The top reason why people fail the Victorian Driving Test

Close up of male driving car

Nicola Dowse, Tianna Nadalin

Posted August 23, 2022

According to VicRoads, there is one common reason for 75 per cent of the failures when attempting the Probationary Licence Test.

In the 12 months to 30 June 2022, 118,000 people took a driving test in Victoria and, of these, 17,000 failed to get their probationary driver's licence, or P plates. 

While around 90 per cent of applicants were successful on their first try - up from 75 per cent in 2020, VicRoads figures show that about three-quarters of failed driving tests are due to ‘immediate termination errors’.

Immediate termination errors include:

  • Disobeying directions (three times)
  • Colliding with another vehicle
  • Failing to give way
  • Exceeding the speed limit (there are multiple variations for this error)
  • Driving through a stop sign, red traffic light
  • Stopping in a dangerous position
  • Dangerous actions (eg. causing another road user to take evasive action)

A further 18 per cent of driving test fails are due to critical errors, where the driver creates an unsafe situation that does not result in immediate risk of collision or injury. These include: 

  • Failing to check for other road users
  • Failing to signal
  • Driving too slowly for the conditions
  • Blocking a pedestrian crossing but no pedestrians are affected
  • Mounting the kerb when parking or leaving a parking space
  • Stalling your car
  • Slowing but not stopping your car completely at a stop sign

"Immediate termination errors are particularly concerning as these are the types of errors that are likely to cause serious accidents on our roads, and have the potential to result in serious injuries or fatal crashes," says Lydia Kendray, Manager of Driver Training Operations at RACV.

"For learners who fail their test for making a Termination error, this is often the best outcome for them as it highlights they do not yet have the level of experience to be able to keep themselves and others safe on the road."

"Each year in Victoria we see approximately 10,000 serious injuries on our roads which seriously impacts the lives of not only those injured, but also their family and friends. This is not to be taken lightly. Each person who gets into the drivers seat has a responsibility to make sure they are prepared and fit to drive safely."

The best way to avoid these mistakes is to practice. The more driving experience a learner has, the more confident and capable they will be when they undertake the driving test.

"While it is important to get lots of practice with your family/friend supervisor, the most effective approach is when the learner, supervisor and instructor work together as a team to develop safe solo driving habits and achieve a successful test outcome."

In a bid to offer more options and greater flexibility for aspiring drivers, from Monday, 15 August, learner drivers going for their P-plates will save up to $133.30 in licence and online hazard perception testing fees.

Victoria’s online learner permit and hazard perception tests will also be free, helping to reduce costs for families and promote road safety. 

Why do people fail their Victorian Driving Test?

To help you pass the Victorian Driving Test, we asked RACV Drive School Senior Instructor Silvia Morris the most common reasons people fail, and what you can do to increase your chances of passing on the first try.

Nerves got the better of them

While it's normal to be nervous on the day, RACV Drive School Senior Instructor Silvia Morris says sometimes this anxiety can cause learners to make mistakes on their tests.

“Sometimes people forget how to turn a key, how to start the car. And it’s like ‘hang on, we’ve done this 10, 20 times',” Morris said. "During the drive test, don’t dwell on your mistakes. If you focus on a mistake you just made, that’s when you are likely to continue to make more."

If you make a mistake, Morris says to take a deep breath and try to stay focused on your driving in the present moment, and not worry about what the assessor has or has not noticed. 

Bad habits while learning

The best way to prepare for your driving test - and for a life of driving - is to create good road habits from the moment you first get behind the wheel. 

"Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect," Morris said. "For example, if your supervising driver usually allows you to drive a little bit above the speed limit, or to make other illegal or unsafe decisions while you are practicing, these become the habits you develop, and can often cause learners to fail their driving test.

Morris said this is also critical to making safer decisions both in your driving test and also on the road.

"I hear learners often say 'but on my test day I will just drive slower', or 'on my test day I just won’t do that'," she said. "But when you are feeling nervous on test day with lots of extra thoughts racing in your mind, if the right habits have not been built through a partnership with your supervising driver, your nerves will likely cause you to make those errors on your test."

Never had driving lessons

Learners who have professional driving lessons before their test tend to feel more prepared and confident on their test day. 

“You don’t know what you don’t know," Morris said. "Learners who only practice with their parents often don’t realise there are certain habits they have not been taught until they have a professional lesson."

Lessons with a driving instructor can help ensure you practice integrating safe habits into your driving before your test day, not only to increase your chances of passing your test but also to make sure you will stay safe when you start driving solo.

As well as helping you develop critical skills, your instructor can also conduct a test assessment with you to assess your competence and driver readiness, and highlight any areas of your driving which require attention or additional practice. 

But don’t wait until just before your test to book in driving lessons, she warns.

"An ideal approach is to have some professional lessons early on and throughout your learning journey to make sure you are practicing the correct safe driving techniques," she said. "That way on your test day you can just continue to drive how you have been practicing, rather than waiting until before your test to cram in lessons while trying to change any bad habits you may have developed along the way."


Cars don't meet test criteria

Morris says some drivers fail their test before they've even turned over the ignition. This can happen particularly when a learner uses their own car, without doing proper checks.

“Vehicles with an electronic park brake cannot be used, and the VicRoads assessor must be able to see the entire speedometer from the passenger seat."

An unroadworthy vehicle is an immediate fail, so Morris advises to always do a pre-drive check: Is there water in the washer bottle? Are your low beams, high beams, wipers, tail lights and brake lights all working? Are your tyres legal?

Booking your driving test with an instructor is a way to ensure the vehicle will meet VicRoads requirements.

Not enough driving practice

If you are under 21, it is a requirement that you complete a minimum of 120 hours of driving, including at least 20 hours of night driving in your log book / MyLearners app.

"If you are using a paper log book, make sure all your logbook entries are complete, and your supervising driver has signed both sections at the front and back of the log book."

Unfit to drive

One thing people often don’t talk about is the impact of medication on driving ability.  Morris says if a learner is on any form of medication, they should make sure they’ve looked at the possible side effects. If you don’t know how your medication could impact your driving, consult your pharmacist or consider having a medical report completed by your GP.

For example, some ‘high risk’ conditions listed by VicRoads include epilepsy, diagnosed mental health conditions (such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder), and diabetes.

VicRoads says most people will not need to complete a medical report before they can obtain their learner’s permit, however, it is required for those with a medical condition that may impair their driving. An eye test is also required of all learner drivers. so, if you require glasses, be sure to bring them on the day.

"You have a legal obligation to notify VicRoads of any medical conditions or medications that may impair your driving," Morris said. "In this case, you would need to submit a medical report completed by your doctor to VicRoads prior to your test day, and should allow at least six weeks for VicRoads to process this."

Testing officials have a list of approved medications, but if it doesn’t list a particular medication they may err on the side of caution and cancel the test. 

Ultimately, the likelihood of driving-test success all comes down to practice. Check those mirrors, pay attention to the traffic, and get experience in all different conditions before booking your test. 


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