Taking a driver’s test can be nerve-wracking for the student behind the wheel. It’s a moment that decides if they’ll get the freedom to go where they please, or if they’ll face the embarrassment of failure and bumming rides. As it turns out, the person a driver’s test is scariest for is actually the other people in the car. Over at Reddit, DMV employees, testing instructors, and people present for driver’s tests share their 48 scariest driver test stories.
1. Eye Spy
This isn’t about a kid, but rather my 80-year-old great aunt. The tester kept telling her to speed up. After a few times she said she can’t see the speedometer, so she didn’t know fast she is going. He made her pull over and she did not receive a renewal, thank god.
2. Pit Stop
My dad did license testing for a few years, and he once had a girl stop on the railroad tracks. Oh, but that’s not the worst part. There was a train coming—slowly, sure, but still it takes them a long time to stop—and it blasted the horn right into the car. This just made her freeze up even more. He had to reach his foot over to her side to hit the accelerator.
3. Fast and the Reclined
My driver’s ed teacher said that one kid reclined his seat all the way back, put one foot on the gas and the other on the brake, and grabbed the top of the wheel with one hand and said, “Let’s go.”
4. Wrong Way
My best friend’s son just failed his driver’s test because he went the wrong way down a busy four lane road. Luckily, they made it safely into a parking lot and the testing administrator drove them back.
5. Just Got Turned Around
I heard about a girl in drivers ed who was driving on the interstate with the teacher and three other students. The teacher commented that they missed the exit, but they would just get off on the next one. This stupid girl had a “better” idea. I’m not sure what her thought process was, but this girl pulled into the grass and tried to go against the traffic to go back to their missed exit.
The teacher had to use her brake on the passenger side while the three other students screamed bloody murder.
6. Under Pressure
I asked my tester during my license test what was the worst thing someone had done. His answer was a doozy. Apparently, there was an older gentleman who drove through three stop signs before the tester told him to pull over. The gentleman explained that he didn’t want the license, but his family was pressuring him, so ran the signs on purpose to fail.
7. Lights off
While I was waiting for my turn to do my CDL test, I watched a guy in a semi back into a light pole, and instead of seeing what he gently backed into, gassed it and knocked it over. Needless to say, I didn’t get to take my test for an hour or so while they cleaned it up.
8. Right on Through
My best friend was coming to a four way stop sign in our small rural town. The tester said to go straight. So, she did. Without stopping at the sign. Just drove right through without batting an eye. His response was devastating. He told her, “well you failed, if you want to just drive back right now.” She was so disappointed.
9. Senior Student Drivers
I’m a tester, and the kids make minor mistakes, and yes, some do make scary mistakes. However, it’s the adults that scare me most. Especially the seniors who are up for re-exam. Probably the worst test I’ve ever been on was this man in his 90s. I instructed him to turn onto a street, “When it is safe to do so,” and he turned, narrowly missing a pedestrian.
It wasn’t even over yet. Not only that, but he was driving on the wrong side of the road, and he came head to head with another car who pulled over to let him go. He was laughing about it, because he was under the impression that it was a one-way road. When I got back to the office with him—I cut the test short and got him back in the quickest and safest way possible—he was astounded when I told him it was NOT a one-way street.
I asked him, “did you see any one-way signs?” And he told me, “No but I assumed you were going to take me on one.”
10. Innocent Bystander
Last year, I was making a left turn at a light, and a car swerved into my lane and hit me. Turns out it was someone taking their driving test. I’m not exactly sure how driver’s test car insurance works, but the instructor told me we had to wait for the police and take details of everything. I am guessing the driver did not pass.
11. Shifting Gears
I went forward instead of in reverse when the tester was standing in front of me on the curb. I failed.
12. Wrong Turn
My grandfather used to be a tester. He had one guy forget which way to turn the steering wheel, and they ended up in a ditch.
13. Who’s at Fault?
When I was taking driver’s ed, I was in a car that had the brake on the passenger side for the instructor to use just in case. I was going 35 down fairly busy street when my car all of a sudden comes to a complete stop. In horror, I looked over at my instructor, and my blood ran cold. He was sound asleep with his foot on the brake. I just sat there dumbfounded.
