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Tips for your (ICBC) Road Test / Driving Test

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Sorry if this post has gradually gotten long and out of control. Just trying to help ;)  If drivers are properly trained and have sufficient experience driving then they will have no problem on the road test. Drivers are not marked using demerits anymore. They will fail automatically for doing something illegal (speeding) or unsafe (a pedestrian has to jump out of their way). Drivers don’t need to be perfect; they can make some mistakes but it shouldn’t be the same mistake over and over – the examiner will notice a pattern that needs to be corrected. Most student drivers I talk to seem to be worried about their parking. They’re worrying about the wrong things. You should know how to park, but you don’t have to be a pro at it. You’re allowed to make corrections, fix it/readjust it if it doesn’t work the first time. They’re not timing you and they’re not going to get out at the end and measure it to make sure it’s perfectly between the lines and perfectly straight. It’s more important that you have good observation skills when parking and you’re looking in the correct direction when reversing. If you’re a bit crooked when you’re done parking, that’s not going to hurt anybody, is it? Becoming good at parking can take many years of experience and examiners do not expect new drivers to be perfect: they expect you to be safe and legal. After all, driving instructors do not park perfectly every time either. If you insist on worrying about something, worry about your ability to safely turn left at a traffic light/busy intersection. Collisions happen most frequently at intersections. Probably one of the most important skills you will have as a driver is knowing how to properly navigate your intersection turns safely and confidently. Turning left incorrectly could absolutely have very devastating consequences. See this post for now to turn left at traffic lights

Here are some common mistakes I’ve seen people make on the road test & some tips:

