Taking your driver's test is a big deal, and no matter how much you practice for it, you’re going to feel nervous when a stranger gets in your car and starts taking notes on your driving. What are they looking for, anyway?
Each state has different rules and regulations about road tests, but there are some common mistakes you definitely want to avoid.
1. Hitting Something
Obviously, you never want to hit a person, animal, or other vehicle while driving — and certainly not during your road test! But many people don’t realize that hitting the curb while parking also counts. In fact, in California, hitting the curb or sidewalk is considered a critical driving error that will result in failing your road test.
How to Avoid: Get plenty of practice parking with street parking and parallel parking, and make sure you’re not using a curb-tap as a guide for spacing.
2. Losing Speed
You might think that slow and steady wins the race, but that’s not necessarily true on your driving test. Driving at the wrong speed — including driving too far under the speed limit — is a mistake that can get you dinged.
How to Avoid: Keep an eye on speed limit signs and make sure you maintain that speed, within 10 mph over or under.
3. Ignoring the Blind Spot
When interviewed, driving instructors are quick to cite this common error. Many new drivers fail to check their blind spots when pulling out into traffic or changing lanes. This is a major safety issue, and evaluators definitely notice it — even if nothing bad happens as a result.
How to Avoid: Get used to turning your head to check over your shoulder when you change lanes. It only takes a second to accomplish, but it’s crucial to make sure you are fully aware of what’s going on around you.
4. Leaving the Lights Off
If you take your driving test during daylight hours, it might never occur to you to turn your headlights on. But depending on your state’s laws, you may need to. Fourteen states require headlights in poor weather conditions, and another eighteen tie headlight usage to windshield wiper usage. Forgetting to use your headlights on a rainy day could spell trouble on your exam.
How to Avoid: Make sure you know your state’s headlight laws, and take extra care if you take your road test on a foggy, dreary, or wet day.
5. Skipping the Signal
Using your turn signal is a big help to other drivers on the road. It lets them know your intentions so they’re not surprised when you slow down. Using your directional signals is more than just a courtesy, though. Road test evaluators are making sure you use them consistently as part of your overall defensive driving technique.
How to Avoid: Get in the habit of using your turn signal every time while you practice. On the day of the test, take a deep breath to help you relax and stay focused on the details as you go through your paces.
Of course, the best way to avoid making mistakes on the road test is to make sure you get plenty of practice ahead of time. To make sure you know exactly what to expect and are ready to pass your test with flying colors, consider taking an online driver's education course from I Drive Safely.