After a couple of people honked, he shook himself awake, mumbled a quick “accelerate,” and sat up adjusting his glasses. So that was fun.
14. Seventh Time’s the Charm
One of my classmates in high school failed his driver’s test six times. During one test, he hit a pedestrian.
15. Seeing in the Rain
My dad was friends with a guy who worked for the registry giving the road test. His best story was of a kid who took his test while it was raining. He started driving without the windshield wipers on. The guy figured he was nervous, so tried to give him a break saying, “It’s raining pretty hard, huh.” The kid was white-knuckled on the steering wheel, and just said, “Yeah.”
Again, trying to give the kid a break, he said, “Don’t you think you should do something about that?” The kid said, “Yeah.” Apparently, the kid didn’t know where the wiper controls were, so he instead he did the dumbest thing ever. He rolled down the driver’s side window and stuck his head out. At that point, the guy stopped the test and failed the kid.
16. Self-Driving Car
In the 80s, I was a student—first day in the car of driver’s ed, not the test—with someone that thought the car “centered” itself into the lane when you got on the pavement. Like the car “knew” where the lane was and did it for you. We exited the school parking lot and made a U-turn straight into the ditch. It wasn’t too bad, just some bloody noses, and a sprained wrist.
She didn’t know that people were keeping their hands in the same place AND relaxing their grip to control the straightening of the car after a turn. She thought the car did it for you, and so she didn’t move her hands or relax her grip on the wheel when we pulled out and turned onto the road, hence the U-turn. She thought the steering wheel would forcefully move your hands with it, as the car performed this “maneuver.”
So after we pulled out of the driveway, she was waiting for the wheel to move her hands as the car centered itself. I vividly remember the instructor, who was also the football coach, screaming at her like she was a lousy quarterback—and the whole time she was bawling and crying, “I thought the car did it for you!”
17. Axe Man Cometh
In my local area, a guy in his mid-20s failed the test for some reason. At this point in time, the results of the test were shared in the car. After being told he failed, he did not react well—at all. He proceeded to get out of the car and grab an axe out of the trunk. I don’t know any more details beyond that, but apparently it is why the results are now shared inside the licensing building rather than in the car.
18. A Tale of Three Tests
My ex drove a Geo Tracker, this TINY car. She pulled right into the parallel parking area, and fit in so unbelievably easy, that the tester made her do it again, “properly.” Also, a girl in my driver’s ed failed her test when she went to the DMV because she turned into oncoming traffic. Not only was there a grass median, but there was also some of those skinny red and white poles for about 10 feet, followed by a guard rail.
Each side of the median was three lanes. There really was no way to miss it, but she did. On a lighter note, I did the backing up 100 feet. When the tester told me to, I stopped, and before I put it into park, he asked me a few verbal questions. Then he proceeded to give me directions to leave the area, and back to the parking lot where the parallel parking test would be done.
I never put the car in drive, pressed the gas, and the car went flying in reverse for about 20 feet. He apologized and said, “my fault for distracting you. As far as I’m concerned, that never happened.”
19. No Rescheduling
There was a license center next to the sporting goods store I worked at. A LOT of people would come there, and practice before their test out front in the parking lot. A young lady who only had her permit managed to mix up the gas and brake while practicing and drove right through the front of the license center. But that was just the beginning of the nightmare.
I was told later that she was even more upset when they wouldn’t let her reschedule her test for the following day. They canceled her test she was planning to take when she wrecked the whole front of the building. It wasn’t long after that they installed a bunch of bollards in front to protect the building. I was amazed at how marked up they had gotten in the first few months.
20. Pick Up the Phone
My driving test was supposed to be like two hours with me and the other two people in my group trading off every 45 minutes or so. I got the last leg, and about 30 minutes in we run into some construction. This was a rural area with a two-lane highway, through mountains, that they were expanding into a four lane highway.
They had to just completely close one lane and alternate traffic every hour between who could come up the mountain and who could go down. So, I’m parked—literally, my car is in park—in traffic, and I look at the time. I hurry and pull out my phone to text my mom that I’m going to be late, and she’ll need to wait to pick me up.
My instructor just looks over at me and goes, “Y’know, even though it’s parked that’s still technically illegal. The engine is running and you’re on a road. I don’t care right now, but don’t do it again.”
