Thoughts on Learning to Drive

It is considered a rite of passage to exchange that miserable, green card bearing your name and an equally miserable photo of your world-weary adolescent face for a fresh, pink, shiny new one. I am of course talking about driving licences. My provisional has been cramping my style for four years! Four years on I am finally making the baby-steps forth beyond drivolesence into drivulthood. And never a moment too soon following a three-year sabbatical from learning due to getting distracted by University.

Its not just the blatant lack of being a qualified driver as a social skill that is so embarassing, it is the certification proving to supermarket cashiers, bouncers and someliers alike that you prefer to mooch off friends and family rather than take it upon yourself to actually learn.

This week I am taking my Theory Test for the second time. The first time I was 17 and passed with full marks almost without any kind of help or revision. This time, however, as my first Theory Test certification expired after the three-year margin, I am less cocky. With the help of a DVD and various friends and relatives as well as the humiliating notion of failing at 21 after passing with a breezy aloofness at 17, the pressure is reflecting on my scores. And thus I have come to the conclusion that the highway code is both confusing and ridiculous in places and that the hazard perception element is vague and unrealistic.

It is the hazard perception that gets the most stick from the general public. You are shown a clip of a nauseating windscreen hurtling through towns and winding country lanes and are supposed to spot something that could develop into a hazard. This in theory sounds all too simple however when you are put to the test you are forced to flag each parked vehicle, each unruly pedestrian and each road sign without hesitation. In actual fact, the way that each hazard develops, it would not be completely shocking if you were meant to flag up a tree as it may all of a sudden uproot and charge into the middle of the dual carriage way picking up passing hatchbacks and chomping them down a splintery-toothed mouth-hole.

Nevertheless, the hazard perception test remains to vex us all on exam day.

The highway code test is meant to remain predectable and sensible. But it is when questions such as this appear, “Planning your journey well in advance has many benefits. Choose one of the following.
1. It will cause accidents.
2. It will waste fuel.
3. It will flatten your battery.
4. It will make your journey more pleasant.”

Or even more hilariously, “You are about to overtake a cyclist on a clear stretch of road you should proceed –
1. Very close to the cyclist.
2. Sounding your horn loudly.
3. Flashing your headlights and sounding your horn loudly.
4. With caution.”

Still, the Driving Theory Test is a necesary evil and when I see the thousands upon thousands of idiots driving perrilously around the streets of Middle-England, you wonder how they can do it and you are still stalling at traffic lights with a big Eddy Stobbart lorry behind beeping furiously and the queue of rush-hour traffic increases angrily for miles down the road that you are so helplessly plugging. And no, crying never helps.

And so, the process of driving continues to baffle me as I drive my little black learner car around town ranging between the two ends of the spectrum, geriatric and phsycotic. My driving instructor sedates herself in the car while I lock the front door of the house before the lesson, she thinks I haven’t noticed.

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