Driving lessons and tests

ArielAriel Shipmate
Were you one of those people who took to driving like a duck to water, and passed first time? My last instructor was one such.

My first ever driving lesson was a revelation - I came back having actually started a car and driven at a speed of about 3 mph around a square. It felt fantastic. I was euphoric. Sadly that feeling wore off very quickly to be replaced by sheer panic, and over the years that followed lessons stopped for months to let the fright settle down.

I couldn't get the hang of the clutch and was terrified of stalling and being crashed into. After a while I couldn't even be a passenger in a car without feeling acutely nervous.

To cut a long story short, I had a series of instructors, switched to an automatic, and 13 years after I'd first started lessons I actually passed my test on the 4th attempt. Notable fails included a previous attempt where I emerged out of the test centre, grazed a lorry and flattened the car's wing mirror within 30 seconds of beginning the test. The lorry was fine. The instructor said nothing, but must have failed me right at the start.

What about you?


  • I have my 2nd attempt this coming Wednesday. Failed the first time because the examiner thought I was going to clip a fence at the side of a cattle grid and grabbed the wheel. I'm mostly ok with the clutch, my issue is forgetting to look when pulling out of passing places.
  • jedijudyjedijudy Heaven Host
    Where I grew up, there is no public transportation at all, except for school buses. Everyone was expected to drive a car because we were way out in the boonies, and no businesses were in walking distance. Well, except for the time my dad waded through hip deep snow to get cigarettes at the gas station which was more than five miles away.

    Dad was my first driving teacher, and we were required to take driver's training and driver's ed in high school. The DT teacher was a creep, but a very good driving instructor. I took my test on a snowy January day and passed the first time.

    I didn't have a car with a standard transmission until 1981, and took a few weeks to get the hang of it. Didn't get another automatic until the end of 2019, and still sometimes catch myself going for the clutch! :joy:
  • BoogieBoogie Heaven Host
    Yes, passed first time. No paid for driving lessons, my friend taught me. 🚗
  • Learned to drive on an ancient tractor (a little grey Fergie) we used for mowing the Glebe fields. First driving lessons before Christmas just after my 17th birthday, failed the first test in early January (reversing round a corner) and finally passed in the Easter holiday.

    My instructor was ex-Special Forces and his approach to teaching was interesting: "I'll teach you two things: how to pass your driving test and how to drive - just don't confuse the two". He kept a stable of cars from an ancient Austin 7 to the latest model of Land Rover, plus an old Bedford truck, and expected his pupils to drive in whichever he turned up with. At least daily lessons, some at night, and he got you test-ready in 3 weeks. After you had passed your test he took you out on the motorway to teach safe overtaking, lane discipline, etc.
  • Jane RJane R Shipmate
    edited March 21
    I passed first time, but I was so nervous I couldn't focus on the numberplate the examiner told me to read out. I thought I was going to fail before getting in the car. Then I had problems with reversing round a corner and thought I really had failed. Then I made a couple of mistakes identifying road signs. I was quite surprised when the examiner told me I'd passed.

    I did a perfect emergency stop, though.
  • NenyaNenya All Saints Host, Ecclesiantics & MW Host
    Taking to driving like a duck to water and passing one's test first time don't necessarily go hand in hand. I learned to drive on lessons only, my father having sold the family car by that time, and I passed first time. I then didn't drive until Mr Nen and I got married, drove his (very large) car once, he got annoyed with me and I never drove it again. I then had refresher lessons in order to drive a little car of my own some years later but it was only really for errands like popping round the shops. We have a little car again now which is mine, but I don't drive it unless I have to, won't do city centres, won't do motorways. I've never enjoyed driving and am unlikely to start now.

    Mr Nen, on the other hand, passed on his second attempt (aged 17) and is a very confident and natural driver. Nenlet1 passed on her second attempt: ditto. Nenlet2 passed on his fourth attempt: ditto.
  • I think I passed the first time--but given that was after five years of learning, um.
    I have major anxiety issues, and they only got worse when put in control of 2 tons of steel on wheels. My mother exacerbated this by doing a funny-not-so-funny "Auuuugggghhhh!" screaming freakout from the passenger seat every time she recognized a neighbor while we were out together. I gave up as quickly as I could and went off to college, where I thought no one would bother me.
    But then came the future Mr. Lamb, who oozed his way into my life by announcing that he was now my elder brother (on the strength of my mom "adopting" him as a foreign student) and in Vietnam, older brothers get to tell younger sisters what to do. He was also largely imcomprehensible, which made it really hard to explain to him that I didn't want his help with driving, particularly when he refused to hear it. Which is how I wound up somehow in the driver's seat of his stickshift pickup truck, getting onto the 5 freeway in Southern California, during the middle of rush hour. :open_mouth:
    ... at which point he proceeded to ... go to sleep. Seriously, he curled up and started snoring, I think. And naive me looked over at him and thought: I guess I must not be as bad as I thought, if he can sleep? and actually developed some confidence. (Years later he confessed that this was all a ruse done for exactly this purpose.)
    Since I had to drive to and from school every weekend for roughly an hour in the aforesaid stop-and-go traffic, I got a LOT of practice--with Mr. Lamb snoozing away next to me...
    And I finally learnt to drive.

