Winter weather: How to pass your driving test

Rain, sleet and heavy wind can make passing a driving test a little more challenging, which could be the reason why first-time pass rates are significantly lower in autumn and winter than in other seasons.

With driving test wait times as long as six months in some parts of the country, there’s more pressure than ever on learner drivers to pass on their first attempt so that they can avoid waiting months for another try.

With this in mind, we’ve researched how the UK’s average driving test pass rates differ depending on the time of year and the city the test is taken in. We’ve also partnered with Gary Warrington, a Grade A driving instructor with over 15 years of experience, to share his tips and tricks for passing your test in the autumn and winter months.

Where are you most likely to pass your test?

Analysis of driving test pass rates between April 2021 and March 2022 shows that 57% of Cardiff’s learner drivers passed their tests. This makes the Welsh capital the location with the highest driving pass rate. In fact, Cardiff drivers had an 11% higher pass rate than the rest of the country during this period.

Bristol follows closely behind with an average pass rate of 55%, and Edinburgh had the third-highest pass rate at 51%.

Rank City Pass rate
1 Cardiff 57%
2 Bristol 55%
3 Edinburgh 51%
4 Nottingham 49%
5 Manchester 46%
6 Sunderland 45%
6 London 45%
7 Sheffield 44%
8 Glasgow 43%
9 Coventry 42%
9 Liverpool 42%
9 Stoke-on-Trent 42%
10 Leicester 41%
11 Birmingham 39%
11 Leeds 39%

Based on number of tests taken vs number of tests passed from April '21 - March '22.

Autumn and winter months see the lowest driving test pass rates

The pass rates in the UK over the past five years show that Brits are least likely to pass their tests in November and December. These months have a pass rate of just 46.8%. October (47%) and September (47.1%) join their fellow autumn months at the bottom of the ranking, with just a slightly higher pass rate.

But why are pass rates lower in the last quarter of the year?

“Even though driving tests are not conducted in the dark, this variation could be down to the fact that light conditions can vary considerably during the winter months, along with poorer road conditions such as sleet, ice, wet leaves and mud,” says Gary Warrington.

Surprisingly, the one colder month that is the exception to the rule is February. Over half (51.4%) of all learner drivers who took a practical test in this month were successful, making it the month Brits are most likely to pass.

The chances of passing in February are 2.7% higher than the UK’s five-year average pass rate of 48.7%. Spring months April and March are the second and third most-successful months, with average pass rates of 50.9% and 50.4% respectively. 

Rank Month %
1 February 51.4%
2 April 50.9%
3 March 50.4%
4 May 49.3%
5 July 49.1%
6 June 48.3%
7 August 48.1%
8 January 47.9%
9 September 47.1%
10 Ocober 47.0%
11 November 46.8%
11 December 46.8%

What are the most common reasons for failing your driving test in the UK?

According to information released by the government last year, not making effective observations, not using mirrors correctly and not having proper control of steering are the three most common reasons why learner drivers fail their test.

Driving can be more complicated in winter weather due to factors like fog and low lighting, so it’s important to make sure you practice in all weather conditions possible ahead of your test. You never know what conditions you’ll be driving in on the day.

Rank Top 5 reasons for failing the driving test in the UK
1 Not making effective observations at junctions
2 Not using mirrors correctly when changing direction
3 Not having proper control of the steering
4 Incorrect positioning when turning right at junctions
5 Not moving off safely

Expert tips for passing in the autumn and winter months

We asked Grade A driving instructor Gary Warrington to share his expert advice for passing driving tests in the autumn and winter months.

How can learners best prepare themselves to take their test in the autumn and winter?

  • Practice when the weather conditions aren’t perfect
  • Always allow plenty of space from the vehicles ahead of you
  • Make sure you know how to switch on the headlights and wipers of the vehicle you’re driving while remaining in full control
  • Never start driving with a misted-up front or rear windscreen – learn how to operate the controls to clear them and wait until you have full visibility before setting off (this is also important when sitting your test)

What should learners ask their instructors for extra guidance on ahead of taking a test in the colder months?

Ask your instructor to show you how to operate headlights and fog lights, front and rear wipers, and how to demist the front and rear windscreen. Also, ensure they teach you the correct stopping distances and following distances.

What is your number one tip for drivers who are taking their test during colder months?

The number one tip I always give to my students ahead of their test is” take your time and do not rush”. It’s better to get a couple of ‘undue hesitation faults’ than rush into a situation and then regret it. And remember, the manoeuvres are no different during the winter months than the rest of the year, apart from poorer visibility. Take your time, look ALL around (don’t just rely on mirrors), and keep any reversing very slow.

Check how prepared you are for your upcoming driving test with our driving test quiz.


To determine the time of year with the highest and lowest pass rates, Comparethemarket used data available from | Driving Test Statistics, based on results from January 2017 - April 2022 (most recent date  available).

The locations with the highest and lowest pass rates were determined by analysing the 15 most populated cities (source) using information from | Driving Test Statistics. These were then ranked from highest to lowest.

The top five reasons for failing a driving test in Great Britain were determined by analysing | Top 10 reasons for failing a driving test in Great Britain.