21. Bad Tester
My story is actually about a terrible testing instructor. He tries to get in the car, a little hatchback, but he’s a huge man, and cannot fit. He says he will fail me unless I can get a car he could fit into—within 15 minutes, otherwise, my slot will be gone, and I will have to rebook and pay again. Luckily, my dad was five minutes away and came with his sedan.
Disaster averted—or so I thought. My instructor asks me to do a U-turn on a farm road—single lane each side, with a ditch on either side. It’s impossible to do based on turning circle of the car. I attempted the largest angle possible, but due to ditch each side ends up being a three-point turn. He asks me if I’m deaf and if I know what a U-turn is.
I politely try to explain it’s not possible, which I’m sure he knew. I completed the test and passed everything else. He failed me and told me to come back when I learn to drive. I re-booked for the next day and passed with a different instructor. This was in 2005. Fast forward 15 years—he was actually in the news, getting sentenced to jail for accepted bribes.
22. Double Whammy
When I parallel parked during my test, I hit the pole behind me, and the tester said. “It’s fine. This should be an automatic fail, but I think that’s a bit too harsh.” I thought I was off the hook, but I was so, so wrong. I then hit the pole in front of me head on. I did not pass.
23. Would You Like Fries with That?
My old driving instructor told me about a kid that pulled into the drive through at McDonald’s, ordered some food, then realized he left his wallet in his other car—he was using the instructor’s car. He wanted the instructor to pay for his food, and said he’d offer half of his fries in return. The wallet also contained his license, so the instructor failed him on the spot and told him to get out the car.
24. When Does the Test Start?
I watched my (at the time) know-it-all son do the “California Roll” through three consecutive stop signs as he was exiting the courthouse parking lot at the beginning of the test. The tester stopped the test and failed him on the spot, before he even got out of the parking lot. My son’s excuse: “I thought the test hadn’t started yet.”
25. Name Dropping
My father used to tell stories of when his dad worked at the Massachusetts Registry. One story he told was about this kid taking a test who was awful and really stuck up. Somehow, he had gotten my grandfather’s name, so the kid tries to act all slick and pull strings and goes, “I know Chuck Lafitte!” My grandfather giving the test says, “Oh really? You know Chuck Lafitte?”
The kid’s like, “yep.” My grandfather replies, “No you don’t. Because I’m Chuck Lafitte.” The kid did not get a license that day.
26. Slow Down!
This reminded me of a moment I had during my final test. The tester had an arm injury and was wearing a brace on his right arm. I took a left turn way too hard and caused him to accidentally hit his arm against the door. I was just like, “oh fudge, I’m so sorry!” Surprisingly, he passed me that day…maybe he didn’t want me to come back.
27. You Have the Right to Continue Driving
My husband had to take the test twice (as a teen) because he failed it the first time. Some nitwit ran a red light and went barreling through the intersection. So, he braked to avoid hitting them, or getting hit himself. It didn’t matter—the instructor failed him for a ridiculous reason. He was failed because he had right of way, so he should have just kept going.
28. Road Not Clear
I failed my test twice, both because of dumb things. This test was on a course, not real roads. My second time was the day after a huge snowstorm the previous night. There were many signs still plastered with snow so you couldn’t read them and a lot of the symbols on the road were completely covered, couldn’t even see lane lines in a lot of places.
29. Make an Impact
As someone who worked in a DMV for many years issuing driver’s licenses, the craziest thing I ever witnessed with my own eyes was a dude who somehow managed to lose control at over 15 mph, jumped the curb, and smashed into the guardrail. It was total carnage and we had to clean it up. Needless to say, he was not issued a license.
30. Choose Your Words Carefully
I’ve got a story from when I was a beginner driver. My mom used to take me out to drive so I could get practice. I had my license but was still green. On a certain crossroad, my mom sees someone cross, ignoring the red light. Looking at them, she sardonically says, “Sure, this red signal doesn’t apply, let’s just drive ahead!”
Being too focused on driving to notice the tone of voice and interpret this as something other than instruction, I made a huge mistake. I did exactly that: drove straight past that red light. Good thing it was nighttime so there was next to nobody on the road, but it was spooky after the fact.