    I'm now trying to figure how I can help my son over the same hurdle. I don't think I could carry off the pretend sleep thing, so I'm relying on repetition and extreme boredom (do this stage of practice till you beg to be let to do something more exciting). I figure boredom is incompatible with terror and anxiety, so maybe this will work.
  • ArielAriel Shipmate
    Among my instructors were an ex-policeman and a former Army sergeant in the Hussars. The policeman was one of the most relaxed individuals; when I said I felt safe with him as he'd know all about proper driving he said he'd had to unlearn a lot of the stuff he'd picked up when driving police cars! I suppose you do when chasing criminals as they tend not to stop for red lights, etc.

    The ex-army instructor was tough and unbending and I got the Army-style training. He was the one who met me at Oxford station one winter night to drive home through the dark, via country back roads where the oncoming traffic dazzled me and I could barely make out the ditches at the side or where the cliffside drops were. I made it home, but staggered out of the car shaking and unable to say anything but expletives for about the next quarter of an hour.

    I didn't dislike him but he didn't care much for me, and he could be as sexist as hell - "I know you're having difficulty with parking. Women do" - and after I failed my first test I changed instructors. The next one was the one who finally got me through.
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    Our son, AS and ADHD, took driver's lessons two years ago and has yet to attempt his test. He seems to be waiting on mastering parallel parking. I at 60, have never had a driver's license. The only vehicle I have ever driven is an armored personnel carrier on a support arms weekend when I was in the military reserves.
  • NicoleMRNicoleMR Shipmate
    I'm going to be 62 next week and have never had a driver's license. I took lessons on two occasions, but never attempted the test. My daughter, fed up with non-driving parents all her life, on her own as a teen got a learners permit, then after college took lessons and passed on her first attempt.
  • HeavenlyannieHeavenlyannie Shipmate
    edited March 21
    Age 54 and I do not have a driving license as my anxiety (part of having bipolar disorder) would mean I couldn’t cope with the lessons let alone a driving test. I fall apart in observed practical tests - I even managed to fail my first attempt at the aseptic technique test, ie wound dressing, as a student nurse.
    (Little known fact, people with bipolar disorder are required to register it with the UK driving license organisation as they are considered risky drivers, presumably due to their mania)
  • SpikeSpike Ecclesiantics & MW Host, Admin Emeritus
    I passed first time at the age of 17. I’m now a driving instructor.
  • TelfordTelford Deckhand, Styx
    After about 20 lessons I took my test and drove better than I had ever done before. I was relaxed. I had convinced myself that it was not that important.

    The examiner probably thought I was a ringer but he did pass me anyway.
  • Tree BeeTree Bee Shipmate
    My Dad was my first driving instructor. He was a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and a patient and kind teacher. We started on an old airfield, there were a few in Norfolk in the ‘70’s.
    After a few months of ‘proper’ lessons with a driving school I passed first time, then he told me that as I’d now learnt to pass the test he would teach me how to drive.
    Mr Bee and I have just ordered our first automatic car, which neither of us have driven before. The test drive went well but we are both nervous about re-learning how to drive.
  • Jane RJane R Shipmate
    Automatic cars are great, once you stop twitching every time you would have changed gear in a manual.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    When my parents first got an automatic car my mum was advised to tuck her left (clutch) foot back so she wouldn’t be tempted to brake with it. (Not an issue for my dad whose inability to get his left foot to the clutch was the reason for switching to an automatic. The previous car had been adapted with the facility to operate the clutch by hand.)
  • ArielAriel Shipmate
    I love automatics. They take the pain and stress out of that nonsense of bringing the clutch up to biting point and changing gears. I say this because I feel strongly that in the 21st century, the car should be doing the bulk of the work and drivers shouldn't have to change gears manually. Unless they want to, of course.

    Did take me a bit of getting used to just using the right foot though, when I'm more inclined to use the left.
  • I failed my first test, and quite rightly - I wasn't ready, despite the lessons - but not helped by the muddled examiner. At a T junction he said 'turn left', and as I began he changed his mind, 'No - right!' Much honking behind. Then he made me do the three point turn in a busy road, stopping traffic in both directions. After that I took intensive lessons in my own car from a merciless colleague and had no trouble at all the next time.

