Road Test Fail Tales – [Based on True Stories] Break it Down

Road Test Fail

Welcome to Road Test Fail Tales

Did you or someone you know fail a road test? I failed my first road test, too, so don’t think you’re the only one. Approximately 50% of people who go for the road test to get their “N,” fail it. Of course, it’s better if you can just pass.

That’s why I’ve collected these true stories from over the years in hopes that it can help others prepare for a road test. We’re going to dive in deep here and get into the nitty-gritty details. Thanks to all the folks who sent in their story so that it may be able to help others.

Check out other popular articles: Road Test Instructor’s Gargantuan Guide to Success, Hazard Perception Prep, or Class 5 vs 7 Road Test

One funny thing I’ve noticed over the years is that whenever anyone fails a road test, it was always the examiner’s fault. “The examiner failed me.” Versus when they pass, “I passed.” So – clearly – only examiners are responsible for people failing road tests. And only drivers are responsible for passing road tests. Strictly an observation.

Road Test Fail Pass ICBC

Contents:

  1. Failed for Speed Maintenance
  2. Failed for Being Too Cautious
  3. Failed for Left Turns & Yellow Arrows
  4. Failed for Not Honking Horn

1. Road Test Fail Question About Maintaining Speeds

Question on maintaining speeds

I took my driver’s test after taking a lesson. In my lesson, I went 5 above 30 in a school zone and my instructor told me it was better to go a few below 30 than risk going over.

Failed road test for speed maintenance

Crossing the road from a stop sign

I also crossed the road (or attempted to) when I was finished scanning at a stop sign, I saw the car coming towards me and knew I had enough time, but my instructor did not think I saw the car and slammed on the brakes and told me to be patient and just wait till everything had passed.

Speed on the road test

Come road test time I averaged 5-10 below the recommended speed limit while in a busy neighborhood with lots of cars parked on the streets and people running around, then in the school zone I kept it around 20-25 because of fear of going over the limit and failing the test.

Failed for being too careful

I executed everything perfectly and scanned and checked, but because I was 5-10 under the limit in certain places, and waited for the road to be clear before I drove out into intersections at stop signs (like instructed to earlier in the day) I failed my test because I am too careful.

Why did I fail when it states in the ICBC Learn to Drive Smart Manual Opens in a new tab.that you are legally allowed to go 10 under the recommended maximum?

Fail Road test for stop sign issues

Answer

Selecting your speed

Generally, it’s okay to go a bit slower if there’s a good reason. But if there’s no good reason to slow down, then you should aim for the speed limit, and not too much under it, depending on the circumstances & conditions of course.

I know this all sounds possibly silly that examiners are so particular about the speed, but the road test is exactly the time to show you understand what the speed limit is, and that you are confident enough to decide at what speed to drive, based on conditions you actually encounter.

This is true even though, in real life, it may be appropriate in certain cases to go 20-25 km/hr or even 10 km/hr in a school zone. The general idea of appropriate speeds is certainly something to think about.

Driving slowly for no apparent reason

People who drive really slow for no reason tend to make other drivers angry. Humans are naturally impatient. And that could lead to road rage,Opens in a new tab. or other drivers doing unsafe things to get around the slow vehicle. You can also get a ticket for slow driving.

Motor Vehicle Act SectionDescription FinesPoints
145(1)Slow driving$1213
ICBC Violations, Points, & FinesOpens in a new tab.
Driving too slow on ICBC Road test

Slow driving

145   (1)A person must not drive a motor vehicle at so slow a speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.

(2)If the driver of a motor vehicle is driving at so slow a speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, a peace officer may require the driver to increase his or her speed, or to remove the motor vehicle from the roadway to the nearest suitable place and to refrain from causing or allowing the motor vehicle to move from that place until directed to do so by a peace officer.

Beautiful British Columbia Motor Vehicle Act Opens in a new tab.

Making decisions at stop signs

As for the stop sign, I guess there is a perceived right and wrong decision.

