My Friend Failed His Driving Test Because ...

Posted on 01 June 2017

I generally avoid focusing too much on the driving test because I believe there is an unhealthy tendency to view it as some sort of finish line despite it being closer to a metaphorical start line in terms of adolescent driver development. Nonetheless, it is a subject that gets raised every two hours somewhat regularly - so the principal objective of this post is to shine some light on how the New South Wales driving test is assessed.

In line with the RMS, Class C, Testing Officer's manual, the driving test is conducted on a set test course that is made up of 25 zones. A zone is a length of road, or a combination of several roads, on which five assessments are made by the testing officer. A zone begins and ends at a specific location, usually a cross street. So there is obviously a lot of scribbling that needs to take place – it is important that the learner doesn't become distracted by it.

There are five assessments that need to be made within each zone:-

1. Speed Management

2. Road Positioning

3. Decision Making

4. Responding to Hazards

5. Vehicle Controls

All key performance areas are assessed on a continual basis throughout each zone. In addition to the zones, the learner is also required to complete a kerbside stop and one other manoeuvre; either, a three point turn, reverse parallel park or angle park.

If a Learner commits a Fail Item, the test is continued and the learner is given a full test assessment. The learner is not advised of the fail during the test.

The test is deemed to have started when the Score Sheet has been signed by the learner. Any issues concerned with the vehicle being un-roadworthy, unsuitable, etc, result in test termination.

If the learner scores 90% or more AND no Fail Items have been recorded, it is a pass!

Learner drivers are usually quite anxious on the day of their driving test and that's to be expected. However, some of that anxiety is simply born out of false impressions about how the test is assessed. So in the interests of helping parents better prepare their Jack or Jill for the big day, here are answers to (15) common driving test questions - keep in mind the answers are intended as a guide and situational variables may influence individual key performance assessments.

Q.1 - I heard that if any part of my car goes over the stop line at a red traffic light I will fail.

A – It depends. If you stop over the line for no apparent reason, you may fail. BUT, if the traffic lights suddenly change from green to yellow causing you to attempt a safe stop and you finish just over the line you won't be penalised – provided your position hasn't impeded a pedestrian's safe progress. So, if it does happen try to put it behind you and concentrate on the remainder of the test – you may be worrying about nothing.

Q.2 – That leads to my next question; is it really true you fail for not stopping at a yellow light?

A – Yes it is. Failing to stop at yellow traffic lights when safe, results in a fail unless your sudden braking may cause a collision. But remember, if you accidently just stop over the line you won't fail unless you are blocking traffic or pedestrians. Always consider your distance from the intersection and check your internal rear vision mirror prior to stopping – more about this in a future blog post.

Q.3 – I heard that if I stop any more than (1) metre behind the line at a STOP sign I will fail.

A – You will be penalised but won't usually fail. However if you stop further back than (5) metres (one car length) from the line you will fail. Attempt to stop within (1) metre of the line to avoid penalty and if you do initially stop more than (1) metre from the line - simply move forward and stop again within (1) metre of the line before safely moving off.

Q.4 – My friend failed for not stopping for three seconds at a STOP sign.

A – I can understand that's what your friend believed happened but it would have actually been for simply not stopping. The testing officer will look at a stationary object outside the passenger's side window to determine if the vehicle has completely stopped. There is no minimum time to be stopped at a STOP sign.

Q.5 - What happens if the vehicle in front of me is double parked or broken down and there is a continuous line?

A - In that situation you may cross the continuous (solid) line, when it is safe, to pass the vehicle. Remember to indicate and do a head check before changing direction and then indicate and do a head-check before moving back.

Q.6 – I will fail if my tyre hits the kerb on a parking manoeuvre.

A – You will fail if your tyre mounts the kerb but not if it bumps or scrapes the kerb face – that is simply a penalty for a road positioning error.

Q.7 – I heard it's also a fail if I hit a Roundabout dome or chicane.

A – Just like the kerb, if a tyre mounts it you will fail but not if it bumps the outside edge. So once again, if it does happen try to put it behind you and concentrate on the remainder of the test – you may be worrying about nothing.

Q.8 – My friend failed because the examiner told her to put her demister on.

A – Your friend failed due to Testing Officer intervention. It is the responsibility of the driver to appropriately use vehicle controls - so in the interests of safety if the window(s) are fogging up, the demisters needs to be used. Some other examples include not releasing the handbrake (affecting vehicle performance), and verbal directions to avoid a potentially dangerous situation such as safe gap selection.

Q.9 – So if they had to tell me to cancel my indicators once for example, I would fail?

A – No, because it isn't generally considered to be high risk.

Q.10 – Is it true that you fail for giving way unnecessarily?

A – Only if it is clear that you don't understand which vehicle is to proceed - for example stopping for another vehicle when travelling on a priority road. If you have given way as a courtesy, or for safety reasons, and haven't confused traffic you won't usually be penalised.

Q.11 – If my automatic transmission car rolls back on a hill will I fail?

A – Only if it rolls back in excess of 500mm.

Q.12 – If I forget to indicate (signal intention) at any time, will I fail?

A – No, but if you forget to signal on (3) or more occasions you will fail.

Q.13 – If I fail the reverse parallel park does that mean I fail the test?

A – No, not necessarily. You only fail the test if your tyre mounts the kerb; you reverse more than (7) metres behind the vehicle in front; or if your final parked position is (1) metre or more out from the kerb – that also applies to the kerbside stop. Remember observation or signalling errors during the manoeuvre count towards the total test score.

Q.14 - If I don't observe a minimum of (3) seconds crash avoidance space at any time will I fail?

A – The process of establishing and maintaining a (3) second crash avoidance space (CAS) is dynamic, so you won't be penalised for not having the required (CAS) if you are in the process of increasing space to the front. However, you can expect to fail if you follow less than (1) second from the vehicle ahead.

Q.15 – When my friends fail they usually say it's because they didn't do enough 'head checks.'

A – Lack of observation checks is one of the major reasons for failing the New South Wales driving test. If you miss (3) or more, you will fail. Blind-spot checks involve your head turning so that your chin is in line with your shoulder in the direction you are about to move, and must be done:-

  • Before leaving the kerb.
  • Before changing lanes – but not immediately after a parked vehicle or a concrete medium strip.
  • Before merging.
  • Before diverging more than one car width (of the car you're in).
  • Before reversing and during manoeuvres.
  • Also remember to scan left and right before proceeding at a green light after being stationary in the front row at a red light – to check for red light runners.

In closing, remember that 90% without any fail items is a pass – so you aren't expected to be as skilful as an experienced driver. If you are unsure of the testing officer's instructions, simply ask for clarification. If you're feeling particularly nervous before the test, focus on your breathing – try in through the nose for three seconds and exhale through the mouth for five seconds.

Good luck and feel free to message me if you have any other questions about the test.

P.S. If there are any topics you would like me to cover feel free to let me know via the Comments or Contact Page.

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