August 23, 2011
More people take their road test during the summer months than any other time of the year, with more favourable weather conditions encouraging new drivers to get on the road.
But taking your road test can be a challenging and nerve-wracking experience at any time of the year, and can be even more stressful with the misconception that even the smallest error may result in a fail.
The reality is that every year more than half of new drivers pass their Class 7 novice road test and more than two-thirds of novice drivers pass their Class 5 exit road test and receive their full driver's licence.
ICBC driver examiners would much rather end a road test by saying, "Congratulations, you've passed," rather than having to begin with, "I'm sorry." We want all new drivers to feel as relaxed as possible and comfortable enough to show us they know how to drive smart.
Here are ICBC's top five tips to help you pass your road test on the first try:
No. 1 — Practice makes perfect: Becoming a smart driver doesn't happen overnight. Before you get your learner's licence, you'll start learning about smart driving habits by practicing for the knowledge test on icbc.com or through ICBC's recently-released mobile app. Try to get as much driving experience as you can before you take your road test and ideally, you'll spend time learning with a professional driving instructor. The more experience you get driving in different traffic environments and weather conditions, the more prepared you'll be for your road test.
No. 2 — Watch your speed: Your driver examiner will keep track of your performance throughout the road test and mark any points that you could improve on, even if you still pass. However, any violation of the Motor Vehicle Act will result in an automatic fail. The most common reason for failing a road test is speeding. It's vital that you don't go over the posted speed limit even if other drivers around you do. Pay attention to school and playground zones, which you will be taken through on your test. Speeding in one of these zones is a common reason for drivers failing their test. Also, be careful not to go over the speed limit when you're accelerating to merge onto a highway.
No. 3 — Keep your distance: In a recent survey, almost three-quarters of drivers identified tailgating as one of the most discourteous behaviours they regularly experience while driving. Tailgating is not only frustrating, but it also substantially increases your chance of crashing. Your driver examiner will want to see you keeping a safe distance between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead of you. Two seconds of following distance is about right on most city streets but you need to increase it to at least three seconds on highways and four seconds in poor weather.
No. 4 — Observation is key: Poor observation is the second most common reason for failing a road test so remember these key points. When you're making a turn or changing lanes, make sure to check your mirrors, signal and then shoulder-check for potential hazards before manoeuvring, including around other vehicles, cyclists or pedestrians. When you do make a turn, make it clean — maintain good position and stay in your lane during the whole turn rather than turning too wide or cutting corners.
No. 5 — Make it a full stop: A common driver error is failing to come to a complete stop at stop signs, but rather a rolling stop. When you stop at intersections or crosswalks, make sure your vehicle is behind the white line. This is especially important at intersections where you can experience a mix of congested traffic, different types of road users, poor visibility, a lot of signage and sudden merges. Your driver examiner will want to see you watch closely before proceeding — even if you have the right of way. Scan left, right and ahead. When it's safe to pull into an intersection, go slowly. Remember that pedestrians have the right of way at uncontrolled intersections and crosswalks.
If you don't pass your test the first time, all is not lost. ICBC's driver examiners are committed to giving detailed feedback at the end of each road test — whether you pass or not — so you know where you can improve. The key, as always, is to practice, practice, practice. Be confident and good luck!
Mark Jan Vrem