31. Passenger Beware
I was in the backseat of the car when this story happened. I had just taken my third, and final driving test, I passed it without a hitch no problem. However, the driving route was just going to another kid’s house to pick her up, which was pretty standard. So, as I pull up to the driveway, the driving instructor says, “Just be ready, she has never even sat in a driver’s seat of a car before.”
I didn’t think too much of it because my first-time driving was with this instructor, and it went well. Anyway, we get in and start driving off, not even 45 seconds later, we get to a stop sign. She doesn’t stop, so the instructor slams on his brake in his footwell. She was confused as to why she was stopping, so she continued to press down on the accelerator harder, like to the floor!
It all went so horrible so quickly. There was lots of screaming, telling her to stop, and after about 15 seconds of that, she puts the car in park and blows the transmission. It was some 1980s Volvo, and the car was pretty much junked. It’s funny because, as we were driving to pick her up, my instructor was telling me how he was surprised this car was still going.
32. Speed Trap
I was at the DMV renewing my license. I listened to tester tell a girl’s parents why she failed the driving test. “Not only was she immediately speeding once we left the lot, but she was also speeding through a school zone.”
33. Left Lane Right Gear
I heard this story from my driving instructor in high school. He was giving a kid a lesson, and they were on the highway. He asked the student to pass a car that was driving a little slow. The student signals, merges into the left lane, and gently accelerates. Everything was going well when suddenly, the student exclaims, “Oh my, I’m sorry, I forgot to shift the gear into pass.”
The instructor is momentarily confused until it’s too late as the student reaches for the automatic gear shifter, and throws it towards “Park” while traveling at 65 MPH. This wasn’t good for the car.
34. Block It out
My cousin went to get their license. They pulled out from the parking lot of the DMV, took BOTH hands off the wheel to put down the visor to block the sun, and failed instantly.
35. Cat Nap
When I was in high school there was a guy who was known for failing the driver’s license test multiple times. The most notorious story was that one of the times he failed it was because he fell asleep at the wheel during the test. I and a couple of friends asked him directly if it was true. He was obviously embarrassed but he told the whole story.
He confirmed that it was true; he fell asleep at the wheel for a few seconds with the DMV tester right next to him. We then asked how that was possible as this is when most people are nervous. Still embarrassed, he mumbled something about being sleepy and hurried away from us.
36. Watch Where You Park That
I’m prior military, and after being certified for a long time in the Coast Guard as a truck and trailer driver for transporting small boats to boat launch ramps, I would take new guys out to practice driving with the trailer, working the hitch, basic maintenance, hand signals for spotters, making sure they don’t jack-knife the darn thing in reverse, and backing the boat/trailer up into a garage/boat ramp.
Young kid, just out of boot camp, was with me for the day while we drove down to a ramp to offload boat, and crew to work a few ranges (water lights) for the day. It was the kid’s final sign-off, and he was to take the empty trailer, and boat back to base alone after I joined the crew on the water. He’d driven with me as passenger successfully many times by this point and had all his sign offs done, and was endorsed by command to be rewarded his driver letter.
Cut to several hours later, and our boat is mooring up at the base pier, and no new guy and truck in sight. Hmmm, that’s weird. So, I call the kid and try and find out where he was. When he told me the story, I couldn’t believe my ears. Turns out, on the way home he stopped off at an ice rink to mess around and have fun, but parked illegally in a handicapped spot.
The government vehicle got towed, but instead of calling us, he got an Uber home, turned off his phone, and hid in his barracks room. Had to get command to negotiate with the city to get the truck out of impound, and the bean counters over at command the federal auditors over with government vehicle procurement were NOT happy. He did not get his certification.
37. Always Forward, Never Straight
When I was in the army, I had this driving instructor who was the best. He was almost at the age where he could retire. The guy had seen it all. He would tell this story where he was practicing with a guy in an armored tracked vehicle. At one point, they were encountering a roundabout, and he instructed the guy to continue straight ahead, meaning they would pass the roundabout and take the second exit.
He never could have imagined the next few moments. The guy did exactly that…driving straight through OVER the roundabout. I couldn’t stop laughing when I heard that story. Still gives me a big smile when I think of it.