  • Not completely stopping at the stop sign (California stop). You don’t have to stop, take out your stopwatch and count to 10 seconds or anything like that, but do make sure that you indeed fully & completely stopped moving! A lot of drivers in real life do not do a full and complete stop; they do a kind of, sort of, or almost, or pretend,  kind of stop; try to avoid this bad habit. 
  • Not stopping for a red light on a right turn. Many student drivers hear “you can turn right on a red light” and some don’t realize that you must stop first; you can’t just slow down and then turn. If your light is red, it means someone else has a green. If you do turn without stopping, it will be an automatic fail because red means stop; so if you don’t, technically you are in violation of the law. Yes, you may turn right on a red light if you stop first, and determine it is safe. But keep in mind, you do not have to turn right on a red light. It’s a red light, after all, isn’t it?  See this post on how to turn right on a red light. Also, check out How to Turn Right at Green Lights.
  • Speeding: Driving 55 km/hr in a 50 km zone or Driving 40 km in a 30 km playground/school zone. If the speed limit is 30, drive 30, not 35 km/hr. Technically, going 31 km/hr in a 30 km zone is illegal and examiners will mark you accordingly (some examiners are more strict than others). Do not keep up with speeding traffic flow. I don’t really like how strict they are because I would rather new drivers not be so paranoid about their speed they feel like they have to stare at their speedometer the whole time, but knowing the speed limit of course is a must. If you have sufficient experience, you should be able to tell what 50 “feels like” without looking. You must show the examiner that you know what the speed limit is and are willing to accept and obey it regardless of the behaviour of other traffic. Read about school and playground zones here. 
  • Not enough shoulder checks and/or unnecessary slowing or stopping especially on right turns: check out This post on turning right without stop signs. You must shoulder check every time before you pull over/pull into traffic, before lane changing and merging, and before you turn right (sometimes 2 shoulder checks are required before right turns). Even if you know there’s nothing there, you must still shoulder check. These checks are to ensure there are no vehicles, pedestrians, motorcycles, or cyclists, or any other road user in your blind spot before you turn. Even if you are 99% sure there is nothing there, you must show the examiner that you are actively looking for road users who may be in the blind spot. Do not stop for no reason!
  • Use the parking brake every time you park. Try not to be so nervous that you drive down the road for a while with the parking brake on! This seems to happen from time to time. Many people don’t use the parking brake. You should use it because sometimes mechanical failure can occur (the transmission can slip into neutral, and the car may start rolling away by itself if parked on any sort of incline). If you’ve used the parking brake, it will act as a backup plan. Keep in mind, transmissions are meant for changing gears, not holding thousands of pounds in place on hills. Parking brakes are connected to brake cables on the rear tires (usually), their whole purpose in life is to hold the vehicle in place. When hill parking, you do not have to ensure the tire actually touches the curb, but you should turn the wheels the appropriate direction; and do not just turn the wheel a bit; it should be turned all the waySee this post for how to park on hills.
  • Avoid being too cautious. Yes, you can fail for driving like a granny! Examiners want to see a confident and competent driver, not a bag of nerves that drives 20 km/hr under the speed limit and slows down for no reason at every intersection! Of course, people are nervous on road tests and examiners know this. Just try not to be so nervous that you stop where you’re not supposed to, drive way too slowly, or do strange things that you wouldn’t otherwise do! Remember to breathe; this helps a lot.
  • Drive for conditions: this means if it’s snowing and you’re on a side-street, residential area, and there are small children running around in the middle of the road 1/2 block in front of you chasing each other in circles and you’re driving 50 km/hr, this type of thing may be considered TOO FAST even though yes, this is the legal maximum speed limit (yes you could be failed for driving too fast for conditions). You should always decide what the safe speed is based on conditions. If it’s a beautiful day and you’re on a main street, and you are driving 40 km/hr in a 50 km/hr zone “Just to be careful,” and there is a line of 50 cars behind you all freaking out because you’re not even going the speed limit – Don’t do that! It is TOO SLOW! Show the examiner that you are an intelligent being capable of making appropriate decisions based on the conditions you encounter. The same thing goes for strange situations that you were never taught about on your driving lessons. If you don’t know what to do, think about it. What would be the best, most safe, option? 
  • Pedestrian conflicts: Examiners want to see that you’re willing to help pedestrians, not fight with them over the available space. This means if you aren’t sure if there’s enough time to go before a pedestrian, you should wait patiently rather than trying to beat them or cutting them off, or driving so close to them that you give them a heart attack. You should stop for pedestrians in marked crosswalks and unmarked crosswalks (any intersection without white crosswalk lines). Sometimes pedestrians are unpredictable and cross where they aren’t supposed to. If you aren’t sure what to do, try to think of what the safest option is.  
  • Pedestrian conflicts with jaywalking or illegally crossing pedestrians. Say you’re turning left at a traffic light and you’re waiting in the intersection because there’s a lot of traffic. Then the light goes yellow. You start to turn, but you see there’s a pedestrian starting to walk across the road where he shouldn’t. In this case, you should start to exit the intersection and honk at the pedestrian, asking him to hurry up and get out of the way. Student drivers often don’t know what to do in this situation and they may fail the road test for not dealing with it properly. Many will hesitate inside the intersection after the light has gone yellow and wait patiently for the pedestrian. However, if the light is yellow/red by that point, that pedestrian has no right to be there and while you can’t run him over, you should be starting to leave the intersection and alerting him. Here is a 12 second YouTube example of appropriate horn use with Pedestrians crossing against the signal. (I honk, They run) 
