Yesterday, I finally took and passed my UK driving test. Actually, I am surprised that I have not ranted about this previously here, as this has been an ongoing work in demoralisation for the past six months.
First off, I have driven legally since I was 15. Yes, when I were a wee ladette, a young person of the ripe old age of 15 could get their driver’s license. Actually, I got my learner’s permit at 14 and a half, so I have been driving for no less than two decades. However, this is not good enough for the UK. Oh no. The UK does not trust foreign drivers at all, no matter how long or responsibly you have driven. They insist that you must subject yourself to their driving test according to their standards.
The UK driving test is considered the most difficult driving test in the world. It has a pass rate of 43%. Only Finland and Germany are comparable in terms of difficulty. My astrophysics supervisor, who is Israeli and had been driving there as part of national service and everything, took the test three times before passing.
Aside: why is it that the pass rate for men is over %5 higher than for women? What gives?
I never bothered with any of this driving in the UK nonsense because I have lived here for 9 years and for the first 7 of those I lived in central London and had no need of automotive transport. Even now, the ability to drive is not a necessity to me (and I have the Vespa), but Mr Man seemed to want me to sort it out, so I embarked on the scenic route of attaining the legality to drive in the UK. I had to start from the beginning, and took the theory and hazard perception test back in October. This test alone has a pass rate of only 63% and I nearly left it in frustrated tears. But I passed.
Then started the weekly driving lessons.
If you want an exercise in frustration, take someone such as yourself who is a seasoned driver, in fact someone who actively enjoys driving and is considered as a good driver by other parties, and try and re-teach them how to drive according to the asinine and pedantic regulations of a deeply bureaucratic and petty-minded country.
Things that I *had* to come to terms with or never be able to drive:
* One must not cross their hands when turning the steering wheel. Yes, really. Try it and see how enraging this is.
* One must ALWAYS engage the handbrake when stopped for more than about 4 seconds. Like Americans EVER use their e-brake except for e-brake turns.
* One must take the car out of gear when waiting at lights or in a traffic queue. Really??
* One must change gears at very specific times and in a very specific way. Even though I already knew how to drive a stick, apparently I was doing it all wrong.
* One must take roundabouts in second gear and signal in very specific way in a specific place. Oh yes, roundabouts, those little gobbets of barely controlled chaos that look like driving across the path of moving traffic to the average American. Just dive in!
* Etc. Etc. Ad nauseum.
Really, you would not believe the level of pedantry and if there are two things that I utterly utterly despise more than anything else is is pedantry and rules for the sake of having rules (and this is why me and a legal career did not get along). So, yes, getting my UK license has been pretty much the worst experience ever, to the point of dreading my driving lessons.
On the upside, I had a really good driving instructor who I got on really well with and I will actually miss chatting with him. He is also teaching the stepkids to drive: one has his test in a few days, and the other will be trying in September. So he’ll be around. And if you need lessons and you live in the Bromley area, do give John at Mitchell School of Motoring a ring.
I thought for sure I would fail the test on some stupid technicality, exactly the sort of thing that makes me fly into a rage, but thank goodness I passed, despite having one of the more difficult examiners. To be honest, I didn’t feel terribly excited about the whole thing, since wahey, another expensive piece of paper. But when Mr Man got home, I played him the Beatles “Baby You Can Drive my Car”, and he handed me the keys to the Jag and said I was insured. Well, that was unexpected. I wasn’t expecting a car or insurance of any sort for a while due to the sheer expense of it, much less getting insured on the Jag which is a CRAZY powerful car (0-60 in 4.2 seconds).
Nevertheless, I am actually quite excited about the whole thing now since I can now just go out and get behind the wheel of an utterly fabulous car and actually go somewhere. So that’s nice. And maybe one day I’ll get a car of my own but really there’s no rush now. Phew.
I still have to re-do my CBT in September to stay legal on my Vespa, so this isn’t the last brush with the DSA for me. Sigh.
But now, I am going to drive myself to fun exciting adventures at Tesco.
The strictness of the UK driving test could lead to more unlicensed and uninsured drivers on the road.