  • If you go when you shouldn’t and the car is too close or too fast, then that can be seen as a dangerous action (DA) and automatic fail
  • Whereas, if you sit there for a long time and the closest car is a football field distance away and it’s driving at the speed of a wounded snail, then this is seen as a “gap.” In other words, you could have gone, but for some mysterious reason, you didn’t
Failed road test for stop signs

Too many gaps can add up

A few gaps are okay. But too many “gaps” and examiners conclude you didn’t go due to lack of skills, experience, and/or confidence. If this is you, maybe you need more practice, education, and training. You likely won’t be an insanely experienced driver on your road test, but you need to be experienced enough. It’s a thing.

*It takes apparently about five years for a brand new driver to get to the skill & experience level of the average driver.*

Intersection safety #1

Examiners need to see that you can make these important decisions at intersections like, with your eyes closed, so to speak. With confidence. Not like a chicken. At least be a safe and confident-looking chicken. Intersections are the #1 place where crashes happen, so this stuff is important.

If you do feel like a true and authentic chicken – that’s okay – it simply means you need more practice or driving lessons.

Road Test Fail Tales

Making it obvious for the examiner

Also, if the person sitting next to you didn’t think you saw the car, you could simply turn your head more. Make it more obvious that you are, in fact, actively looking.

I can tell you from my experience this is very common where it looks like the driver isn’t really checking, when in fact they are, and they just aren’t making it obvious because they are sort of using the corner of their eye.

It will make the examiner relax if it is more obvious. You can actually see a lot more if you turn your head to get a great view, which I always recommend.

How many lessons?

The other thing is, even the best instructor in the whole world can not teach someone how to drive, or everything they need to know in one lesson.

When I was working full-time as a driving instructor, we would have the best results with learners when they had at least eight or nine driving lessons, each an hour and a half, plus additional practice (8-10 hours for a total of at least 60 hours of experience) between each one.

It was also interesting that learners always did better when they stayed with the same instructor for all of their lessons. If we had ten instructors, then we had ten different styles and methods of teaching. They were not wrong or right, they were just different.

So one driving lesson is good, but it may not be enough.

2. Road Test Fail for Being Too Cautious

Road Test Fail – I just failed the road test

In my Road Test sheet there are 6 of B4-C4 (Gap / Accel/Decel). The DE(driver examiner) told me, “You are too cautious.”

About the GAP thing. I just used my common sense. I just wait for the safest time and then turn left or right.

And I don’t really get the Accel/Decel error.
Does it mean I didn’t go fast enough for a turn or I did do it too fast?

And just one more question, on my sheet, in two cases, he wrote “GREEN” under the boxes. For example, → B4/C4 and GREEN, and in one case he wrote SETUP. What do these greens and setup mean?

Sorry to hear about this road test fail

It’s too bad people fail for being too cautious. How can you be too cautious, really? As if.

It is good to be a certain amount cautious, but you don’t want to be paranoid. You can’t stop at every intersection, especially at ones where you’re supposed to be taking the right of way. Or ones where you have a green light and there are absolutely no pedestrians (or any other reason to stop) anywhere.

B4 GAP: The driver chooses a gap in the traffic so other road users do not have to adjust speed and/or road position

GAP Errors: Driver chooses an unsafe gap where other vehicles may or may not have to adjust speed and/or road position for safety

GAP could also mean:

  • The driver fails to take a safe gap when traffic permits
  • The driver fails to advance at an intersection when lawfully permitted
  • The driver fails to proceed around a stationary vehicle in a reasonable amount of time
  • Driver fails to yield to Transit bus with a yield sign
Yield to transit bus

C4: Acceleration / Deceleration

  • The driver’s control of the vehicle when speeding up or slowing down
  • The driver accelerates/decelerates smoothly, without stopping or slowing unnecessarily

Errors:

  • Driver fails to accelerate/decelerate smoothly
  • The driver uses their left foot on the brake
  • Driver stops unnecessarily
Left foot on the brake pedal failed road test
  • Was the green light one written under the “right turn” section?
  • Did you stop for a green light?
  • Did you go very slowly for a green light?
  • Did you stop when you didn’t have a stop sign or another reason to stop?
  • It sounds like you are driving too slowly during times when you should simply just turn or keep going

Or else you turned when it wasn’t a safe time

  • Were there cars honking at you?
  • Did cars have to swerve to get out of your way or to avoid a collision?