  • Steering issues: one hand on the wheel, hooking or palming the wheel, or improper use of the steering wheel when turning. See this post for more info. *Note: ICBC driver examiners do not care if you dry steer on the road test. However, if you do this habitually, your power steering components may wear prematurely and you may end up with costly repair bills. Learn about dry steering here. Use hand over hand, or shuffle steering (either one is fine; the most important thing is that you are controlling the vehicle). You must use two hands on the wheel at all times, the exception being when you are reversing in a straight line (If you’re driving standard, just make sure to put your hand back on the wheel once you’re done shifting gears every time. Also, I got a lot of questions about if you can take your hand off for a moment to scratch something or move your hair out of your eyes – yes, you are allowed to be human!!) 
  • Observation issues: not noticing yellow lights, not noticing pedestrians, not noticing playground/school zones, or not noticing turning restriction signs and turning against them (i.e. right turn on red light with turning restriction). If you have theses issues, you may need more practice/experience. 
  • Improper turning: this comes from a lack of training or insufficient practice – cutting corners on left turns or turning wide on right turns.
  • Did you know that you’re supposed to stop completely and treat as you have a stop sign, before any sidewalk? like when exiting a parking lot, lane (back alley) or driveway? This may cover the part where you leave the parking lot at the beginning of the road test. Read more here.
  • Lack of Scanning: You should be doing a left to right scan of intersections before you go through them, especially at 4-way stops, approaching traffic circle/roundabout and when you’re stopped at a red light and it changes to green. Don’t just go through intersections without looking. Don’t make the foolish assumption that just because there’s a stop sign or red light for the other drivers, that they’re actually going to stop and it’s safe for you to proceed through. Make it obvious on the road test that you are doing a good scan. Turn your head and take a good look in each direction. Is it actually safe to go? Don’t just use the corner of your eyes because from the examiner’s point of view it looks like you aren’t looking at all. Also if you’re going past some train tracks, even if they don’t have any stop sign or lights or anything, you should still scan and look for a possible train. There probably isn’t one coming, but if you fight with one you will lose. This actually happened to me one dark night in Delta. There were no flashing lights or stop sign activated and there was a train coming very close to me. If I had not done a scan I might have been smooshed. Sometimes the power goes out and the train keeps going despite not having any lights.  See this post on how to scan intersections
  • Illegal lane changing: it’s illegal to lane change over a solid white line and while it’s not illegal to change lanes in an intersection, it is definitely frowned upon if not dangerous. 
  • Merging on the freeway: You’re allowed to speed up to the speed limit that is on the freeway when you are driving on the acceleration ramp that leads onto the freeway. Normally when your car passes the sign that says “If your vehicle can not do 60 km/hr, stay off the freeway,”, then that is considered the freeway ramp, which does not actually have a speed limit. Just make sure you aren’t speeding up too early while you’re still in the 50 km/hr zone. Match the flow of the traffic but do not go faster than the speed limit. In other words, you generally do not want to merge onto the freeway at 60 km/hr (in good conditions) when the speed limit on the freeway is 90 km/hr. (This would be covered above where it says Do not drive like a Granny.) Also, when you leave the freeway, generally you should not slow down while you’re still on it. Wait until your vehicle is positively, fully and completely off the freeway and on the exit ramp Before you slow down, so that vehicles behind aren’t forced to slow down if they aren’t leaving. Technically, these exit ramps do not have a speed limit either, and that yellow exit speed sign you see – since it’s a yellow sign – is a suggestion/recommendation; so you do not and should not normally have to slam on the brakes to get to that recommendation, you can slow down artfully or gradually. ***** You do not have to merge onto the highway/freeway if you have your “L” and going for your “N” but you may (most likely) have to merge onto the freeway/highway if you are going for your Class 5 full license.*****
  • Know how to deal with Emergency Vehicles properly – I have seen people fail road tests that would have otherwise been perfect because they either panicked or they didn’t act accordingly when an emergency vehicle was approaching. New drivers don’t have experience with this and it is a strange skill to practice for obvious reasons, so be sure to read up on it as much as you can and be aware of your surroundings. Part of it is noticing the emergency vehicle (if it is coming up behind you and you have no clue because you never check your mirrors, then that’s a problem the examiner won’t be able to help but notice); the other part is acting the proper way. Check out this post to learn about it here. 
  • You must shoulder check (left) before you open your door. You are looking for pedestrians and cyclists of course!
  • Improper reversing skills: Looking the wrong way while reversing, lack of 360 degree check before reversing, unsafe reversing. See this post for more info. Reversing/Backing Basics
  • Make sure you know your hand signals as the examiner will check and make sure you’re aware of how to do them. Hand Signals
  • Practice DRIVING – a  LOT! If you’re having issues, get some lessons if you can.
  • Don’t just drive to work/school/dance/soccer/whatever. Being a good driver is not about memorizing a route and then going on autopilot, it is about learning the necessary skills so that you can drive anywhere, especially unfamiliar areas, with confidence and with ease. One of the worst things you can do (aside from not practicing at all) is to drive the same roads all the time. Go the long way home, challenge yourself, and get lost – it may be one of the best things you can do to improve your driving.

