMV driving test than adults.

Beginning driver’s ed is often sensationalized in American media and pop culture as a ‘coming of age’ practice for teens and young adults. While many can complete the process the first time around, it is just as common for students to fail and have to retake their exams. Nowadays, teenagers are waiting even longer to get their driver’s license, with the advancement of public transportation as well as the proliferation of rideshare services, such as Uber and Lyft. 

If you fail your road test, you’re not behind your peers at all – especially if you’re still in high school. The average age of students taking and passing the road exam is going up every year.

Failing the Road Test doesn’t make you a “bad driver”

A study found that 18% of American drivers would fail the DMV road and written test if they had to retake it. (National General Insurance, 2011) A similar study found that nearly 40% would fail the exam. (CarInsurance.com, 2013)


The road test is designed to teach you the most basic and safest way of operating a motor vehicle. You will learn even more about the driving experience once you get out on the road and begin interacting with other motorists. Alternatively, many individuals take the road exam and realize they don’t need to drive at all! Over time, these skills wither away and require practice to regain.

If you’re feeling dejected after failing your driving test the first time – keep trying! Many Americans on the road today are unable to pass the very exam you’re attempting to take. Be sure to practice as much as possible to avoid making the same mistake on multiple road exam attempts.

Licensed (Teen) Drivers Are Safer

Teens aged 15-20 without driver education are responsible for 91% of teen driver crashes. (Oregon Department Of Transportation, 2018)

Failed driving test

Driver’s education can be frustrating – we’ve all been there. After your first or second time, it can be very easy to give up and just drive while holding a learner’s permit. After all, nobody will notice, right?

WRONG! Not only is driving on a learner’s permit illegal, but it is also incredibly unsafe. As the statistic above suggests, over 90% of teen driver crashes involved an unlicensed driver. The numbers for crashes involving all unlicensed drivers are similarly high. While you may not be caught driving without a license, you will lack much of the knowledge and experience licensed drivers have garnered over the years. For this reason, it is best to simply wait and receive your license before hitting the road.

I Failed My Driving Test, Now What?

There’s no need to worry. As you can see, it is completely normal and the benefits of going through the driver’s education process are profound. Whether you’re 16 or 60, failing a road exam does not put you behind the curve in any way. Everybody’s driving journey is unique and shouldn’t be rushed or compared to someone else’s.

To ensure you pass your test the next time, consult your driver’s handbook and practice common driving mistakes consistently. Try utilizing routes around your local DMV test site to get a feel for the environment you’ll be tested in! You got this!

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