Taking a road test can be stressful, especially when you’re not sure what to expect! Knowing the normal pitfalls can help you avoid problems when the time comes. These common road test mistakes can cost you points on your driving test, which could prevent you from getting a license.

Failure To Keep Both Hands On The Wheel

We’ve all heard the saying “Keep your hands at 10 and 2.” Many of you might be surprised to learn, it’s actually 9 and 3 for the most control, and the highest range of motion and the highest degree of control of the car. When turning the wheel, turn it with both hands together (hand over hand). Never put your hands at the bottom of the wheel while you’re driving, your range of motion is severely limited, and you can’t control the car quickly if necessary!

Failure To Check The Mirrors

Your side-view and rear-view mirrors are in place for you to check traffic while changing lanes, turning, and also just generally while driving. They give you a distinct advantage in predicting the movements of every other car on the road and knowing your position in relation to theirs while traveling. Failure to check your mirrors consistently could lead to accidents. When changing lanes, or backing up, you should also look over your shoulder and not rely solely on the mirrors. The DMV will fail students for not checking their mirrors as well as for solely relying on their mirrors, so be sure to “head check” or look over your shoulder as an added precaution.

Tailgating – Following Too Closely

Tailgating is the act of following too closely while driving. As a general rule, you should always drive with at least three seconds (more if the conditions are bad) in front of the person in front of you. How can you measure how many seconds you’re driving behind someone else? When the person in front of you passes something static (a road sign, parked car, tree), count for three seconds to yourself (one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand). If you pass that landscape feature in less than three seconds, then you’re following too closely. On the freeway and when traveling at higher speeds, leave more distance between you and the person in front of you. As a general rule of thumb, for every 10mph you are traveling, you should increase the following distance by one second.

Failure To Make A Complete Stop

A stop sign is your signal to make a full and complete stop. Failure to stop all the way (called a rolling stop or a California Roll Through) is a common problem that can get you a ticket, and will absolutely result in a road test failure. How can you tell if you’ve stopped all the way? When your car comes to a complete stop, the back end will dip slightly. If you don’t feel the back dip, then you haven’t stopped yet. To ensure you’ve come to a complete stop, you can also spell S.T.OP. to yourself or reference the ground, if it’s moving….you haven’t stopped yet.

Changing Lanes At The Wrong Time

Changing lanes is only allowed when it’s expressly permitted. While a solid yellow or white line on the road is not a brick wall preventing someone from crossing it, the law states that you may not cross that barrier. Driving over a dashed white or yellow line is permissible. Before taking your road test, study the different types of lines, what they mean, and when you can change lanes. Also, never switch lanes when you’re in the middle of an intersection.

Driving Too Fast or Too Slow

Driving over the speed limit is obviously a no-no, but sometimes driving at the speed limit is also dangerous (think about the little old woman going 15 mph on the freeway where everyone else is going 75). If you’re taking your driving test on a day when it’s icy, snowy, or rainy then slow down to safe travel speeds. Don’t rely on other drivers as the standard to what is safe for you, they may have more experience or little concern for anyone else’s safety. If the driving conditions are good, then you should be driving at the speed limit. A lot of people question how much faster they can go without getting a ticket, but the law is the speed limit. You can actually receive a ticket for going 1 or 2 mph over or under (although that’s unlikely.)


Drive Rite Academy recommends taking a mock or practice road test on the day of your road test. This can be done during one of our 45-minute or 60-minute lessons (on request). During your mock road test, we will take you through a complete road test, and provide feedback on anything that may keep you from passing your test, it’s a good way to make sure you are prepared. (But practice before you take the mock!!! One lesson isn’t enough for someone who has never driven.)