When it comes to the driving test, there are countless ways in which you can build up driving test faults and, ultimately, end up failing. One particular fault that many learners don't fully understand is undue hesitation. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that it's one of the most common reasons why candidates fail. If you don't know what it is or how to avoid doing it, it could make the difference between you passing or failing.
In this guide, we're going to take you through exactly what undue hesitation is and why it matters. We'll also discuss whether it can mean an automatic fail and how you can avoid falling prey to it during your test. Keep reading to get the full lowdown!
Throughout the driving test, you will need to demonstrate to the driving examiner that you are a safe and confident driver who is ready to take to the roads unsupervised. They will be assessing your skills in various areas ranging from signals to use of speed to judgement. Another area they'll be keeping a close eye on is progress. As you drive, the examiner will be watching to see whether you drive at an appropriate speed for the road you're on and that you make good progress.
Undue hesitation falls under this particular category. As the name suggests, it's when you take too long to take action. This includes not proceeding when it's safe to do so, or constantly stopping and waiting. In other words, you're failing to make any progress. A prime example of this would be if you approach a junction and spend five minutes waiting to emerge, despite the fact that you've had several opportunities to do so safely.
Though you might not think it, there is such a thing as being too cautious on the road. There is a clear difference between taking your time to ensure it's safe to move and simply dragging your feet because you're indecisive. If the examiner thinks you're being unduly hesitant, they will give you a driving test fault for it.
Let's take a closer look at some examples of undue hesitation:
Many learner drivers get it into their heads that driving slowly will show the driving examiners that they're a safe and careful driver. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. If you're driving too slowly, or you show clear signs of hesitation every time you intend to emerge from a junction, the examiner might see it as an indication that you're not ready to become a fully qualified driver. Instead of seeing a cautious driver, they'll see one that lacks the confidence necessary to take to the roads unsupervised.
It's not all about confidence here. Hesitation can lead to serious accidents on the road. If you're stuck on a junction for a long amount of time, you could end up holding up traffic and causing other motorists to take drastic action (e.g., driving around you to emerge), which could lead to a potential collision. Though examiners know that test day nerves often play a role in undue hesitation, they're not going to let you off the hook. If you're going to take to the roads alone, you need to be able to do something as straightforward as moving off and emerging from junctions.
The driving test can be a terrifying prospect for many learner drivers. No matter how well you know the format of the test, it's still a nerve-wracking experience that brings with it a great deal of uncertainty. As such, it's likely that you could end up being unduly hesitant at least once. So, what happens if you get a fault in this particular category?
Well, contrary to popular driving test myths, making a mistake on the test will not always result in an automatic fail. Take stalling the car, for example. As long as you react quickly and safely to the situation, you'll only be lumped with a minor fault. The same can be said of undue hesitation. The likelihood of you failing for this type of mistake depends on two key factors:
In case you're not familiar with how driving tests are marked, each time you make a mistake you will receive a driving test fault. These faults are broken down into serious and minor ones. If you get a single serious fault, you'll fail your test. You can, however, make up to 15 minor faults and still end up passing your driving test. (Phew!)
When it comes down to the number of faults you can stack up in a particular category, e.g., undue hesitation, the rules aren't as clear cut. There's nothing that says you can't end up with say, six faults in a category. That being said, if the examiner spots you being unduly hesitant on multiple occasions throughout your test, you're likely to end up with a serious fault—though it could be nerves, the examiner will likely interpret it as a recurring bad driving habit.
The moment that your actions on the road seriously affect other drivers, or causes them to take subsequent action, is the moment you'll likely receive a serious fault. If you've been dilly-dallying for 10 minutes on a junction, for example, and the driver behind you starts beeping, or has to drive around you, then you'll probably end up with a serious fault. After all, if someone has to drive around you to emerge, a collision could occur. Similarly, if you've been waiting to move off with your indicator flashing, but haven't moved, a motorist might stop to give way—causing a long line of traffic while you decide whether or not to move.
In short, you don't want to ever be an inconvenience to other drivers on the road. If you're not taking the chance to make progress when opportunities are presented to you, you will be penalised for it.
While all driving examiners have to adhere to the mark sheet set out by the DVSA, there are obviously going to be moments in which they will have to use their own discretion when deciding whether or not something counts as a minor or serious fault. And when it comes down to undue hesitation, there's a lot of grey area.
