It’s time to take your California driving test! You’re probably a combination of excited and anxious. Are you worried about not passing the driving test? No worries! We’ll discuss everything you need to know about automatic fails on the CA driving test, and give you expert tips on how to avoid failing. It’s not as difficult as you think!

What Are the Most Common Reasons California Drivers Fail the Driving Test?

If you are over 18 years of age, and you fail the California driving test, you will be eligible to set a new appointment to retake the test immediately. You must pay the $7 fee for each retake. You have 3 chances to pass the driving test before you are required to reapply for a California driver’s license. You can miss a maximum of 15 points on the CA driving test before you automatically fail it.

Poor Steering Control

When you’re taking your CA driving test, make sure you keep both hands on the wheel. You should maintain a firm grip on the steering wheel. You should never drive with one hand during the driving test. Make sure you use the hand-over-hand technique when you’re making turns.

Improperly Changing Lanes

You need to learn how to change lanes properly, as this is an essential part of your driving test. Use the correct turn signal to indicate your next move to drivers. Also, check your blind spots and use your mirrors to ensure a clear traffic break for you to change lanes safely.

Not Being Aware of Your Surroundings

You need to be focused and aware of your surroundings when you’re driving. If you’re looking everywhere but the road and easily become distracted, you could fail your CA driving test. When you’re operating a motor vehicle, you have to pay attention to ensure you’re following the rules of the road and watch other drivers. If you’re not focused, you won’t be ready to react in a dangerous situation, which could lead to an accident.

Rolling Stops

You must come to a complete stop right before the demarcation line (stop line) at stop signs. The demarcation line, or stop line is a thick white line that you’ll notice at intersections and near traffic signals and stop signs. The purpose of this line is to indicate where drivers must stop before continuing to drive through a crosswalk area or entering an intersection.

It may seem like stopping before the line is an unnecessary hassle. However, stopping before the line ensures pedestrian safety and the safety of other drivers, including you! Stop lines also enable detection systems, such as overhead cameras and inductive loops) to recognize the presence of your vehicle. Failure to come to a complete stop BEFORE the demarcation line will result in automatic failure of the CA driving test.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving takes not being aware of your surroundings to the next level. It’s best to put your phone on silent and avoid using it while you’re driving. Another part of distracted driving is listening to music. Don’t turn on the radio while you’re taking your driving test. Your job is to stay focused on the road and complete any tasks the instructor asks you to complete.


Driving with uncertainty, especially at four-way stops, is a sure way to fail the CA driving test. You need to understand the rules of intersections with stop signs. Always wait your turn. Make sure you communicate your intentions with other drivers by using the correct signal. Yield to the vehicle on your right if two cars arrive at the intersection stop sign simultaneously.

Incorrect Highway Merging

Remember that driving on the highway may not be a part of your driving test. However, it is a possibility. When you’re merging on the highway, merge from the entrance ramp into traffic at speed, which means you need to increase your speed so you don’t hold up traffic or cause an accident. Only merge into a lane when it’s safe to do so. There should be a break in traffic before you merge lanes.

Other Reasons You May Faily Your California Driving Test

Let’s talk about the other reasons that could cause you to fail your CA driving test.

Driving Too Slowly

Confidence while you’re driving is imperative, especially during your driving test. You may think driving below the speed limit will get you a few pats on the back for being a careful driver, but it will have the opposite effect. Driving considerably below the speed limit can cause an unsafe driving environment for all drivers on the road. Drive the speed limit and maintain your speed.

Driving Too Fast

There’s no need to be a race car driver, and you certainly don’t want to have the need for speed during your driving test. Sometimes it’s not safe to drive at the posted speed limit due to current weather conditions, such as rain, fog, and traffic. Accidents and traffic congestion can also cause you to reduce your speed. When there’s inclement weather, decrease your speed and stay focused on the road.

Regardless if other drivers are speeding past you, stay within the speed limit. Be aware of drops in the speed limit. The speed limit will decrease in work and school zones and other speed limit areas. Make sure you’re aware of and follow the speed limit at all times.

Changing Lanes at Intersections

Never change lanes when you’re passing through an intersection, regardless if you’re making a turn, or going straight. Although the road may be clear of motorists, and you’re adhering to the rules for proper lane changing, you must avoid doing so at an intersection. Changing lanes at an intersection is deemed risky and unsafe for you and other drivers. Once you pass the corner of the intersection (make the turn) and in a defined lane, you can then switch traffic lanes.

Braking Too Hard

We’re certain your instructor doesn’t want to be on a roller coaster ride while being on the passenger side, so make sure you’re bringing your vehicle to a smooth stop. Since you have to provide a vehicle to complete the CA driving test, make sure you’re familiar with the brakes. If the vehicle has hard brakes, you’ll have to push them harder to bring the car to a complete stop. If the vehicle has soft brakes, you can lightly apply pressure to the brakes to stop the car.

Remember, you should only hard brake in emergencies. When you’re stopping or slowing down and there is no danger, use enough force to slowly bring the car to a complete stop. Keep in mind that you should start slowing down before you reach a stop sign, red traffic light, or similar situations. Hard braking causes your passengers to jolt forward, which isn’t pleasant and could cause minor injuries. Needless to say, hard braking can cause a rear-end collision.

Following Too Closely (Tailgating)

Following too closely to the vehicle in front of you is known as tailgating. You’ll need to stay at least 2 car lengths of space between you in the vehicle in front of you. You can also use the 3-second rule, which states that there should be a 3-second gap between you in the vehicle in front of you. Maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle in front gives you time to react if the driver swerves or slams on their brakes.

