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Driving Test Faults Explained

Many people get confused when they get their driving test report to understand the different categories of fault recorded. Generally people categorise driver faults into minor and major but when they see the form they don’t see ’minor’ nor do they see ’major’.

What you see are generally three boxes per line, the wider box records "driver faults" - what are commonly referred to as "minors". These are wider so the examiner can record multiple occurrences. You are permitted up to 15 driver faults (minors).

Then there are two small boxes in columns headed S and D which stand for Serious and Dangerous - commonly referred to as Majors. Just one of either results in a fail.

So what do they mean?

Basically, faults are considered "minor" or "major" depending on their effect on other road users. Assessment of how the fault affects others can be subjective but in my experience examiners are in the main consistent but being human, there are sometimes discrepancies. Like most things human, it isn’t an exact science!

Driver faults - minors:

These are faults that don’t have any noticeable effect on others; it may be an inconvenience to someone else but unlikely to result in an accident. For example, suppose you’re turning left and you forget to check your mirrors, but you signal in plenty of time and you make the turn. This is a fault and would be recorded as a driver fault (minor) under the mirrors section.

Serious faults - majors:

This is a fault that could have caused an accident if there was someone there. For example, you are changing lanes on a dual carriageway and you forget to check your mirrors and blind spot, you just signal and move over. In this instance however, there is no one else in the next lane. This most likely will be recorded as Serious, again under mirrors. Although there was no one in the next lane, had there been, your ignorance of it could have resulted in a collision. This will result in a fail.

Dangerous faults - majors:

This is a fault that is likely to cause an accident and someone else has to take the action to avoid it. For example, sticking with the mirror example, you change lanes but didn’t look first and this time there is a car in the next lane but you haven’t seen it. In this case a collision is highly likely and either the other car has to brake to avoid the collision or, as is most likely, the examiner takes the wheel and stops you changing lanes. This results in a fail.

As you can see, the same fault, not checking mirrors, can have three different outcomes depending on the situation in which they occurred and the consequence of making the error.

Candidates rarely reflect on the circumstance the fault occurred in. All they tell their friends about the test is: "I failed for not checking my mirrors", but remain completely ignorant of why they really failed. Very often they leave the driving test believing they were "unlucky" or they subscribe to the myth: "examiners have quotas", or even report the examiner "was really nasty". The upshot is, the candidate doesn’t learn from the error!

They never really grasp the gravity of the situation they were in and just how risky their action was. They kick themselves for not checking the mirror but they don’t acknowledge the narrow escape they just had, thanks to the examiner’s intervention! I feel if people reflected properly on their mistakes they would not make them again! (I plan to do an article on reflection elsewhere on this site).

Clearly, if you’re likely to cause an accident the examiner cannot let you have a licence.

If you choose an action, like changing position into another lane and you don’t look first, your choice might be a bad one!

Bad choices are the precursor to accidents and most accidents happen because of inadequate observations!

The driving test is simply about the choices you make to the situations you are in. The examiner is first and foremost observing the choices you make and assessing them from a safety point of view. The driving test is about "real driving" in a 40 minute slice of the "real world" and the choices you make are governed solely by the "real world" around you at any one time. The world around you changes from minute to minute and you need to keep assessing how it’s unfolding and constantly make SAFE choices about what action you are going to take next.

The simple formula for driving test success is:

"First Look, then Choose".

If you don’t look first, I guarantee you will make a bad choice!