Let's say, for example, that you've been waiting to emerge from a junction and have missed a safe opportunity to move. Before you know it, the driver behind you is beeping. You ignore the noise, finally move off and make good progress on the road. One examiner might class this as a serious fault, as you've caused another motorist to take action. Another, however, might decide that the other motorist was being far too impatient after spotting your L plates—instead opting to give you a minor fault.
If you do end up failing your driving test for undue hesitation, instead of feeling too down about it, you should try to work on it with your instructor. Bad habits are dangerous on the road. So, if it's a recurring problem for you, try to sort it out with a refresher course.
Of course, if you don't feel like you should have failed for undue hesitation, you could try appealing your driving test. Bear in mind, however, that in the best case scenario, you'll only receive a free test.
So, now you finally know what undue hesitation is. The next step is to make sure that you avoid it during your driving test. If you're not sure how to do that, you're in luck. We've got plenty of tips and tricks up our sleeves! Get your pen and paper out—you'll want to take notes!
One of the main reasons why so many learners fall prey to undue hesitation is because they don't use observations to plan ahead. If you're not paying attention on the approach to crossroads or a roundabout, for example, you're going to take longer to figure out what you need to do next. Though you might simply be mulling over your next step, the examiner might just assume you're hesitating instead. This is where your observations come in.
Whenever you're approaching a junction, you need to carefully watch the road ahead to look for clues that will help you figure out your next course of action. If you're heading to an open junction, for example, you'll be able to spot traffic from early on—if the road is clear, you could simply keep on going. If you're dealing with a closed junction where your view is limited, you'll have to approach slowly and stop until you know it's safe to move.
When you're heading down the road towards a junction, it can be all too easy to speed things up in order to get to the end. This can be detrimental to your decision making, however. If you've put your foot down on the accelerator and then come to a sudden stop, you'll have to spend at least a minute evaluating the road ahead and whether or not it's safe to emerge. Add this on to your overall nerves and you're likely to be waiting a while.
What you need to do instead is slow things down on the approach to a junction. Simply switch to a lower gear and steadily take your foot off the accelerator. If you slow things down enough, you'll have time to look at the road ahead and gauge whether or not you need to stop for an opportunity to emerge, or continue going.
No matter how many relaxation tips you read before heading in for your driving test, it's likely that you'll still be a bundle of nerves by the time the examiner is sitting next to you. While there's no sure fire way of getting rid of that nervous energy, you simply need to remind yourself that your instructor wouldn't let you sit the test if you weren't ready. If you're taking the test, you'll have sat through at least forty hours of driving lessons. Trust us, you're more than ready.
So, when that slight feeling of doubt creeps up on you, squash it down. Think about how you drive during lessons and try to imagine what your instructor would tell you to do. If you don't think it's safe to move off or emerge from a junction, then wait—even if the examiner thinks you're hesitating unduly, you'll only get a minor. If, on the other hand, you think you're good to go, then trust your instincts. It might sound tacky, but you've got to believe in yourself!
When all you're hearing is that you shouldn't hesitate, it can be all too tempting to move to the opposite end of the spectrum. This is to be avoided at all costs. It's not that the examiners want to see you speeding from junctions. They just want to see that you're able to take advantage of opportunities when they arise. Make your observations, evaluate whether or not it's safe, then emerge and make good progress.
Remember, you can get a few minor faults for undue hesitation and still pass your driving test. If you're too rash and take risks on the road, however, you won't stand a chance of passing. To sum it up, you want to take the Goldilocks approach—don't play it too safe by hesitating consistently, but don't play it too dangerously either.
If you're struggling with a particular driving skill, the best way to master it is by practising. Instead of avoiding the problem, you need to face it head on—it won't get better otherwise. The more you get used to emerging from junctions, moving off and so on, the less likely you will be to end up with a fault for undue hesitation. If your instructor thinks it's a major problem, they'll come up with different routes during lessons and mock tests to ensure you have plenty of chances to practise.
If that's still not enough for you, why not try practising with friends or family? It's a great way of building up your muscle memory and confidence. Plus, you can get some much-needed advice from an experienced driver. (Remember to always defer to your instructor's advice, though. They are DVSA-approved after all!)