Driver Knowledge Tests

All the reasons you’ll fail your driving test

When you take your driving test there are many ways in which the testing officer can fail you. Some items mean an immediate fail (i.e. the test will be aborted) whereas others are minor errors and you are allowed to make a few before the test will be aborted. Before you go for your practical driving test, make sure you’ve read through this list and understand them.

Disobeying traffic signs, signals and road markings

  • Not stopping with all of your vehicle behind the line at a red traffic light
  • Driving through a yellow traffic light when it was safe to stop
  • Not stopping within one metre of the line at a stop sign – no part of your car should cross over the stop line (if you’ve had to stop back from the line, you can creep up to the line)
  • Crossing a solid (continuous) centre line, lane line or edge line with no good reason
  • Disobeying lane markings (bus lane, arrows determining compulsory directions, etc)
  • Ignoring regulatory signs such a U-turn, one way, no entry, keep left, keep clear, etc

Failing to give way

  • Not giving way to pedestrians at a marked pedestrian crossing or intersection
  • Not giving way to vehicles that have right of way (priority) over you at an intersection, when entering a traffic stream, merging or changing lanes

Colliding with a vehicle, pedestrian or object

Note: this applies where it is your fault

  • Hitting another vehicle, object or pedestrian while driving or manoeuvring
  • Running into the kerb at speed (it doesn’t include lightly touching a kerb face when you are parking)
  • Mounting a kerb or roundabout
  • Mounting or straddling a traffic dome

Performing an illegal act or manoeuvre

Even where signs and road markings aren’t present, there are still rules. Breaking one of these rules may cause the test to be aborted:

  • Stopping on a pedestrian crossing or over a stop line when giving way to pedestrians
  • Failing to keep in the left lane when required to do so or when there is no reason to be in the right lane
  • Turning in an arrowed lane and not exiting into a permissible lane
  • Turning from an incorrect position such as turning right at a roundabout from the left lane or turning left at an intersection from the right lane (unless otherwise permitted by lane markings)
  • Overtaking or passing a vehicle waiting at a pedestrian crossing
  • Failing to wear a seat belt
  • Performing a U-turn where it’s not permitted
  • Entering a level crossing when it’s not safe to do so
  • Using a mobile phone

Exceeding the speed limit

You will fail if you exceed the speed limit at any time including:

  • The 40 km/h limit at school zones during the hours of operation.
  • The 40 km/h limit when passing a school bus with flashing lights.
  • The learner driver speed limit.
  • Speed limits at roadworks.
  • Any other temporary or marked speed limit

Intervention by the testing officer

If the testing officer has to tell you how to operate the vehicle or take control from you either with dual controls or your controls, you will fail the test.

Causing a dangerous situation

These situations can be caused by being too aggressive or too timid. Examples include:

  • Overtaking in an unsafe manner
  • Causing another road user to take evasive action, e.g. by pulling out in front of them
  • Driving too slowly or giving way unnecessarily

Failing to maintain proper control of your vehicle

Examples include:

  • Skidding
  • Spinning the drive wheels
  • Allowing the vehicle to roll back more than 500mm when moving off on an uphill slope
  • Coasting in neutral or with your foot on the clutch
  • Not maintaining control of the steering wheel, e.g. both hands off the steering wheel, driving with one hand off the wheel when the other hand is not required to operate controls such as the gears

Failing to exercise due care to avoid an accident

If you are in an incident which the testing officer deems to have been preventable, you will fail; you must be ready to respond to hazards.

Failing to give way to an emergency vehicle

You must move out of the way of emergency vehicles with lights and/or sirens. Be aware of where you are not allowed to stop, too

Ignoring directions from a person controlling traffic

Traffic can be controlled by police, emergency services, armed forces, traffic controllers and pilot vehicles

Failing to signal intention

If you repeatedly fail to use your indicator, you the test will be aborted. You must signal:

  • To give sufficient warning to other road users of your intentions when turning left or right.
  • For at least five seconds before leaving the kerb
  • For at least five seconds before leaving a parking space.
  • When changing lanes, diverging or pulling over to the kerb.
  • When exiting a roundabout.

Refusing to attempt any part of the test

You must complete all the items requested of you by the testing officer. Failure to complete any part means you will fail the test.