    When we went to Canada, the traffic gods had decided that it was too risky for examiners to take candidates out on the road, so plastic cones were set up in a shopping centre car park (in Valleyfield, Québec) and we were walked around the course and told what to do. The examiner watched from a safe distance while we performed, never getting out of second gear. There were people failing that test. I think it may have changed since then.

    Then there's my brother-in-law who passed the test nearly 60 years ago and has never driven since. In his case this is probably a Good Thing.

    I've only owned an automatic for a very brief period, and am convinced that a manual is much safer in the winter, where you need more control over power delivered to the wheels, and less need for the brakes.
  • Automatics very good, and my wife loves them, as she no longer has to worry about going into 5th gear.
  • I was very late learning to drive, I was about 28. Growing up our family had one car and Dad was the family driver. He said he didn't want us to learn on an automatic, but I suspect he wanted to inhibit our independence, he was lovely but a bit controlling.

    My boyfriend now husband started me on driving. He is very spatial and couldn't believe I found it hard to tell which gear I was in just by feeling. I spent a few weekends knocking down weeds in one of his family paddocks because I was too nervous to be on the road. After deciding that driving lessons were not good for our relationship, I had paid lessons with a driving school. I began with one and moved onto another when the lady instructor moved away.

    I used to have lessons in my lunch hour at work, picked up and dropped back to the workplace, which worked well. At weekends I'd have additional practice with the husband.

    Because of my spatial inability I remember the driving instructor putting a matchstick in the button in the centre of the bonnet to help me with my parallel parking. That was left in place until it fell out. I had been having lessons intermittently for over a year when I went for my test. Sitting the test all was going well until, as I came to the bottom of a hill to give way, I stalled the car. I didn't fail, because I changed down to first and restarted the car without panicking. Had I not passed, I know I would have lost confidence.

    I've always avoided parallel parking but feel a bit more confident to do so now that I have a reversing camera on my car. I did one this year and that was my first in about 30 years!

    When my husband sat his test it was drive around the block, hill start, parallel park and drive back to the police station for the paperwork. When I learned 8 years later, police were no longer involved, there were skills to be ticked off in order to pass.

    Son and daughter have both had lessons with Dad, daughter also had driving school lessons. Son is still learning, he will have to have an assessment in addition to sitting the driving test because of his medical issues. Another layer of complexity navigate, but it's important that he does not endanger other road users and we understand that.
  • I'm frustrated because I can't find a decent driving school or instructor near us. Some went out of business, one is run by an abusive man (hits his students, yes indeed) and the last we tried and the guy only brings you up to the bare minimum to pass the test--but not enough to feel safe behind the wheel. Ugh. So it'll have to be Mom teaching LL again this May.
  • PriscillaPriscilla Shipmate
    I passed on my 5th attempt.
    I had to do a real emergency stop when a motorcycle shot out of a side road. - the examiner wound his window down and shouted at the rider.
  • BoogieBoogie Heaven Host
    My DIL in Germany has just bought a car. The wet winter caused her to be tired of getting soaked on her 40 minute cycle to work and back.

    She passed her test eight years ago so she needs to refresh her skills. Where they live there are courses with roads, lights, junctions, roundabouts etc which you can pay a small fee to use. Only five cars are allowed on it at a time, so it’s a safe place to practice. She soon regained her confidence.
  • The RogueThe Rogue Shipmate
    I passed first time when I was 17. I had professional lessons and also drove my Dad's car to his work which was near my school every morning. I spent seven years as a driving instructor in the 90s which I enjoyed a lot. I taught for most of that time in an automatic car which had adaptations so that many disabled people could drive it. You needed at least two working limbs and one of them had to be an arm.

    Apart from teaching me to drive my instructor when I was 17 gave me a useful lesson for when I was teaching - never do a turn in the road too close to a lamppost. I did destroy one.

    I object to the idea posted above and often stated that learning to pass a driving test and learning to "drive" are two different things. If you can drive properly you can pass the test. In the UK, anyway, I can't speak for other places. The test is to see if you are safe on the road and then you build experience and become a better driver every time you get in the car. Anyone who says that they would not be able to pass a test today is in effect saying I am a danger to other road users.
  • Priscilla wrote: »
    I had to do a real emergency stop when a motorcycle shot out of a side road. - the examiner wound his window down and shouted at the rider.
    I had to brake suddenly on my test when a dog ran out. The examiner informed me that this was not the Emergency Stop.

