8 Avoidable Mistakes Drivers Make On Their DMV Road Test


Passing your driving test can open up a world of new travel possibilities and lead to a lifetime of exciting and memorable experiences on the road. However, getting to that point can be a bit stressful as you’ll need to pass both a written drivers license test and a road driving test in order to obtain your license.

Many people find the DMV written test to be the easier test of the two. Demonstrating the learned classroom knowledge in the form of a road test is often the more challenging hurdle to overcome. If you keep in mind the most common reasons why people fail the road driving test, you’ll have a much better chance of acing the test with flying colors.

Critical vs. Non-Critical Points

Before taking the road test, it is important to be aware of the difference between critical and non-critical mistakes that you could potentially make during the test. 

If you make one critical mistake during an automatic failure, you can make several non-critical mistakes and still pass the test. You will have a set number of points at the start of the test, which will be deducted by any non-critical mistakes made. Points deducted from these mistakes will vary by severity and are often different per state.

Below is a list of both critical and non-critical errors that drivers make that result in failed driving tests. If any of these errors are surprising to you, it may be a good idea to brush up on your rules of the road by taking several driving practice tests. Websites like Driving Test Sample offer free DMV driving practice tests with test questions specific to your local state laws.

1. Not practicing the parking section

While each state has different requirements for the parking lot section of the driving test, all states require that you demonstrate some parking abilities in order to pass the test. Check with your state to see what is tested during the parking section. This may include:

  • Parallel parking
  • Stopping in front of a stop line
  • Three point turn
  • Backing into a parking space

Be sure to practice these maneuvers many times until you feel confident in your abilities. Go to an empty parking lot with some cones and a tape measure. Also, be sure to use the vehicle that you plan on using during the driving test.

During the parking section of the test, be sure to take it slow. There’s no need to rush as you are given plenty of time to complete the parking maneuvers, and you have better control of your vehicle if you take your time. 

2. Speeding

Speeding, even for just a few seconds, will result in an automatic fail on your driving test in most states. Aside from failing the parking section, it is the most common reason why drivers fail their road test. While it may seem like common sense, many drivers are used to driving at or a little bit over the posted speed limit. That’s why it’s important to know at all times: A. The speed limit and B. How fast is your vehicle moving?

While driving, try to stay in the non-passing lane and keep an eye out for white speed limit signs as you drive by. While preparing for your upcoming road test, be sure to put this method into practice so you are familiar with common speed limits on different road types in your area. If you know the location of your driving test, be sure to drive around the area to familiarize yourself with the roads.

3. Rolling Stop

Every time you approach a stop sign or a blinking red light, it is required by law that you come to a complete stop behind the solid white line in the road. While one rolling stop does not necessarily result in an automatic fail, drivers who make a habit out of it will have a hard time passing the test.

As a rule of thumb, every time you approach an intersection with a red light, a blinking red light, or a stop sign, you are required to map a full and complete stop behind the white solid line in the road. Refer to your state’s driving handbook for requirements when approaching yield signs, roundabouts, pedestrian walkways, and cautionary road signs.

4. Incorrectly holding the steering wheel

Testing administrators do not like to see drivers holding the steering wheel in any position other than the “9 o’clock 3 o’clock” position. Pretend that the steering wheel is a clock and place your left hand at 9 o’clock and the right hand at 3 o’clock. If you are driving a car with a manual transmission, you can take your right hand off the steering wheel to change gears, but you must place your hand back on the steering wheel soon afterwards.

Whatever you do, avoid driving with one hand on the steering wheel. You will have less control of the car if you need to make any sudden turns, and you probably won’t pass your driving test. 

5. Not following the proper lane-changing procedures

The correct procedure to follow when changing lanes is as follows:

  1. Turn on the turn signal
  2. Look in rear view mirror
  3. Look in side view mirror
  4. Look over your shoulder to check your blind spot
  5. Once you’ve verified that it is safe to do so, gradually merge into the other lane
  6. Once in the other lane, turn off the turn signal

The most common steps that people forget to do when changing lanes are turning on their turn signal or not checking their blind spot. Even if your vehicle has technology that warns you if a car is in your blind spot, your testing administrator will expect you to double check to make sure that the car is not hidden from view.

If you find yourself in a situation in which you need to merge across multiple lanes, take it one lane at a time – don’t assume that it’s fine to merge across multiple lanes at once.

6. Keeping your eyes fixed on the road

While this may sound counter intuitive, your driving test administer will be looking to see if you are aware of your immediate surroundings and that you are actively looking for dangers in your vicinity. This also helps you avoid situations that are grounds for an automatic failure, like not stopping for a pedestrian or getting into an accident. 

You should make a point of glancing at your rear and side mirrors while the car is in motion so you know the location of other vehicles on the road. Your eyes should also “sweep the street”, where you scan both sides of the road in search of potential dangers. This shows the testing administrator that you are a defensive driver and that you’re attentive to other cars and obstacles on the road.

7. Not looking both ways at a railroad crossing

Unless indicated, you are not required to come to a complete stop when approaching a railroad crossing. However, your testing administrator will want you to slow down and look in both directions for oncoming trains – even if the railroad lights are not blinking. 

Your tester wants to make sure that you are aware of the risks when crossing railroad tracks and that you are making sure that there is not a train in the area. This may not result in an automatic failure, but you could lose a few precious points by not doing this.

8. Cutting corners when making a left turn

When making a protected left turn at a stoplight with a green turn arrow, it’s common to see other drivers “cut the corner” and cross the double yellow or white line while making the left turn. This can be a problem if another car is located in the corner that is being cut 

Leading up to your driving test, make an effort to avoid making sharp left turns. As long as it isn’t a left turn with two lanes, you can avoid cutting the corner by driving further out into the intersection and making your turn a bit wider. If it is a left turn with multiple lanes, stay in your lane and follow the dotted guide lines if they are provided.

Stay calm and confident

Most importantly, try to relax! It may be tough to do so in the moment, but staying calm and confident will help you drive slowly and smoothly. Trust in your abilities and know that your practice and preparation will pay off!

Felix Yim
the authorFelix Yim
Founder & Journalist of Society of Speed
A rich life, is a life where you can drive on sports mode and not worry about fuel consumption.