Failing to follow directions repeatedly or deliberately

The testing officer will give you directions which you must follow during the test.

Obstructing other road users unreasonably

  • Blocking an intersection because you entered without checking there was room the other side
  • Driving significantly below the speed limit when the weather and traffic conditions don’t require it
  • Blocking a pedestrian crossing
  • Stopping across a driveway when instructed to pull over

Receiving external help or advice once the test has started

The test is deemed to have started once you’ve signed the score sheet, so this also includes the walk to your vehicle.

Parking below the required standard

  • Parking more than one metre from the kerb
  • Parking obstructing traffic
  • Parking with your wheels on or over marked parking lines (note: the overhang of your car can be over the lines)
  • Reversing more than seven metres from the vehicle in front during the reverse park section of the test (seven metres is approximately 1.5 car lengths)


The recommendation is to follow at least 3 seconds behind the vehicle in front in good weather; any closer and you are tailgating.

Failing to perform observation checks

If you repeatedly do this, you will fail. Observation checks include checking your blind spots when you merge, diverge, change lanes, move towards a kerb to park, move away from a kerb, reverse, parallel park, 3-point-turn, turn at an intersection, leave or join a road, cross a lane when exiting a roundabout, after stopping at traffic lights or level crossings.

Immediate fail criteria

For many of the items above, they will be marked as a minor error and the test will continue. However, if you repeatedly do any one of them or you amass a number of them, the test may be called off. If you commit an immediate fail error then the test will be stopped immediately. The testing officer may drive the car back to the test centre. Immediate fail errors include:

  • Anything dangerous or unsafe when there’s an obvious danger to other road users
  • Refusing to cooperate with the testing officer
  • The testing vehicle isn’t suitable to continue the test in.

Testing vehicle errors

The following are from the guidelines from Roads and Maritime:
Your test will be terminated if any of the unsatisfactory items below cannot be rectified at the time of the test:
1. The testing vehicle

  • is not suitable for safe use
  • indicator lights (including side repeaters) or brake lights do not operate, are incomplete, dirty or discoloured.
  • tyres are not in a satisfactory condition.
  • is not registered.
  • windscreen cracked or broken so as to obscure driver’s and/or testing officer’s vision, (not including minor cracks).
  • a complying (approved and in working condition) lap/sash
    seat belt is not fitted for the testing officer.
  • head restraints are not fitted (vehicle manufactured after 1 January 1972).
  • is not suitable for class of licence.
  • is not suitable for type of disability.
  • has sharp edges caused by body damage.
  • has any mirror broken or damaged to the extent that it distorts vision.
  • has any wheel rim excessively damaged.
  • has any visible wheel nuts missing.
  • has any excessive under body fluid leaks.
  • dual brake (if fitted) IS operational.
  • dual accelerator (if fitted) is NOT operational (dual accelerator must be secured out of reach or rendered inoperable).
  • front passenger door handle (either inside or outside), or window handle, is missing or inoperative.
  • does not have solid front doors (cloth or fabric doors are not acceptable).
  • is a convertible or Targa top and the roof is not capable of being covered in, at the request of the testing officer or in the event of bad weather.

2. The testing vehicle is unsuitable for the class of licence test.
Note: This includes a vehicle which contains equipment that can record any aspect of the driving test including, visual images, sounds or the vehicle’s position.

3. The testing vehicle is not suitable for the type of disability.

4. The testing vehicle breaks down during the test, or a large number of assessments are missed while off the test course.

5. The applicant demonstrates unacceptable, inappropriate or
unlawful behaviours. Including:

a) A bribe or inducement is offered, or any other form of corrupt
conduct is suggested

b) Extreme emotional pleas, threats or sexual advances in an attempt to influence a test result (a warning may be given if required)

c) Repeated and persistent requests to ignore an error. (A warning may be given if required.)

d) Threatening, abusive, aggressive or violent behaviours.

6. The driver is, or is suspected to be, under the influence of
drugs or alcohol.

7. A crash occurs during the test, regardless of who is at fault.

8. The applicant is ill, to the extent that they may not be able to drive safely.

9. Weather conditions are bad and make the driving task too demanding. If the test is terminated the test fee may not be refunded.

10. Learner driver log book not complete in accordance with requirements

Darren is an expert on driving and transport, and is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists

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