The Driving Test

Not Ms Gerry Mandarin
Yamaha Dragstar first ride 🙂” by Kana Yeh is marked with CC BY 2.0.

My daughter has just passed her driving test and I felt it worthwhile writing about the journey, especially the difference it makes. It took far longer than expected thanks to BJ and his clowns, nearly two years, at a far greater expense – Thanks for that.

The car I learned to drive in had dual controls, which is a very welcome safety feature. The benefit of your own set of brakes soon becomes apparent. I think it was a least four times she carried on joining a roundabout, wondering why I was screaming in terror and curling myself in a ball bracing for an impact. One of those was a lorry and I really thought we were dead for sure. Anyway, I’m glad to say, the vehicles all managed to swerve out of the way in time without crashing elsewhere.

Modern instructors’ cars not only have dual controls, they have lights and wipers that work automatically, also the dashboard will tell the driver when to change gear. This makes life too easy for the learner. When my daughter had to use her little Peugeot 107 she hadn’t a clue. I had to explain why gear changes were required and to encourage her to feel when the engine was racing, or dragging etc. Also she had no idea where to find lights or wipers or how to use them. Finally when it came to reversing at a right angle into a parking space, she only knew to use a marker and I had to look up how to do it (I couldn’t get it right either!). 6 attempts next outing she’d got it perfected. My view is that all the mod cons should be disabled so that they have to get a feel for the basics and actively think about what they are doing.

Anyway, over the last six months her driving has improved beyond recognition. Rarely do I feel the need to give any advice. She accelerates through the gears smoothly & brakes smoothly too. She now corners well. I told her to imagine the passenger is a fragile vase that would easily break. I still get fretful around roundabouts though!

It took her two attempts to pass, first failure was one forgotten look back, on an otherwise almost perfect run. 2nd time she aced it.

The main reason for this article is the difference passing her test has made. I treated her to a big breakfast at ‘spoons and had a thought provoking discussion. Firstly she went from elation to disappointment when she told me how much cheaper life would be now she didn’t need a monthly bus pass and occasional late-ish taxi, as I explained the other costs beyond petrol she’d need to account for.

But then I really got to feel the gift of freedom passing the test had given her; the joy she was experiencing. That she wouldn’t need to leave for work two hours before a shift and not wait for a lift from me or a taxi when finished. She will now be able to do her weekly shopping easily without me, obviously visiting friends who are all at uni too. Going back to her work, she is on an apprenticeship that one day could mean she is restaurant GM, but first she needs to work a year in the kitchen so she gets it. Kitchen shifts can end in the early hours and a regular taxi wasn’t an option, let alone me staying up until 2am, so the apprenticeship has been on hold for many months.

For her a car is essential, it’s a very big step to being fully independent – and I may be looking for it, but I think she has an air of being more grown up too. My concern with the government drive to go green, those that live in places that simply do not have the population density to have useful public transport will be those most hit. Her life chances and happiness would be seriously curtailed. I just hope some common sense is found and the government does not make it impossible for the next generation to have that same moment.

© Gerry Mandarin 2022