So…you have your driver’s test coming up or perhaps you just took it and failed miserably (like I did). I’m sorry to hear you failed – not only was it a waste of your money and time, but now you have to go through it all over again. (Yippee!) If you are just about to take your test, please try to do the opposite of everything I did. Here is the comprehensive account of my cringe-worthy experience.
In case you didn’t know, I really hate driving. I hate sitting behind the wheel having to pay attention, and make decisions, and watch out for other people driving on the road (whom I trust even less than I trust myself). If I could have my own chauffeur (that isn’t my dad, I mean) then I totally would. But I don’t have a chauffeur and I can’t expect my dad to drive me everywhere, so I buckled down (literally) and signed up for my driving test. I somehow passed the ‘N’ test on my first try (even though I drove with the emergency brake on…) and everybody told me that getting the actual license was easier so I figured I would be able to scrape by despite not having a whole lot of practice.
My mom told me I shouldn’t do it but my ‘N’ was about to expire and I wanted to get the test out of the way before I left for Europe. (I had no intention of using my license once I got it – I simply wanted to take the test, pass it, and then never have to drive again, unless I really needed to). Clearly, I had the wrong motivation from the start.
Anyway, about 2 weeks before my test I drove across a bridge for the first time. CONGRATULATIONS TO ME – it really was something worth celebrating because I have been avoiding driving across a bridge ever since I got my ‘N’ (which was 5 years ago). I also drove on a highway for the first time. (Merging onto it was probably the scariest thing in the world). So double congratulations! By the time my test date rolled around, I felt decent about the whole driving-over-a-bridge-merging-onto-the-highway thing, particularly because I had safely transported the vehicle with my grandma in the back seat multiple times.
On the day of my test, I wore the shirt I wore when I went bungee jumping in Auckland because I thought it would help me be brave. (It didn’t). My instructor told me to get into the car and then reprimanded me for walking behind it because apparently another car was backing out of the parking lot. When he asked me the hand signals, I couldn’t remember them. I also had no idea how to turn on the high beam. (Yeah…I made a point of only driving during the day time). Now this all happened before I even made it onto the road/turned the car on – I was doomed from the start.
Finally we began the driving part. I could barely press the brakes because my legs were shaking so much. My hands felt really sweaty. My heart was madly pumping in my chest. The only thought running through my head was “I hate driving, I hate driving, I better pass because I don’t want to have to go through this again.”
“Turn left at the light,” said the instructor.
First of all, this meant that I had to change lanes in a relatively short amount of time because I was almost at the light. Nobody would let me in – I panicked, slowed down so that I could get into the correct lane, and eventually merged myself in. Meanwhile the light turns red. The cars across from me are at a standstill. “Good, I remember this. They’re not moving, which means I can go.” I TRIED TO TURN LEFT ON A RED LIGHT. WHAT SORT OF PERSON TRIES TO TURN LEFT ON A RED LIGHT?!
“OH HEY NOW, the light’s red!” cried the instructor as I began to inch forward. If he had a brake, he undoubtedly would have used it. Basically, I knew that I had failed at this point…but the test was not yet over and I had to keep driving.
Thankfully, after the red light fiasco he directed me into a residential area. (I think this was out of fear for his safety – we never even made it to the highway). He commanded me to pull over and then back up the car. So I did – carefully looking in my rear view mirror and glancing over my shoulder every once in a while. Another big mistake – you’re supposed to look over your shoulder THE WHOLE TIME, NOT IN YOUR MIRROR. Oops…
The test ended after that. (I used up 20 minutes of a 40 minute test). He directed me back to the parking lot, and I didn’t get to back into the parking space like all successful test-takers get to.
As he so eloquently told me at the end of my test: “Would you walk into a room with your eyes closed swinging a baseball bat? No? So why would you not look over your shoulder when you’re backing up? Instead of a baseball bat, the car is your weapon! The car is your weapon!” (He repeated this several times throughout his speech). “You are the captain – you make the decisions. It doesn’t matter if people are honking at you to go – they don’t care about your life, they only care about their time. You are the captain!” I half felt like looking him straight in the eye saying “Look at me…look at me, I’m the captain now” – but I didn’t, because my other half actually felt like crying.
Also, I apparently drove too slowly (this was when I was trying to change lanes) He told me I was driving 50km in a 80km zone…hey, at least I don’t speed?
Now you probably don’t want any driving advice from me (and I don’t blame you) but if I had any to give based on what I’ve learned, here is what I’d say:
- Practice, practice, practice. Even if it scares you – perhaps ESPECIALLY if it scares you. As much as I hate it, I have to acknowledge that driving is an essential skill. Not knowing how to drive makes me too dependent on other people and I need to be able to rely on myself to get places. Sure there’s always transit, but let’s be real – I don’t want to have to rely on that for the rest of my life. And what if I have kids one day? How am I supposed to drive them to school and piano lessons and birthday parties?
- Don’t turn left on a red light. Just don’t do it.
- Make sure you drive the speed limit. Not too fast, obviously, and in my case, not too slow.
- Know where the high beam is, know your hand signals, know how to turn on the window wipers…just know how to use the car in general. (Duh)
- You should probably know the rules of the road…just sayin’. And I mean really know them. Like the back of your hand. (Except that is probably not a good example, because who really knows the back of their hand? But you get what I mean).
- Know where the school zone ends. I never see the sign (or does it just end when you can’t see the school anymore?) and as a result, continue driving 30km/hr throughout the whole area until the instructor has to tell me the school zone is over and I should be driving faster…oops.
- Believe in yourself!! I didn’t believe in myself – so why should the instructor have believed in me? In a way, I think the instructor is like a horse…he/she can sense your fear. Exude confidence – better yet, BE REALLY TRULY CONFIDENT! And the only way to be confident about driving is to practice.
- Come to full stops at stop signs…but try not to jerk your instructor’s neck off. (Especially if he/she is on the other half of 40)
- Apparently instructors go easier on you if it is raining/snowing? (This is probably not true…it’s just what I’ve heard)
That is the extent of my knowledge (and I think right) to give out advice. In fact, I am probably more need of advice than you are. My ears are open – please share. Anyway, I hope you don’t feel too bad if you failed your test. There’s always next time. Good luck!