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Ways You Can Fail Your Driver's Licence Test

Anti-Valentine has a driver's license from South Africa and has studied many driving materials.

Sometimes you don't pass your driver’s license test the first time. There are quite a few things you can do that will cause you to fail your driver’s test.

The information I have gathered this from comes from the score sheet the examiner had while I was driving, as well as some K53 manuals that I poured over. Note that this information applies to the South African driving test and maybe other countries that follow the K53. Covered are things that will garner penalty points (enough of which will lead you to fail your test) as well as actions that will lead you to instantly fail your test.

This information also pertains to the Code B or light motor vehicle group.

Actions That Will Result in an Instant Fail

  • If your car fails the roadworthiness test which consists of both an exterior and interior inspection of the vehicle, which is conducted during the yard test. The examiner may allow minor defects to be rectified.
  • If the vehicle is not licensed.
  • If you mount the kerb at any point during the yard test.
  • If you allow any of the wheels to touch the boundary line during the yard test.
  • If you hit any obstacles during the yard test, such as hitting the poles while attempting a parallel park.
  • If you cannot complete a manoeuvre such as a parallel park, alley dock, or emergency stop during the exam within the 2 attempts provided.
  • If you cannot complete a hill start or three point turn which both only allow 1 attempt.
  • If, during the yard test, after executing a three point turn in the required three moves (2 forward and 1 reverse) you don't end up on the other side of the section of road.
  • If you do not complete the yard test in 20 minutes 59 seconds or under (which is accepted as 20 minutes, not 21).
  • If you exceed 50 penalty points for the yard test.
  • If you violate any traffic laws, road signs, road markings or signals, such as going through a red light, or failing to stop behind the white line at a stop street.
  • If you commit an uncontrolled/dangerous action.
  • If the car rolls forwards or backwards at any point of the yard or road test.
  • If you become involved in a traffic collision (car accident) that you could have avoided.
  • If you exceed 8 penalty points per minute during the road test. E.g. 21 minutes x 8 = 168 penalty points.

Common Actions That Result in Penalty Points

  • Not doing an observation when necessary, such as before moving off, will get you 5 points.
  • Looking in mirrors for too long will result in 5 penalty points, because you are not looking at the road ahead. It should be a quick glance every 5 - 8 seconds.
  • Not looking in your blind spots when necessary, such as when changing lanes or overtaking, will result in 5 penalty points being allocated.
  • Not signalling for a sufficient duration will result in 5 penalty points. You may also be penalised for signalling too early, causing confusion in other drivers. This does not apply for most if not all manoeuvres during the yard test, except the hill start/incline start. If your signal is cancelled prematurely here, you will not be penalised.
  • If your following distance is too close you will receive 5 points every 5 - 8 seconds. Ideally it should be a 2 second following distance which is about 4 - 5 metres in ideal weather conditions.
  • Not leaving enough clear space between you and the car in front when stopping or overtaking another vehicle or hazard will get you 5 points. The clear space should be the same as the following distance.
  • Looking at the gears when changing gear will result in 5 points, for not keeping your eyes on the road.
  • Driving too slowly for conditions and obstructing traffic will result in 5 points every 5 - 8 seconds.
  • Driving too fast for conditions will result in 5 points (exceeding the speed limit will result in a fail).
  • Not being able to execute an emergency stop on the first attempt will result in 5 points (not doing so on the 2nd attempt means a fail).
  • Failing to check both right and left for cross traffic at an intersection will result in 5 points.
  • Changing gear whilst cornering will result in 4 points.
  • If you go too wide or cut corners while steering, you will receive 4 points.
  • Failure to cancel a signal promptly after completing a manoeuvre will result in 4 points.
  • Bumping a kerb at any point during the yard test will result in 4 points.
  • Not looking in your rear view mirror when necessary, such as when slowing down, equals 3 points.
  • Unjustified coasting, as in driving for any length of time in neutral (no gear) or having the clutch pushed in while driving, will result in 3 penalty points. You should only have neutral engaged when you are at a full stop or parked on a level road.
  • Not giving the correct hand signal when asked to do will result in 3 points.
  • Changing lanes in an intersection will result in 3 points.
  • Not using the parking brake or handbrake when necessary such as when coming to a full stop will result in 2 penalty points. This does not apply during a three point turn manoeuvre during the yard test, where the handbrake isn't necessary.
  • Wandering while steering, as in not keeping the car as straight as possible will result in 2 points.
  • Straddling lane markings will result in 2 points.
  • Placing the vehicle in a decidedly unsafe position on a road, such as too near a potential hazard, will result in 2 points.
  • Stalling the vehicle will result in 1 point.
  • Stopping needlessly will result in 1 point.
  • Unjustified riding of the clutch, as in resting your foot on the clutch while moving or pushing in the clutch when stationary for prolonged periods of time, when it isn’t necessary, will get you 1 point. You should ideally only use the clutch when changing gear or coming to a full stop in order to put the car in to neutral.
  • Not using the correct steering method (i.e. the shuffle method or “push and pull”) will result in 1 point. The only instance where this doesn’t apply is during the yard test.
  • Not having both hands on the wheel at all times (at the 10 to 2 or quarter to 3 position) other than when changing gear, applying the handbrake or giving hand signals, such as having one hand constantly on the gear lever, will result in 1 penalty point every 5 – 8 seconds.
  • Making the wheels spin when moving off will result in 1 point.
  • Waiting too long before moving off, such as when it is safe to do so, will get you 1 point.
  • Steering while the vehicle is stationary and not moving will get you 1 point.
  • Unjustified slipping of the clutch: 1 point.
  • Gear changes that are considered to be uncoordinated/not smooth: 1 point.
  • Making major adjustments to the mirror while the vehicle is moving will result in 1 point. Minor adjustments will not be penalised.
  • Making the car jerk will result in 1 point. This is usually due to being too aggressive with the accelerator or poor clutch control.
  • Not using the release mechanism when applying the parking brake will result in 1 penalty point.
  • Over-revving the engine is generally disliked by examiners, and you will get 1 point for use of the accelerator.

Penalty points, when they add up, can mean the difference between passing and failing a test, so it would be in your best interest to avoid making mistakes that could lead to penalty points being received.

Remember that all of the above is a guideline, summarised from official K53 manuals. During the test, the examiner will at his or her discretion mark you on not only your competency, but the smoothness of the ride as well. Don't at any point decide that it would be best to argue with the examiner. They are trained and know what they're doing.

Actions That Will Result in a Deferred Test

  • If the vehicle suffers a mechanical failure of some sort at any point during the test.
  • If after a collision that was considered unavoidable, the vehicle is deemed unroadworthy.
  • If the driver wishes to have the test deferred after being given the option to continue after a collision, provided the car still functions.

Further Reading

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Anti-Valentine

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