38. Stopptional Signs
When I was 16 and taking courses, a group of kids in my class convinced this really ditzy girl that the stop signs with a white border are optional. She ended up running two stop signs in her test and had to take the course again.
39. You Kiss Your Grandma with That Mouth?
I heard this story from a driving instructor. During the test, the kid had to slow down because an old lady was crossing the street ahead of them. When he pulled up next to her, he stepped on the brake, pulled the window down, and started screaming. He called her an old hag and started a tirade that was laced with curse words, about her not crossing at a traffic light.
He did not understand that going out of your way to verbally abuse elderly pedestrians is not okay during the test.
40. Locked up
My uncle used to be a tester. Best story I ever heard was he had a student fart from stress while the windows were up, and the smell was so bad the student tried to roll down both windows but was panicking so bad he kept hitting the lock and unlock button. My uncle calmly rolled down the window and said, “I think we’ve tested the locks thoroughly.”
The student started crying and ran out of the car. It seemed like an overreaction, but then my uncle found out the awful truth. Apparently, the student had pooped his pants.
Not a tester but during my own test a while back, I witnessed what is arguably the dumbest thing I have ever seen in my life. I was waiting to give my own drivers test when this magnificent interaction went down between a kid and the tester. The kid was visibly high and tripping his socks off. Everyone in the room and outside could tell he was not on this planet mentally.
The tester asked him if he was feeling okay to take the test and he responded by staring at him with the biggest smile that made him the envy amongst the most depressed in the room. The tester, verbally, with a lot more enunciation asked him if he had consumed any substance that would alter his state of mind and render him unable to operate a vehicle.
Our boy 420 responded by giving him a hug and saying, “It’s good to see you too, Rango.” At this point, it was clear to everyone with a functioning brain that this kite was flying too high, and it would be dangerous to leave him unattended. Concerned for his safety, the tester requested that they call an ambulance.
In the meantime, this little old lady from reception ushered this kid to a chair and offered him a cup of water which he promptly offered to Rango. Rango did not take the water so the kid left it on the floor for “later”. At this point, the remaining neurons in his brain conjured up what I would describe as the most bizarre and mindbogglingly entertaining scenario I have ever been privy to.
The kid convinced himself that he was now taking his driver’s test and began with the most passionate effort in replicating the starting sound of what I think was a 1992 Honda Civic. The performance was accompanied by dialogue between him and Rango, gear changes which accurately matched the engine rpm and I think he even slipped in a gear or two.
The dialogue was incomprehensible owing to the fact that it was constantly accompanied by screeches, yells, honks and him constantly slapping his neck for some weird reason. I cannot do justice by putting in words the sheer authenticity of what he thinks was his driver’s test and him arguing with an imaginary tester why he deserves his license.
The paramedics came in and they took one look at him and simply said I am getting the stretcher. Apparently, he wasn’t even scheduled for a driver’s test and stumbled in and just stood up when a name was called.
42. Dumb Questions
I have a friend who was in the DMV for 30 years, so he has some good ones. One time, he was testing this lady who was in her 40s. She was doing not so great, so he decided she wasn’t going to pass and asked her to take the next right so they could turn around in a parking lot. The next right was after a large and busy rail yard with several train track crossings.
The woman reached the first crossing, stopped, looked both ways, then proceeded to turn right onto the railroad tracks. He immediately slammed the emergency brake and yelled at her to get out. He jumped into the driver’s seat and reversed as quick as he could as a train began approaching and got them off the tracks. They got back to the DMV and the lady asked him with a bright smile, “Did I pass?”
But that’s not even as bad as the incident that caused him to retire. He was doing a driver’s test for a teenage girl, and they went through a road work section with a narrow road because the shoulders were blocked for construction. The girl couldn’t keep the car steady and was driving way too fast and lost control, taking the car off the road into the construction area where they crashed into a backhoe tractor.
The shovel went through the windshield and cracked his skull open. He ended up with severe memory problems and some brain damage and had to retire. He’s since recovered very well. This was over 20 years ago and he’s fine now but has some memory problems still. Very cool and nice dude.