Likely you are being too careful, and this is a problem. Why?

It can seem to other drivers that you are confused about the right-of-way rules. Examiners want to see a confident driver, not one who slows down for all of the intersections if there’s no reason to slow down.

You are also at risk of being rear-ended if you stop or slow for absolutely no reason, which can catch vehicles (I mean, drivers) behind you off guard. Drivers get used to certain things that seem to make sense after a while.

Confused drivers simply aren’t safe, especially if there’s going to be a bunch of them driving around on the roads together.

Examiners don’t bite

I have no idea what SETUP means. You know, you are allowed to ask the examiner after the road test what it means? They don’t actually bite you. I’ve spoken with them many times. They’re just people. You can also ask them questions immediately before the road test, such as, “Is today a school day?”

3. Road Test Fail For Left Turns and Yellow Arrows

Comment: Hi, one of my friends failed his road test yesterday. His road test had no markings at all, but the examiner marked one thing as a violation and made him fail.

There was an intersection with a special left turn and he was in a special left turn lane to turn left, he left the stop line but was exactly on the pedestrian crosswalk which means he has left the stop line but did not enter the intersection, but was blocking the crosswalk, and at this time the green arrow changed to the yellow arrow, and he decided to move as he thought this he has passed the stop line and he doesn’t want to block the pedestrian crosswalk either.

But the examiner failed him with the written comments that he “entered intersection @ amber from a stop.”

So what do you think should he have stopped on the pedestrian stop line then? But what after the yellow arrow light goes directly to red and the other side green which means he is now blocking the pedestrian way? We read in the book that if we passed the stop line upon a change in traffic light then we can…

Fail road test for yellow light

Yellow Arrows & The Law

(2) When a yellow arrow is exhibited at an intersection by a traffic control signal,

(a) the driver of a vehicle approaching the intersection and facing a yellow arrow must cause the vehicle to stop

(i) before entering the marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or

(ii) before entering the intersection, if there is no marked crosswalk, unless the stop cannot be made in safety,

(b) the driver of a motor vehicle approaching the intersection and facing the yellow arrow may, when a stop cannot be made in safety, proceed with caution to make the only movement indicated by the arrow but must yield the right of way to pedestrians lawfully in the intersection or in an adjacent crosswalk, and to other vehicles lawfully in the intersection,

Beautiful British Columbia Motor Vehicle Act Opens in a new tab.

Stopping on a crosswalk

When vehicle stopping prohibited

189(1) Except when necessary to avoid conflict with traffic or to comply with the law or the directions of a peace officer or traffic control device, a person must not stop, stand or park a vehicle as follows:

(e) on a crosswalk;

Don’t stop on the crosswalk in this situation

I think the trick is to pretty much never stop on top of the crosswalk in this situation (you kind of have to when you are turning right at a green traffic light, which is a different situation). That is an awkward place.

  • It’s illegal to reverse once you’ve stopped there
  • You’re not really allowed to move forward once the arrow goes yellow from that point because you aren’t yet considered to be inside the intersection

*Traffic lights legally control vehicles that are approaching intersections, not vehicles that are already in the intersection.*

Caution in backing vehicle
193  The driver of a vehicle must not cause the vehicle to move backwards into an intersection or over a crosswalk, and must not in any event or at any place cause a vehicle to move backwards unless the movement can be made in safety

Instructor’s thoughts on stopping on crosswalks

I would recommend stopping behind the line if the light has gone yellow – as long as this can be done safely – and if it can’t, and you’re past the point of no return, then you simply complete your turn.

If you do stop on the crosswalk

However, if you find your vehicle stopped on top of the crosswalk one day, this isn’t what you wanted obviously, but this also isn’t the end of the world. Hanging out on top of a crosswalk where you’re not supposed to won’t be an automatic fail-on-the-road test unless you make that same mistake chronically.

Sometimes people aren’t sure what to do when it goes yellow, and they decide to stop, but their front bumper or their car is just a bit on the crosswalk.

