You’ve been out on the roads practising and you’re finally ready to take your driving test. But is there a secret to success? We look at why some people don’t pass first time and offer tips to help with test day nerves.
The top reasons for failing a driving test
Data from gov.uk gives the following points as the top reasons for not passing.
- Junctions: lack of observation at a junction
- Mirrors: failing to use mirrors when changing direction
- Steering: lack of steering control
- Positioning: unsafe or inappropriate road position according to surroundings
- Move off: failing to use MSM (mirror signal manoeuvre) and lack of control when moving off
- Response to signals: not responding to traffic lights and road markings appropriately
- Reverse park: lack of control when reverse parking
How nerves can lead to mistakes
When someone becomes nervous, it affects their ability to concentrate – a vital function for driving.
Nervousness and anxiety are related to the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response – a biological reaction that evolved to help us protect ourselves from danger. This takes resources away from the part of our brain that does all the in-depth decision making.
Curbing driving test nerves
Here are some techniques to help you stay calm before and during your test:
1. Get plenty of rest
Sleep helps restore our resources, but don’t try and substitute a lack of sleep with caffeine. Limiting your caffeine intake and a good night’s sleep before your driving test can make a significant difference.
2 . Visualise success
Our brains tend to focus on negative things which doesn’t do us any favours. Visualising success and imagining how that would feel can help you keep a positive frame of mind. Acknowledge that you’re human and if you fail then it isn’t the end of the world. You can learn from your mistakes and feel more familiar with the test next time.
3. Be present
Our fears are largely centred on things that aren’t currently happening so we are apprehensive of what might be in the future. To keep your mind and body focused on the present moment, pay attention to what you can see, taste, hear, smell and feel. This will take your focus away from the past or future.
4. Pay attention to your body
When we’re stressed, our breathing becomes faster and very shallow. To counter this, try deep breathing, which can help to make you calmer.
Counting to ten, you’re setting your brain a straightforward task that engages a specific part of your brain, so taking the focus away from the central part of the brain that’s responsible for ‘fight or flight’.
When we’re nervous or stressed, our muscles become tense. In the same way, when our muscles are tense, we’re sending a signal to our brain that something stressful is occurring. One technique - called SMS: soften my shoulders - can help to send signals to your brain that you’re becoming more relaxed.