For many Americans, the driving test marks the final obstacle to full freedom and independence in their life. However, the on-the-road test administered by your local Department of Motor Vehicles can seem like an insurmountable task to those who are new to driving.
The good news is – it’s not! The DMV driving test is passed by millions of Americans every year, some as young as fifteen years of age. Many older individuals wait till their 40’s and 50’s before taking their first driving test.
The bad news is there are several common mistakes the DMV looks for when grading drivers on their skills behind the wheel.
Luckily for you, we have compiled 8 of the most common driving mistakes DMV testers fail students for. Make sure you read till the end – the last one might surprise you.
1. Failing to Fasten Seatbelt
You should always fasten your seatbelt after entering a motor vehicle, whether you are the driver or passenger. However, many students forget to do so on the day of their driving test. This could be attributed to a variety of factors – fear, anxiety, and nervousness, just to name a few. Despite being such a simple task, fastening your seatbelt is by far the most fundamental practice of motor vehicle operation. Failing to do so before putting the car in motion will result in an automatic fail on your drivers’ test.
Solution: If you find yourself forgetting to buckle up when you get behind the wheel, you’re not out of luck when it comes to breaking this habit. Simply make a conscious effort to fasten your seatbelt immediately upon entering any vehicle for any reason. Whether driving or sitting along for the ride, performing this action every time you get in a car will become an afterthought eventually. At the time of your driving test, you will have no issues remembering to buckle your seatbelt before taking off.
2. Incomplete Stops
Failing to make complete stops when necessary is another very common reason American drivers fail their driving tests. Making a rolling stop at a stop sign is illegal in all 50 states and carries a fine of $75 to $500 or more, depending on local law.
Solution: Practice driving through neighborhoods and coming to a fully complete stop at each and every stop sign. Your vehicle should cease motion completely before you continue. Don’t be afraid to hold your foot on the brake for a few moments to ensure you have come to a complete stop – it’s much better to be safe than sorry!
3. Driving Too Quickly
Driving too fast unnecessarily is another mistake students fall victim to. Due to the dangers involved with operating vehicles at high speeds, driving over the speed limit will result in an immediate fail on most states’ driving tests. Many student drivers don’t speed out of recklessness, but rather anxiety or nervousness during the driving exam.
Solution: In general, you want to stay at or below the posted speed limit. You will find these signs placed before and after every intersection on service roads, and after every 1-5 miles on the freeway. To ease any fears you may have during the examination, be sure to take a quick test drive before you head to the DMV. You’ll be much more relaxed with some drive time under your belt, more attentive to road signs, and much less likely to speed due to anxiety.
4. Applying Excessive Brake Pressure
Bringing your vehicle to a stop is a fundamental you cannot avoid on the driving test. While it is simply done by the stamp of the foot, there is a proper and improper way to brake. Improper braking is harsh, rough, and will likely lead to automatic failure of your driving test.
Solution: Brake pressure should be applied gently and consistently at first. As you reach your destination, gradually increase your braking pressure based on the distance left to travel. You can practice this along with other fundamentals while city driving or you can simply practice braking in a large, empty parking lot to avoid traffic.
Keep this in mind when approaching intersections or other places where you’re most likely required to stop.
5. Driving Slowly
Driving too slowly is a mistake people often make in an effort to avoid driving too quickly. However, slow driving is just as, if not more, dangerous than driving at high speeds. This is because lagging drivers can greatly disrupt the normal flow of traffic. A slow motorist combined with a few inattentive drivers on a freeway can spell disaster for all parties involved.
Solution: If you’re making the mistake of driving too slowly, it is important to remember to take notice of speed limits on roadways in your area. While these signs tell you the maximum speed your vehicle should reach, it is generally good practice to stay within 10-15mph below that limit, and no more than 5mph above.
6. Improper Parallel Parking
Parallel parking is a difficult skill to master. Many drivers with decades of experience would rather take several extra minutes searching for a non-parallel spot than have to commit to a parallel parking space. In several states such as Texas, student drivers cannot receive their license to operate a motor vehicle without the successful completion of a parallel park.
Solution: Because of the headache that is parallel parking, hundreds of videos, and guides on the subject exist. Browse Google for the style of teaching that works best for you and be sure to practice this method every day. The explanation may seem easy online, but it won’t be as simple when actually trying to park. Repetition is key here – try parallel parking in a variety of different situations to perfect your maneuvering.
7. Improper Lane Change
In addition to the physical act of changing lanes, there are several points to remember when engaging in this action. Your driving test administrator will mark you down several points for failing to properly and safely switch from one lane to another.
Solution: When changing lanes, always remember to first survey your surroundings. Check your rearview, then side view mirror, and finally blind spot before completing a lane change. Failing to do either of these will result in a failing mark on the ‘lane change’ portion of the driving test. Additionally, students must signal at least 300 feet before beginning to change lanes.
8. Car Failure
Any car can be used in a driving test – whether its value exceeds six figures or is priced below $1,000. However, the vehicle you choose to test with must abide by legal guidelines for road use, such as working brake lights, functioning windshield, and headlights. Your local DMV will disallow you from taking the driving test if your car has expired registration or is not up to date on inspections or emissions checks.
Solution: Do a full self-inspection of your vehicle at least 3 days prior to your scheduled test appointment. Check your mirrors, brake lights, and headlights to ensure they are all in working order. Also, make sure your registration and insurance documents are up to date. Any condition that affects the legal operation of your vehicle will deem you ineligible to take the driving test until those matters are addressed.
While the driving test may seem like a very big deal beforehand, you’ll come to realize how much time you spent overthinking it in the days and weeks leading up to it. This list includes quite a few steps to ensure you pass your test with flying colors, but they can all be achieved fairly easily with enough practice.
As you prepare for your driving test, refer back to this article and take note of any of these mistakes you may be making, as well as how you can improve. With consistent work towards developing driving skills, you’ll be well on your way to acing your state’s driving test!