It sounds like your friend completely stopped here and then started moving forward after the light went yellow, which is what the examiner didn’t like.

I am not an examiner. Actually, I am kind of rusty on the particulars but I think that if your friend had stayed stopped in that position rather than moving forward against the traffic control device, this would not have resulted in a fail, but would have been just a general ‘mark’ for stopping on a crosswalk.

  • Stopping on the crosswalk isn’t illegal; it’s something that happens sometimes to humans when they are driving
  • Entering the intersection at a yellow light after already being stopped before the intersection is actually illegal; that’s where the road test fail “Violation” comes from

Regular drivers with full driver’s licenses accidentally stop on top of crosswalks or stop in an imperfect position every single day. I see them. But really, any driver who lands like this was just trying to make the safest choice in a split-second decision. That’s just my opinion.

I guess this goes for any yellow light. You have to stop or keep going if you’re past the point of no return, but it’s not generally good to pick the 50/50, “a bit of both” option. Does that make sense?

Road Test Fail Crosswalk

4. Failed Driving Test for Not Honking Horn

Car backing out of a driveway

A very good Question: I just failed my N test because someone was backing out of their driveway and I stopped. The examiner said I should have honked and kept going. What are the rules for this?

Drivers backing should yield

Technically, a car going backward, forwards, or sideways out of any driveway, parking lot, or alley, is supposed to yield to other cars that are just driving down the road (like you were). However, there is no law that says you can’t stop and allow the car out of their driveway if you want and if it’s safe to stop, but most people don’t do that.

Fail road test for car backing out of driveway

Personally, whenever I’ve stopped in my life and let a car back out of their driveway, it has been at a place where I can tell that it’s extremely difficult for the driver to see the traffic, or difficult to back out (taking a lot of time, or bad visibility) and there has been no traffic whatsoever behind me, and I just felt like it was the right thing to do. Like, for good Karma, or something.

Or, there has been so much traffic (like in a traffic jam) that the traffic behind won’t really notice if I let the car out of the driveway because it’s going to be basically stopped the whole time anyway. Otherwise, I don’t normally make a habit of stopping and letting them out. But you certainly won’t get arrested if you do.

Traffic behind you

If there is traffic behind you and you stop, they may be annoyed or surprised because it’s a bit unusual to stop and let the car out. Also it might not be safe to stop and let the car come out because the traffic behind you probably isn’t expecting you to stop, as most people don’t.

So there is a risk that you might be rear-ended by the car behind you. Of course, people are supposed to be having appropriate following distances so that they will never rear-end another car, but it’s still good not to surprise people if you don’t have to.

Most people expect that the car in front of them will stop at stop signs and red lights, but they don’t generally expect you to stop and let every car back out of their driveway. (Even though that would seem like the kind thing to do! So props to you for being a kind driver.)

What about cars going forwards out of the driveway?

What if the car had been going forwards out of the driveway? What would you have done then? It’s pretty much the same situation except in your situation the car happened to be going backward.

Cars going forwards out of driveways also are legally required to be stopping and/or yielding to you and letting you go first.

Normally we wouldn’t stop to let a car out of their driveway if they were going forwards; that car should stop and yield to us. So if someone is going forwards and exiting their driveway, usually they have a better view.

This is why we often recommend people back into the driveway whenever possible, so usually, they don’t try to drive into you without knowing you’re there simply because they can see you easily (not like the backward car).

Honking your horn

When the car is going backward out of the driveway it’s a lot more difficult for the driver to see you. So if it looks like they aren’t stopping and yielding to you, and you honk the horn, you’re just saying that there’s a car coming.

You aren’t getting mad, you’re just saying “Hey you, there’s a car here.” That’s it. Honking works wonders this way. When you honk in that situation, people get alerted that there might be a danger (at least a reason why someone is honking) and they usually stop right away because they usually know that they are the one that has to yield.

And they know that visibility is hard when backing. Then you can keep going safely.

Cars emerging from other places

Similarly, if you’re driving and a car suddenly comes out of a driveway going forward, or if that car is coming from another road where that car is required to yield to you, like facing a stop sign, and say the driver isn’t paying attention and it looks like they might keep going and run into you, It would be an appropriate time to honk the horn and ask the driver to stop. Driving is actually a team sport.

