Top 8 reasons people fail the driving test in Ireland

Recent figures from the Irish Road Safety Authority show that approximately 48% of candidates fail their driving test each year. Here are the top eight reasons why people fail the driving test in Ireland.

According to recent figures, almost half of all driving tests conducted in a single year are failed. So why is this figure so high, and what are the reasons behind it?

What mistakes are continuously being made at every test centre across the country, and how can this article help you to not make the same mistakes as 48% of test candidates throughout Ireland?

Firstly, let’s take a look at a few of the RSA driving test centre pass rates starting with the lowest:

1. Raheny test centre: 38.7%

2. Kilkenny test centre: 43.8%

3. Finglas test centre: 45.8%

4. Mulhuddart test centre: 49.5%

5. Tallaght test centre: 50.1%

6. Dundalk test centre: 50.7%

7. Naas test centre: 53.9%

8. Skibbereen test centre: 58.8%

9. Tuam: 63.9%

The overall pass rate for all 51 driving test centres combined is 52.4%.

So what’s going wrong and why are nearly half of all test candidates failing?

Why are almost half of test candidates failing?
Credit: / @freestocks-photos

We are going to go through our top eight reasons the pass rate is so low in Ireland, but before we do that you need to understand what the driving test marking sheet is and what is on it.

This sheet is what the tester marks on their digital tablet as you are on your driving test. Understanding this sheet is the first step to getting a better result on your driving test.

The Driving Test Marking Sheet explained – 18 factors that will help you ace your test

On this marking sheet, you will see 18 headings. These are:

1. Rules of the road

2. Position

3. Observation

4. Reaction

5. Mirrors

6. Clearance

7. Signals

8. Motorcycles

9. Courtesy

10. Alighting

11. Progress

12. Vehicle controls

13. Adjust speed

14. Comply with traffic controls

15. Yield right of way

16. Reverse

17. Turnabout

18. Parking

The sheet is also colour coded to show grade one faults in green, grade two in blue, and grade three in pink as can be seen here:

Test sheet grading system.

Failure of the driving test arises when an applicant receives the following:

1. Nine or more grade two faults throughout all sections.

2. Six or more grade two faults in the same section.

3. Four of the same grade two faults for a single aspect.

4. One or more grade three for potentially dangerous driving.

The driving examiner marks from the RSA driving test marking guidelines and is highly trained at assessing driver faults. These guidelines assist the examiner to grade accordingly in the relevant section and mark the fault in order of severity into grade one, two, or three.

So why are candidates failing?

8. Failing to react properly and promptly to hazards keep an eye on the road ahead

Don't use your phone while driving.
Credit: / @SplitShire

There are many different types of hazards to be aware of when driving, such as weather, static hazards, and moving hazards, so it is important to always keep your eyes on the road.

The time it takes you to react to these is vital in terms of showing the examiner how you see the road and hazard ahead. That could be a ramp, roundabout, parked car, pedestrian, or anything that causes a change to your on-road circumstances.

The examiner is looking for your technical ability and smooth car control when dealing with whatever hazards present along the way.

7. Observation – a glance is not enough

Make sure you are checking your mirrors.
Credit: / @cocoparisienne

Poor or improper observation moving off, turning right, turning left, on roundabouts, undertaking a turnabout, or reversing around a corner are some of the main reasons people fail the driving test in Ireland.

The marks you lose here are for failing to take effective and adequate observation while at a junction and while leaving it. Not checking correctly over the right shoulder moving off is another mark ­­­– and remember to make it obvious, just a glace is not good enough.

Open and closed junctions in housing estates are where people get caught out because they don’t take adequate time to properly view the road before entering it. Just because it says “yield” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stop to look properly.

6. Positioning – stay in the centre of the lane

Drive in the centre of the lane.
Credit: / @pixel2013

Pupils can develop poor positional sense over months and years of doing it their own way.

We see pupils driving too far over to the right dividing white line and getting marked for position on the straight.

Some others swing wide on left turns, or cut or swan neck the right turns. Incorrect lane position on the approach to roundabouts and poor positioning while on or exiting the roundabout is another positional mark grade two.

5. Clearance – leave enough room for other road users

Make sure you leave enough room for other road users.
Credit: / @Pexels

Not giving enough room to pedestrians, cyclists, stationery vehicles, or other objects generally arise from a candidate driving too fast or too close to parked cars or cyclists where the gap is insufficient to pass safely and under control.

When the gap that you are trying to fit through is not big enough, this also forces the oncoming driver to alter their position on the road. These marks can easily be assigned as grade three if the clearance is so tight that it’s dangerous.

4. Progress – slower does not mean better

Driving slower is not better.
Credit: / @Bertsz

Essentially this means you are driving too slow or too cautiously. Some candidates think the slower they drive, the better the tester will think they are. This is not the case.

Driving too slow causes frustration among other drivers and can have the effect of forcing drivers behind to overtake erratically or make unnecessary manoeuvres.

Going over ramps and not increasing your speed immediately after is an example of a progress fault on the straight.

Driving at 30 km or 40 km per hour in a 50 km per hour zone, or taking too long to emerge out of a T-junction while turning left and right, or while going around a roundabout, will all accrue a mark for progress.

3. Vehicle control – stay in control of the vehicle at all times

Stay in full control of the vehicle at all times.
Credit: / @Eliens

Inexperienced or new drivers commonly get marked down for vehicle control, and this is one of the reasons so many people fail the driving test in Ireland.

Clutch coasting or over accelerating, changing down gears without releasing the clutch each time they change, no handbrake use, stopping in the wrong gear, poor steering control while changing gears, or allowing the wheel to spin back will all get you marked down for vehicle control.

Harsh braking is another mark, as is rough or erratic clutch control changing up or down gears.

2. Reversing – don’t make these common mistakes

Don't make these common reversing mistakes.
Credit: / @ArtisticOperations

Not executing the reverse with adequate observation or with overuse of the left wing mirror will get you marked down.

Most candidates take the manoeuvre too wide or think they have to be inches away and end up too close. Overall coordination takes time and practice, but the big mistake on this is that most do it too fast.

This should be done at a crawling pace while taking proper observation at the same time.

1. Lack of general preparation – don’t leave everything until the last minute

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail,

Number one on our list of reasons people fail the driving test in Ireland is their failure to properly prepare.

We now have an eight-month waiting list to get a driving test date, and we still get pupils contacting us a few days before the test. Leaving it so late is very foolish as it is proven that those who prepare well in advance are the more successful candidates.

If we have time to advise you of what you are doing wrong, then you have got time to fix the issues we have flagged. On top of trying to improve poor driving if a candidate has been driving improperly for 10, 15, or 20 years, there may also be issues with the learner permit or NCT on the car.

Attempting to fix these issues within days or hours of your test is not the smartest approach and needless to say, it doesn’t work.

For anyone who has a driving test coming up, it’s advisable to source a reputable instructor who knows what they are doing and has a five-star online reputation to prove it.

If you understand the driving test marking sheet and the above eight reasons why people are failing, then you will go a long way to changing the poor National pass rate statistics.

Go to for more information and tips on passing the driving test.