Parallel Parking

Parallel parking is something many drivers are good at. If you are asked to parallel park, focus on not hitting other vehicles and going over the curb. You can touch or bump into the curb but try not to run over it in a way that your tire is over the curb.

Neglecting to Check Your Mirrors

Always check your mirrors! During your driving test, it’s a good idea to check them more often than you normally would. Remember that your vehicle has more than one mirror, the rearview and side mirrors. You need to know the location of other vehicles, even if you know you’re not going to switch lanes. This is a part of checking your blind spots and being aware of your surroundings.

Car Failure

You must provide a vehicle to complete the CA driving test, so make sure it’s functioning as it should. It’s a good idea to have the car inspected before attempting to complete your driving test. The windshield should have any cracks and the seatbelts need to be working and in good condition. Also, make sure the following are fully functional:

  • Taillights
  • Headlights
  • Windshield wipers
  • Brake lights
  • Turn signals

If your vehicle doesn’t meet California’s safety standards, the car must be repaired so that these standards are met, and you will have to retake the driving test.

Vehicle Cleanliness

The inside and outside of your vehicle must be clean. Make sure you don’t have personal items thrown around in your vehicle. Although you may not have points deducted on your driving test, a dirty vehicle doesn’t leave a good impression on the driving instructor. Personal items can be viewed as distractions, and this is something you’ll want to avoid.

You’ll want to wipe the inside and outside of the car’s windows, including the windshield, to ensure optimal visibility.

Seatbelt Violations

When you and the driving instructor get into the car, before you do anything else, including start the car, make sure you put your seatbelt on, and make sure the instructor has their seatbelt on. Failure to put your seatbelt on and ensure your passenger(s) have their seatbelt on will result in automatic failure of the test.

Traffic Violations

Violating any traffic law will result in an automatic failure of the driving test. The following are traffic violations that will cause you to automatically fail the CA driving test:

  • Failure to obey a traffic sign
  • Speeding
  • Making an illegal turn
  • Running a red light
  • Failure to give space for an emergency vehicle

Make sure you stay alert and aware of all road signs and remember the traffic laws. Don’t forget you can refer to the California DMV handbook for answers to many of your questions.

Failing the California DMV Driving Test

If you fail your CA driving test, the consequences will depend on the specific part of the test you didn’t pass.

Failing the Vision Test

If you don’t pass the vision test, a corrective lens restriction will be placed on your driver’s license. You must visit an ophthalmologist and have them complete a Report of Vision Examination form.

Failing the Knowledge Test

You are required to pass the knowledge test (written test) to receive your CA driver’s license. The knowledge test is a multiple-choice exam. You can attempt this test 3 times before you are required to reapply. Minors are required to wait at least 7 days before they can retake the test, excluding the day the test was failed.

Behind-the-Wheel Driving Test

The behind-the-wheel (in-car) driving test must be passed to receive a CA driver’s license. You will be tested on your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. If you fail the driving test, you must wait at least 14 days to retake this part of the exam, excluding the day the test was failed.

On testing day, you need to make sure you have the following:

  • Your driver’s license or instruction permit
  • Another individual who is a CA licensed driver and at least 18 years of age. If you are a minor, the individual must be at least 25 years of age.
  • A safe vehicle to complete the test (the vehicle must have functioning brake lights, mirrors, and tires)
  • Valid proof of an active CA auto insurance policy and vehicle registration

The driving instructor will assess your ability to safely handle the vehicle and follow instructions. You must demonstrate all essential skills and follow all traffic laws.

Retaking the Test

If you’ve attempted the test 3 times and have not passed, your CA learner’s permit will become invalid. You must reapply, retake the written part of the exam, and complete the necessary hours of behind-the-wheel training, if applicable.

How Can I Make Sure I Pass My California Driving Test?

Reading and studying the California DMV Handbook is the best way to pass your driving test. It would also help if you understood how vehicles work. Knowing your vehicle’s parts ensures you can identify essential vehicle mechanisms, such as the following:

  • Defrosters
  • Windshield wipers
  • Parking brake
  • Headlights

You will also need more practice driving, so have your parents take a spin around the block with you. If they have their driver’s license, they can help point out the information you need to know, such as things you should check for or be aware of while driving.

How Many Mistakes Can I Make on the California Driving Test?

Mistakes will be different according to your state’s laws. However, most states follow these 3 parts:

  • Driving
  • Pre-Check
  • Critical errors

It’s expected to make a few mistakes in each of these errors, but remain mindful that some mistakes can lead to automatic failure of the driving test. Practicing driving with a licensed adult is a great way to calm your nerves and get rid of some anxiety. If you don’t have a vehicle to complete your behind-the-wheel practice, it may be a good idea to enroll in a Driver’s Education (Driver’s Ed) course.

What Do I Do If I Fail My California Driving Test 3 Times?

In most states, you can attempt the driving test 3 times. When you initially apply for your CA learner’s permit, you pay all necessary fees. These fees cover the cost of testing attempts, including the written and driving tests. In most states, you can only attempt to pass the test 3 times within 1 year or on one application. If you don’t pass the driving test on the third attempt, you must restart the entire process and do the following:

  • Complete a new application
  • Provide proof of your age, identity, legal U.S. presence, CA residency, and age
  • Pass the written test (again)
  • Practice your driving (supervised)
  • Meet all requirements for Driver’s Ed

Once you meet the above requirements, you will be eligible to schedule a new driving test. Make sure you study the CA driving handbook and get more practice driving, so you can pass your test. Good luck and happy driving!