43. Confidence Shattered
Currently a driving instructor at a DMV in Hartford, Connecticut. During license tests I’ve experienced collisions with other vehicles, collisions with stationary objects, vehicles not starting due to mechanical failure, and keys locked inside of the vehicle. Luckily nothing catastrophic or life-threatening yet, though there’s still plenty of time for that before retirement.
My favorite story was a license test with a 16-year-old girl who was very confident for the majority of her test. We pulled into a side street and I asked her to perform a three-point turn. Halfway through the maneuver, she froze, and her face went pale as a ghost. She muttered “Uhhh…” a few times as she stared at her rearview mirror.
I turned around to see for myself what was bothering her, and I was stunned. It was a homeless person pleasuring himself in broad daylight.
44. Go on Through
When I took my preliminary driving test, I was driving with the instructor in the passenger seat, and another student in the back seat. We were coming up on a red light, and the instructor tells me, “Keep going through this red light, and you’ll turn left after that”. So, I ran the red light. Still got my permit, somehow.
45. Little Bit of Slack
I didn’t have a license before I went into the Army, but got licensed for several military vehicles while I was in. I get to the DMV after I got back Stateside, and the lady behind the counterpoints to my tester and tells me, “Good luck,” in the most apologetic way possible. My tester was a complete jerk. Before we even started, I asked what the speed limit was in the lot.
“Standard speed limit,” he said. I said, “Okay, it’s not in the book I got, so what’s that?” He gets huffy and tells me 15. Fine. The in-lot test went okay, but he was being really condescending the whole time. Went on the road, and I took a right turn a tad too wide (yet still in my lane), and he berated me the whole rest of the way for it.
Finally, I had enough, pulled over, turned off the engine, and quietly said, “Sir I do apologize for that, but please keep in mind that the last vehicle I drove had treads, a 600 HP turbo-diesel, and a big freaking cannon on it. I’m used to making turns a little wide so as to avoid bending track pins on the curb.” It worked quite the treat.
Rest of the test went quietly except for basic instructions. Go back inside, and the same lady behind the counter told me I was the first perfect score come from that tester, and he fails more people than he passes. I told her that he might have a better pass rate if he wasn’t being an absolute jerk to the people testing—it made me incredibly anxious.
46. Not a Pass But a First
I got pulled over on my driving test. The examiner said that was a first. In case you were wondering, that is an automatic failure!
47. Testing Regrets
I should have technically failed mine, as when I did my turn across the oncoming lane, a car was reasonably close coming towards us. We get back to the registry, and the tester says, “I could have failed you there, but it was raining, there was dark low cloud and it was a black car without its lights on coming over the crest of a hill, so I gave you the benefit of the doubt.”
Well, fantastic, I think. Not so fast. That afternoon I go for my first solo drive, and as I’m pulling into a shopping mall, I completely miss a pedestrian crossing sign and nearly run someone down. I slam on the brakes at the last second and am apologizing profusely, and she’s just staring at me. When I recognized her, my jaw dropped.
It was the woman who did my test. She just shook her head and walked off. Thanks for the benefit of the doubt, though!
48. Never Stop for Animals
My tester told me this story. The kid was driving along when a squirrel ran out on the street in front of her and she freaked out, so the tester told her to just calm down and hit the squirrel. So, she did—in the most brutal way possible. After it ran up on the sidewalk away from danger, the kid drove up on the sidewalk to hit the poor squirrel.
49. Instructor Didn’t Say Turn
I was the kid, and it was a learning drive, not the test. We had to do six scheduled drives with our instructor and a partner. One would drive for 30 minutes, then you would stop and switch so the other could drive back. The rule when you got in the car, just so it wasn’t a constant game of, “should I turn?” was that you always go straight until the instructor tells you to turn.
So, one Saturday, we had a very early drive scheduled. We met up at the school, and I was the first to drive. We got about five minutes in, turned onto a main road, and the instructor quickly fell asleep. My partner and I quietly came up with an ingenious plot. We agreed that we would still follow the “rules.”
We took the road for about an hour and fifteen minutes until it dead-ended and you had to turn. I pulled over in a parking lot, and we woke up the instructor to ask him which way to turn. It took a good 30 seconds for him to realize what had happened, and where we were. He yelled at us both to get in the back seat, and we witnessed some very unsafe ways to drive as we headed back towards the school.