*** About 50% of people who go for the Class 7 road test (“L” drivers hoping to pass the road test to get their “N”) actually pass the test. Getting an assessment driving lesson from an experienced instructor at a reputable driving school before going is highly recommended.***

Q: Can you fail your road test for not turning right on a red light?

No! What? NO!

Here’s some tips from ICBC:


 


  • Sharon

    Can I fail the test/lose a lot of marks if I brake when I make a few turns?

    • http://drivinginstructorblog.com BCDrivingBlog

      Not sure what you mean.

  • Ash

    I wonder if there is any difference between the Class 7 and Class 5 road test? I’m taking the Class 7 one in a month, but people told me they won’t test me for highway merge since it’s Class 7. Is it true? Thanks for answering! (Btw, I love your blog and your youtube videos, they are such a good source for BC driving tips!)

    • http://drivinginstructorblog.com BCDrivingBlog

      Thanks;) Yes this is true. It makes no sense to me, since you can then drive onto the freeway all by yourself with your N having zero freeway experience. But ya. They are pretty similar tests. Just the people taking the 7 are new at driving and the people taking the 5 are not as new and may have developed ‘bad habits’ over the years.

  • Alexa

    So the easy answer when they ask you how do you park uphill would be turn your steering wheel towards the curb and then put the emergency break?

  • Jane

    After you pass your N test, do you get your hard copy of your driver’s license of the day of or does do they mail it to you?

    • http://drivinginstructorblog.com BCDrivingBlog

      no you get the paper one until you get the real one in the mail, it is pretty quick though

      • Jane

        If I were to drive alone on that same day, would that paper copy be valid as a temporary license?

        • http://drivinginstructorblog.com BCDrivingBlog

          Yep it is all good. You just won’t have that piece of Photo ID in case you need Photo ID for some other reason… But the paper is a perfectly valid license to drive with until you get your proper one.

          • Jane

            sorry just a random question, when do you do 360 degree checks besides reversing?

          • http://drivinginstructorblog.com BCDrivingBlog

            Just before reversing is good. For all other maneuvers you can just do shoulder checks..

  • David

    Do they test you during your N test by making you drive on the highway? Mine is in a week and I’m nervous if they do cause I’ve no experience on the highway yet.

    • http://drivinginstructorblog.com BCDrivingBlog

      No you don’t go on the highway to get your “N” But you go on when you’re about to get your class 5.

  • Sherri

    Will I lose marks for driving below 50 km/h in residential areas?

    • http://drivinginstructorblog.com BCDrivingBlog

      Not automatically/necessarily. it depends on the conditions/circumstances. driving at 50 may be too fast indeed. not all ‘residential areas’ are equal, though. 40 makes more sense in a lot of cases especially if it’s a narrow road or has a lot of pedestrians/children.

  • K

    Are U-turns illegal in BC?

  • Kristen

    Thank you so much for this! My test is today and it was a fantastic review of everything ! Its hard to read the manual over again but this really helped with some of the key important things I wasn’t too sure about :)

    • http://drivinginstructorblog.com BCDrivingBlog

      you’re welcome. how did it go?!

  • Tyler

    Hi there,
    First of all let me say that i love this site and it is very helpful :)
    My N test is on July 4 in Abbotsford, BC. I am very nervous. I have taken lessons but i still feel like i will fail even though i know i am a good driver.
    I have a few questions.
    1) Do you know the Abbotsford route?
    2) Do you know what automatic fails are
    and
    3) What are the examiners very picky about?

