Image: Driving/Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Fourth time’s a charm: passing my driving test

The second time I failed my driving test was two days before the start of university in 2018. A pretty tragic time to fail again: at least the first was at the start of August, so I still had time to retake it before being separated from my hometown.

Looking back now, I can certainly say with confidence that I wasn’t ready to drive on my own after the first attempt. I was trying to cram in passing before starting university, mainly because most of my friends had already passed, and Summer 2018 was probably going to be my last and biggest slot of free time for a while. I can remember my leg shaking throughout the whole test and I pulled out on a roundabout four minutes in, causing the examiner to slam the breaks. The poor woman seemed pretty fed up when I earned another serious fault barely even three minutes later, because I caused some congestion down a narrow road.

Some people even told me passing involved an element of luck and to an extent I do agree with this

By the time of my second test, I think I was much better prepared, and so I am still slightly bitter at the DVLA for failing me for moving into the wrong lane: the examiner didn’t even give me a chance to correct myself. The third fail hit me the worst; I indicated too early leaving a roundabout.

A few days later, I was in the car with my nan: she straddled two lanes for at least ten minutes at a time, somehow forgot indicators existed, and went through the exit of a shopping centre to enter it. Luckily there was no one really around at the time of that last calamity, and she actually led the way for a couple of other cars – a true Katniss Everdeen of the road. I remember at the time not understanding how she was allowed to drive, yet a mistake on an empty roundabout was worthy of a serious fault.

Whenever a driver on the road would pull out in front of me or cut me off on a roundabout, I would turn to my instructor confused and say, “They can’t do that right?” And he would always respond in the exact same way: “oh, but they did.” It seemed to me that passing a driving test wasn’t necessarily about how well you could follow the laws of the road, but more about how confidently you could drive.

When I really wasn’t thinking, I definitely drove the best

Some people even told me passing involved an element of luck and to an extent, I do agree with this. Contributing factors to passing certainly include the weather, the time of the test, the route taken, and also how many idiots are around (my instructor always told me to watch out for the big fancy cars, those drivers think they own the road).

Perhaps I am not the best person to give advice on how to actually pass your test, but what I will say is just don’t overthink it. And, to be  even more clichéd, don’t give up! You’ll pass eventually – my instructor liked to remind me that he did have someone pass on their seventh time, thanks Phill. I had roughly a year’s break between my second and third attempts at passing, with no driving lessons in between.

It was pretty surprising how quickly and easily I did pick up driving again. When my mum told me “it’s like riding a bike, you don’t forget it,” I didn’t really believe her, since you aren’t in much danger of killing anyone on a bike, and I thought her comment seemed more applicable for a Legoland driver’s license. But in a way, driving did feel natural – it had become something I didn’t really have to think about and when I really wasn’t thinking, I definitely drove the best.

Failing three times has made me a better driver and given me some more confidence on the road

Before my final test, the only advice Phill gave me was – and I quote – “don’t listen to yourself.” Whilst driving, I had a tendency to convince myself I was doing everything wrong, or I would just confuse myself about the simplest of things and panic. When I started the test, I thought I had earned a serious fault about three minutes in, because I became flustered pulling away from behind a car on a hill and rolled back a bit. I drove the rest of the test pretty carefree after that. I was still safe on the road, but just didn’t really overthink what I was doing or “listened to myself”. I was already in the mindset of having failed, so did it really matter how I drove anymore?

But somehow, I did manage to pass, and it seemed to be down to the fact that I just went with the flow. Failing three times has made me a better driver, and given me some more confidence on the road, even if it was pretty frustrating. However, since I had to send off my old provisional license to trade for my proper one, I will say that the most annoying thing about this whole process is having to now go clubbing with my passport, a risk certainly bigger than me driving on the road!

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