Top 10 Automatic Fails on Driver Tests

Written by Sarah Fairfield
Top 10 automatic fails on driver tests

You’ve been practicing your driving every chance you get, and the big day is finally coming up. It’s almost time to take your behind-the-wheel driver’s test. Freedom is within your grasp!

But what if you totally mess up and don’t get your license? Nobody wants to fail their first driver’s test and have to retake it. You’re nervous, as any normal person would be, and that can make you lose your head under pressure. One of the best ways to avoid all that is to be prepared. With plenty of practice and knowledge, you’ll be less likely to make errors.

You’re allowed to make a handful of minor mistakes and still get your driver’s license. Hey, nobody’s perfect! But there are a lot of mistakes considered major enough to automatically fail your test on the spot.

Buckle up, we’re going to tell you what NOT to do. We’ll throw in some helpful tips on how to avoid making these mistakes, too. Here are 10 of the top automatic fails on driver’s tests.

1. Mechanical Failures

If certain things on your car aren’t up to snuff, your driver’s test will end before you even leave the DMV parking lot. Whatever vehicle you choose to take the test in needs to be in good working condition and have current registration. And speaking of buckling up, your car must have a functioning seat belt for both you and the person giving the exam. Of course, you have to wear it, too!

Always be aware of your surroundings

Other mechanical failures include things like bald tires, broken turn signals, and malfunctioning brake lights. If you take the test in the rain and your windshield wipers or defroster don’t work (or you don’t know how to use them), you’ll fail. A significantly broken or obstructed windshield will also count you out. If the person giving the exam thinks your vehicle is unsafe in any way, they will simply end your driver’s test then and there.

Pro tip: It’s a good idea to do a thorough walk-around with your test car beforehand to double check that everything functions properly. Make sure the horn works, too.

2. Unsafe Speed

This one should be obvious, but it’s worth repeating — don’t speed during your driver’s test. On the flip side, driving too slowly isn’t good, either! You might think that’s just being extra safe but moving significantly slower than the flow of traffic can make you a hazard to other drivers. Going 10 miles per hour over or under the speed limit is generally considered an immediate fail.

Pro tip: If you think the tester won’t be able to tell how fast you’re going, think again! You can bet they’re keeping an eye on your speedometer, even from the passenger’s seat. They’ve got a slightly distorted view of it from over there, so it’s smart to drive as close to the speed limit as possible.

3. Incomplete Stops

Rolling through a stop sign, also known as a “California roll,” is an easy way to automatically fail your driver’s test. If you pull up to a stop sign and slow way down, but don’t come to a full and complete stop behind the white line, you’re in trouble. It doesn’t matter if you can see that there’s no one else at the intersection.

Pro tip: Stop smoothly but completely. Once stopped, take at least a second to look both ways to ensure the intersection is clear before continuing. Even though you may be able to scan an intersection with just your eyes, it doesn’t hurt to turn your head a little extra during your test. That will help make it obvious to your examiner that you’re checking your surroundings, too.

You’re allowed to make a handful of minor mistakes and still get your driver’s license

4. Missing Signs and Signals

It goes without saying that completely blowing through a stop sign or a red light are major disqualifiers. But you can also fail if the traffic signal turns green at an intersection you stopped at, and you don’t move forward. Even stopping at an intersection already displaying a green light can get you sent home. It shows you’re not paying attention, and that’s a good reason to end your driver’s test.

Pro tip: Always keep your eyes up and constantly scan the area ahead of you for signs and signals. The more aware you are of your surroundings, the better off you’ll be.

5. Lane Violation

Staying between the lines is a basic but important aspect of driving. If a driver can’t trust that all the other drivers are going to stay in their lanes (unless they signal), our roads would turn into chaos. So if you wander over a line at the wrong place or time, the driver’s test administrator can automatically fail you. This is especially true of a double yellow line.

Pro tip: If you’re turning, don’t turn into a different lane than the one you turned from. Don’t turn from the wrong lane, either! Also be careful not to drive into a bike lane unless it’s shortly before you make a turn. Don’t change lanes in an intersection—even though there aren’t any lane lines there. It all seems like a lot to remember, but we promise that it all makes sense the more time you spend behind the wheel. That’s why practice time is so important.

6. Intervention by Examiner

If your test administrator has to either verbally or physically intervene with your driving, you’ll head home without a license.

Pro tip: If you did something on a practice drive that made your passenger scream, don’t do that thing during your driver’s test!

7. Disobey Safety Official or Vehicle

Encountering an emergency vehicle with sirens wailing or a policeman directing traffic might be unlikely to happen during your driver’s test. But if it does, and you don’t safely pull over and stop or follow an official’s directions, you can immediately fail the driver’s test.

Pro tip: Don’t panic and be sure to check your mirrors and use your turn signals when necessary.

8. Crash

The most obvious automatic fail of all is hitting something. Anything at all. That includes curbs, traffic cones, signs, mailboxes, posts, buildings, bicycles, alien invaders, animals, people, and other cars. It doesn’t matter if your car is made of Nerf. If you could have avoided it, no matter what it is, you can’t brush past it, bump against it, or crash into it.

9. Near Crash

If you’re driving causes a pedestrian, cyclist, or another driver to take evasive action to prevent an accident, that’s an automatic fail. There’s not much else to say about this one!

Pro tip: Always be aware of your surroundings.

10. Texting

It should go without saying that texting during your driver’s test will automatically send you back home without a license.

Pro tip: Leave your cell phone with a friend or relative to eliminate the distraction altogether. If you have to bring it with you, turn off the ringer or put it in airplane mode. Then put it in a pocket or purse that you can’t reach during your test.

Written by
Sarah Fairfield

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