Friday, 23 November 2007

Long and winding road

I've nearly reached the end of my list of goals that I set when I moved to the UK five years ago. I got my UK citizenship and passport in July of this year, and the next goal is to get the UK driving licence. The driving test is a big deal in the UK. It is very strict,and lots of people fail it several times before finally earning their licence. Personally, I think this failure rate is not so much in the interest of public safety as it is to earn the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency)more money. Every time you retake the test, of course you have to pay the exorbitant fees again. And people fail for small reasons, like not looking over their shoulder enough when joining a dual carriageway from a slip road, then the next test when they try to improve in that area, they fail for looking over their shoulder too often. They fail for bumping the kerb, hesitating, not having their hands at 10 and 2 on the wheel, not checking their mirrors enough, checking their mirrors too much, going too slow, all sorts of excuses. Some people are even told by the test examiner that they are good drivers, but they have to be failed anyway because of one or more of these picky points. Which is why I think examiners have a quota of failures they must achieve because they're working to a financial target for the DVLA.

Anyway, I've got my provisional licence and intend to call around and find a driving instructor who can coach me in the proper performance for this wretched practical exam, so I will know precisely what unnatural behaviours my examiner will scrutinize me for. Then when I get my licence I can drive like normal people. I'm not looking forward to it and will not be surprised if I fail more than once, even though I've held a clean US license since I was 17 years old.

On the upside, once I get the darn thing (which I fully intend to do before 2008 is out!), it will be nice to have a car. At the moment we like the Toyota Yaris:

It's not amazingly sexy or anything, but it has favourable reviews from consumer magazines and seems like a good choice for us.

May all beings be at ease.


Fat-Free Vegan said...

So you haven't been driving the whole 5 years you've been there? You must be using public transportation I assume.

That's one of the first things I did when I moved to Australia. I could drive on my US license for 3 months, after which I had to get an Aussie license. It was easy and I passed my first time because I only had to take the written test (via computer at the RTA, which is Road and Traffic Authority). Because I got it right away, I didn't have to do the road test, though some think that's a bit crazy when you figure I was used to driving on the other side of the road! And passing the written test was fairly easy because there is a simulator online where you can practice first. I practiced numerous times in the days before I took the real test. I think I only got one question on the real test that I hadn't seen on the simulator, but I did fine.

I quickly became a natural, but those first couple of months on the US license I did have an adjustment. And a few scares! My hubby thought it odd because teenagers learn to drive fairly easily but I reminded him they don't have to first 'unlearn' 20 years of driving on the other side first. Anyway, good luck to you!


Carla said...

Nope, not driven at all here. You have to realise I moved here on my own and lived in London at first. No need for a car there. Then when Derek and I got together, he wasn't a driver (having lived in the London area and not needing a car either) and didn't have a licence. He got his licence in 2004 or so, but we never bought a car because he is quite nervous about the whole proposition of driving, so I have not even had the opportunity to be a passenger and observe traffic rules and so on. So I really am in need of instruction.

If things had been different and I could have started driving someone else's car immediately after I moved here, I would have learned by doing. I still would have to take the written and practical exam, because the UK don't recognise a US license as valid after 6 months.

Anyway, it's just another hoop for me to jump through. By the time I'm done doing all this hoop-humping I'll be qualified for the Cirque de Soleil!

Carla said...

Umm, that was meant to be hoop JUMPING by the way. *blush*

Mark said...

Hi Carla, good luck with learning to drive and fingers crossed you sail through the test first time, although hopefully you'll have better weather than when I did mine! It was about 10 years ago that I did my driving test in Portsmouth on an extremely foggy winter's morning. In fact it was so bad that they decided to cancel all the other tests planned for that day! Fortunately I got back in one piece but the experience was so nerve racking that it is one of the many things to put me off driving altogether. So I wish and hope you better luck than I had :-)