    Thank you so much :)

    • http://drivinginstructorblog.com BCDrivingBlog

      Hey, Thanks so much, glad it’s helpful to you! :) No I don’t know the route and I do not believe in people learning routes. After a drive can drive by himself he will never learn and practice any route before driving and he may drive alone across the entire country and USA as well and will never be able to practice the route beforehand. He must be able to drive correctly and safely on the fly on roads and intersections he has never before seen in his entire life and must be able to navigate them proficiently based on his knowledge and skill as a driver. This is why it is good to practice driving on roads you’ve never gone on before and also why people learning the road test route beforehand makes me nervous!
      You either know what you’re doing or you don’t. Learning a driving route before a driving test will only set you up for disaster should you pass based on memorization and then drive somewhere by yourself the following day really having no clue what you are doing.

      Automatic fail will be for something dangerous or illegal. So, speeding is illegal (i.e. 35 in a 30 zone or 55 in a 50 zone). Changing lanes across a solid white line is illegal. Not completely stopping for a red light when you’re turning right is illegal. Not noticing a pedestrian and the pedestrian has to jump out of the way of your car in order to not get run over is Dangerous. Not shoulder checking on a lane change and almost lane changing into another vehicle is dangerous.

      Examiners are picking about pretty much everything.. lol ;) Try to relax though!! All the best,

  • Alicia Tuzzi

    great help! Is there places other than icbc that i can take my N test?

    • http://drivinginstructorblog.com BCDrivingBlog

      No not unless you move to Alberta

  • Ehende02

    Thank you!!

    • http://drivinginstructorblog.com BCDrivingBlog

      oh you’re welcome! there used to be so many comments on this post then they all got erased when I had comment system issues..! lol

  • http://drivinginstructorblog.com Carmen C.

    Hi Elisa, Congratulations, Enjoy your new license! Glad it helped… ;)

  • Elisa

    Hi there , I passed my road test today :) I am sure without your blog I couldn’t feel confident and prepped. Was great trips… Thank you so much xxxx :)

  • Thiago

    I read ICBC and my mind when straight to inter continental ballistic…Anyway, great tips, I feel way more prepared for my test now, even though it’s not the ICBC. Thiago | http://www.a1peckdrivingschool.com/services.html

    • BCDrivingBlog

      lol

  • carmenac

    Testing… 123.. Please work.

  • Mark

    Yeah, the granny driving is the bane of my existence. I’m planning on retaking my Class 7N test next month because I failed my previous driving test. The reason for this was being so nervous. At the T intersection, I was on the left lane (going into the main road), which is a left turn lane. For some reason, I froze up and waited for the examiner’s orders on whether to turn left or right… the examiner ended up telling me “ummm… what are you doing? You can go now.” She was a bit harsh, but now I totally understand where I failed miserably. Here’s my tip, be confident. Know that you have practiced enough to be able to do well. It may be counterintuitive to drive into an intersection where cars are going at 50km/h (It’s definitely primal instinct to be nervous about potentially dangerous situations), but you should remember that as long as you are fully immersed, you know the right of way, you follow the rules of the road, and are responsive during your driving test you will be fine. All the best to those who are taking their driving exams. Stay safe.

    • http://www.achievedrivingschool.ca Mike

      Hi Mark. If you plan to take a brush up lesson or two before the test ask your instructor to limit his/her coaching during this time. They should encourage you to make decisions on your own and if you make a mistake they should pointed out after. When I teach I ask my students about scenarios they are about to encounter to ensure they understand the proper way. For example if we parallel park, when stopped, and I know next turn to the right will have a right turn only lane, i will ask if told to go straight what they need to do!

  • Anonymous

    Oh yeah, watch the granny driving!

  • Anonymous

    This was super helpful, wish I had read it before my test. Granny driving is a true curse.

  • Fred Meyer

    This is BS. It doesn’t matter how well you drive, the mood of the tester is what counts! How can you fail for checking your blind spot too carefully or resting your your Elbow on the armrest. Totally random stuff!

    • Anonymous

      totes agree with you.


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