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10 Things Tuesday: 10 Things I've Learned About Getting A Driver's Licence

The very first thing I want to say is that I've been quite overwhelmed to see my readers checking in every day over the past week of my absence. My hit rate hasn't dropped at all and I REALLY appreciate all your enthusiasm and interest, so THANK YOU for being so patient with me!

On the 14th of November last year, the Grumpy Old Man made his fifth attempt at passing his manual driver's licence, but as on previous occasions, despite driving perfectly well in lessons and practices for months on end, he stalled the car and failed the test. We'd mooted the idea of him just switching to an automatic car, but his driving instructor (who we'd known for 2.75 years) didn't have an automatic vehicle, so couldn't teach him in one, or offer one for the test. We approached mother-in-law about trading in the manual car we are supposed to get (because she doesn't drive, it was FIL's car) for an automatic, but she baulked at the idea. 

We felt quite desperate because we were certain if he could just do the test in an automatic, he'd pass. Having a licence underpins any efforts he makes to get a job as he can really only work through agencies at this point and they require applicants to have a licence.

In early December it looked as if he'd have to redo the test in a manual despite our best efforts. On a bright note, he was also offered one night's work to start in the new year. Then my parents decided they would drive their automatic over the week before his sixth test and help him prepare for it. I was SO excited! 2012 was really looking up! Dave had one shift of work which would provide him with experience to get more work and we were confident he'd pass the automatic test.

Then two days before Christmas the one shift of work fell through because the family didn't need a carer as much as they had when they offered the GOM a shift.

Still and all, I was excited about my parents coming over and the GOM getting his licence.

The arrived last Wednesday (which is why my blog has been so quiet). The GOM drove and drove and learned the dimension of the Holden - which is as long and as wide as a people mover. He went for the test yesterday and did brilliantly well. All the same he failed. The reason for his failure is disputed - even by his instructor. The tester asked him to move the left hand lane when safe, and the GOM did all his checks and indicated and then felt the car behind him on his left was still a bit too close, so waited 7 seconds or so before moving over. The tester felt this constituted 'creating a dangerous driving situation' and felt into the category of 'critical error' and failed him. That was the GOM's one and only 'error' and it comes down to a matter of opinion in the end because there is not rule for how long an indicator can be on before a driver moves. Still, he was failed.

To say I'm frustrated would be an understatement. The GOM can drive and he drives really well, he did everything right, he was being a safe driver and still we sit here with no licence.

We have already booked his next test and my parents have graciously offered to drive over again next month to do it. We're hoping to move it forward because waiting seven and a bit weeks is intolerable, but we'll see what happens.

I really feel as if we struggle and struggle to do the right thing, to get out of our situation, but every attempt we make is stomped all over by other people and we have not way to prevent that. We are so reliant on other people being reasonable and we seem to be running into one unreasonable person after another, and they are all in positions of power in our lives.

What else can we do but keep going. Just keep swimming as Dori says in 'Finding Nemo'. I tried not to have hopes and expectations for 2012 but I find myself already terribly disappointed and disillusioned and we're only 10 days into the year...

I have to try to be more positive and upbeat - there is nothing worse than reading an endless stream of whinging, I know. I had really hoped to post about our victory over the licence monster and that was part of why I didn't post all week, I wanted to write something fun and exciting and super duper positive. So sorry to disappoint.

I have learned a lot about getting a licence through this process though, so thought I'd share a few things in case anyone else was interested in hearing - here goes!

1.  It's easier to get a licence when you're young and feel relatively invincible.  The older you get, the more conscious you are of every thing that can go wrong, however improbable.

2.  Fifteen hours of practicing over a four day period is far more effective for learning than fifteen hours over fifteen weeks.

3.  While getting a manual licence first up may seem like a good idea because you can then drive manual and automatic from the get-go, if you get an automatic licence then you can actually drive a manual car after the three year probationary period anyway...

4.  Employing a driving instructor can be a good idea, but you might actually find it much easier to learn from your FIL in the end...

5.  From word of mouth - If you manage to stall an automatic in a driving test, you'll probably be too shaken to even care afterwards (because it'd mean having narrowly avoided a collision).

6.  Just because you fail the first test you do, doesn't mean you're guaranteed to pass the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th or even 6th attempt... One woman in China finally got her licence after 300 attempts.

7.  Sometimes you can drive and drive well, and still not pass the test because tests are not at all like everyday driving.

8.  The term 'when safe' can be very ambiguous and your own concept of cautious driving may even be interpreted by one tester as endangering other drivers, and interpreted by other testers as safe driving. A lot of the test parameters are a matter of personal interpretation and not covered in any driving texts.

9.  A seven week waiting list between tests is beyond ridiculous, frustrating, expensive, disheartening and downright stupid!

10. Three years of instruction, over $5000 in driving lessons, almost $1000 in test costs, almost a year of tests every 7-8 weeks and all the hopes and anxiety that goes with that, and yet we've booked again and are hoping '7th time lucky' will be the charm... That there is persistence, optimism and perhaps a dash of desperation...


Rhianna said…
I love the way that you guys just keep on keeping on. Fairy wishes and butterfly kisses that it is 7th time lucky
Lyndal said…
oh i got so angry when i read why he failed him ;'( and then i got to your list at the end, and i am SO inspired by the fact that you are keeping on swimming, and just persisting.. i had a lot of difficulty with my driving test (even when i was a teenager and invincible :P) because i find those sorts of testings near impossible, no matter how good i am at the particular task any other time!

fingers and everything crossed it really is seventh time lucky. you guys deserve it!
bek said…
Pft your GOM is probably a billion times safer driver than those #%$()@ dropkicks that randomly cut me off and don't seem to have actually checked to make sure they could change lanes before doing so.

Hope he breezes through easily next time round :)
Sif said…
Thanks guys. We really don't have much choice but to keep going because the alternative would mean making it even harder for him to get work and that seems to be impossible at the moment as it is.

Lyndal, the test situation is so frustrating - there really should be two modes of testing, a classical one which should be the only option for people who don't take a minimum of 15 driving lessons, and then there should be an alternative route where a student under formal instruction can be assessed by their driving instructor and when the driving instructor feels they've confidently performed all the necessary manoeuvres over a predetermined period of time, they can be passed as a competent driver. Something like 20 consecutive successful three point turns and parallel park, using slip lanes, doing head checks etc.

The GOM is usually very good at tests - but this driving thing has really undermined his confidence which breaks my heart to see... In conjunction with all the difficulty getting a job - even in a field desperate for workers - it's amazing he hasn't had a nervous breakdown. i've been close to one several times myself in the past few months.

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