If you don’t honk, then the other driver might actually keep going, which would be dangerous not only because you might be rear-ended by the traffic behind you if you stopped when you might not have really had to if you’d honked, but if that car keeps going across the road when it shouldn’t, keep in mind there’s often another direction of travel… so you could be putting other cars at risk who can’t see that there’s a car there doing something it shouldn’t.

So usually when we see a car doing something it shouldn’t, it’s good to honk because it’s safer for all road users, not just you. It tells other people that something weird might be happening and they should maybe check it out. Does that all make sense?

The examiner’s perspective

So basically, it might look to the examiner like this:

  • You are confused about the right-of-way rules because you yielded to a car that should have normally been yielding to you
  • You are not sure about the appropriate way to deal with a situation in which a car that is supposed to be yielding to you doesn’t (get used to this happening frequently if you drive often, people aren’t perfect)

Practice honking the horn

I would recommend practicing honking the horn sometimes when it won’t bother anyone just to get a feel for it and what it sounds like; as there are a lot of different types of horns and honks actually.

Some cars you can tap the edge of the horn and it makes a nice light soft and friendly honk. In other cars you press it and it’s quite loud and sounds like you’re mad. Some horn buttons are easy to press and some you have to press harder.

Some have little buttons and most of you just press the middle of the steering wheel. Most people think that if you honk the horn for a long time that you’re mad (which I admit can be true at times). If you honk it quickly then it’s a simple friendly alert.

Some people can do a thing with two quick honks that seem to sound friendlier to some people. Keep in mind this is all just for safety.

Don’t be afraid to honk

Do not be afraid to honk the horn! The horn is your friend, and it’s illegal to drive without one. I think it’s safe to say that most people would happily hear the horn honk and then stop their vehicle, rather than not hearing anything and then unintentionally running into another vehicle that they didn’t know was there. Honking prevents collisions every single day, and it can save lives.

I can’t even tell you the number of times I honked at other drivers when I was teaching driving lessons. I had my own little horn button. So whenever I was driving with a brand new learner, I would often honk a quick and friendly type of honk whenever I saw another driver who should have noticed us, but didn’t seem to be looking.

It really can keep the anxiety down when you know that you have a way for other drivers to notice you. People don’t want to hit stuff. They have better things to do with their day.

Have you ever honked your horn before? It doesn’t mean you’re getting mad. A lot of new drivers seem to think that the horn has to do with anger. Yes, some people use it in an angry way.

You’re just alerting people of your presence. If they acted more like they knew of your presence, then you really wouldn’t need to honk. But in reality, we do need to honk from time to time.

Hope that helps.

Do you have a road test fail story you’d like to add to this? Contact meOpens in a new tab. or if you have a question or comment, leave me your thoughts in the comments section below and I’ll respond to all comments.

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Carmen

Carmen became a driving instructor at the age of 22 in North Vancouver, Canada and is an experienced writer, blogger, photographer, artist, philosopher, certified day dreamer and generally complicated human.

2 thoughts on “Road Test Fail Tales – [Based on True Stories] Break it Down

  1. I’m a driving instructor & been doing this for many years now. I enjoy my job & have experienced successes & failures of my student’s roadtests. I always feel that the way it’s being done is sometimes unfair. I believe it’s a one way street where examiners has the power to decide whether to pass or fail an examinee based on various reasons. Unfortunately some reasons are questionable, inconsiderate & unfair. It’s too bad that ICBC don’t allow cameras or recorders in the car & we instructors can’t defend our students when they fail. Worse is that we can’t help them if they need to complain about the negative result of a roadtest even when the examiner made a bad decision. I hope we can continue to share ideas on how to make
    things better for driving schools, students and examiners.

    1. Hi, thanks for the comment. Why do you feel you can’t complain if the examiner made a bad decision? Can you not speak with the manager anymore? I definitely hear you, though. I would like to see cameras on road tests, and ICBC putting those videos on their YouTube channel to show the world “How to pass” and “How to fail” But yeah, that’s probably not going to happen.

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