  • ArielAriel Shipmate
    I never got the hang of parallel parking. Every instructor had a different method - turn the steering wheel 3/4 of the way or go partway down the length of the car in front before turning or something. I could never remember any of them.
  • When I was 13 my grandfather drove me to the middle of a field, showed me how to work the clutch and brake, got out walked home, and said over his shoulder, do not hit the tree or a cow, and left me to figure it out. That part was easy. At 21 when I took my driving test there was parallel parking involved. My kind neighbor practiced with me for a week parking and I passed. I have always been very good at parallel parking even on both sides of one-way streets. I drove for over 60 years without an accident. I gave it up at 85 when we moved to the city. Busy streets and lots of traffic just made me too uncomfortable. After living here a year I gave my car away. I now have a helper who comes once a week and she drives me to appointments, my son comes once a week and drives me as well. There is a volunteer ride service to medical appointments, and a neighbor takes me to church. There is also UBER so in the city not driving is no lower a problem. Unfortunately, there is no public bus service where I live is not on their route. Crazy because a lot of people live in co-dos and mobile homes in the area.
  • SpikeSpike Ecclesiantics & MW Host, Admin Emeritus
    Priscilla wrote: »
    I had to do a real emergency stop when a motorcycle shot out of a side road. - the examiner wound his window down and shouted at the rider.
    I had to brake suddenly on my test when a dog ran out. The examiner informed me that this was not the Emergency Stop.

    The examiner was wrong. It’s documented in the official guidelines that if a genuine emergency stop is carried out, that will count and be marked as such and the exercise doesn’t need to be performed
  • PigletPiglet All Saints Host, Circus Host
    That happened to my sister when she sat her test: a child ran out in front of her and she must have done everything right, as she passed.
  • On my first test a child ran across in front of the car. The examiner got his foot on the dual-control brake a fraction of a second before I hit the other brake pedal. That was one of the reasons for failing on that occasion (I passed on my second attempt). After we had stopped the examiner wound down his window and gave the child an earful of strongly worded advice.
  • TelfordTelford Deckhand, Styx
    Ariel wrote: »
    I never got the hang of parallel parking. Every instructor had a different method - turn the steering wheel 3/4 of the way or go partway down the length of the car in front before turning or something. I could never remember any of them.

    I find it's easy if you pick a fairly empty stretch of road. I have found out that once you know an area well, you can avoid all the difficult manoevres
  • @Ariel, my instructor used the same method you were taught. When I did my most recent parallel park, I was really racking my brain about the instructions and was very glad that I was not making the park with time pressure, or a line of traffic behind me!!

    When we have been to Sydney I'm always astonished by people parking near the shops and parallel parking when the traffic is busy. I guess if it is all you know, then you just get on with it!
  • I had a problem with the 3-pointturn - the road was wide enough to do a U-turn! However I went through the motions. I passed first time.
  • The Rogue wrote: »
    Apart from teaching me to drive my instructor when I was 17 gave me a useful lesson for when I was teaching - never do a turn in the road too close to a lamppost. I did destroy one.

    Funny you should mention that. In a small town in Ontario, there is a lamp post still bearing a mark from where our Older Child, making a turn like that, introduced it to our two week old VW, shortly after passing her test. I used to be a very trusting father. Her own daughter has been driving legally in rural Vermont since the age of 15.

    Younger Child is now a New Yorker. I asked her about a nasty looking dent on the side of her car. She was unconcerned. "That's where an ambulance hit us". She is very relaxed about these things.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    I took driver's training when I was 14.75 years old. We could get a daytime license at 15. The first day behind the wheel was interesting. There were three of us in the car along with the instructor. In one hour's time it started out sunny and warm, then turned windy and rainy, then turned cold and snowy, then returned to warm and sunny. This was all in mid-June. Never failed a written test.
  • Passed my test yesterday. Kind of suspicious examiner was phoning it in - 9 mile circuit; pulled over 3-4 times to test moving off safely, slight detour into the co-op car park for a forward park & reverse out and that was it.
  • ArielAriel Shipmate
    All good - congratulations!!

    I still remember that feeling of being alone in the car for the first time and realizing that this was it, it was all down to me now, no dual pedals, no instructor to spot anything I'd missed. Yikes. But somehow I survived those first hair-raising days.
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    Number 1 son has booked his test for late April.
  • Leorning CnihtLeorning Cniht Shipmate
    edited March 28
    Ariel wrote: »
    What about you?

    I failed the first time - not on anything major, but I had one too many minor errors that pushed me over the threshold. Passed the second time.

    Passed my US test first time, but that was a much easier test.

    My second kid is currently taking lessons. He's doing pretty well, but has a tendency to drive too slowly. That's better than a tendency to drive like a maniac, I think, and I'm sure he'll come up to a better speed with more practice. He has the same instructor that #1 had - the school has a bunch of instructors, but he'll only take classes or lessons with this one guy. Which is fine, because he's good.

    Not looking forward to what will happen to our insurance when he passes, though (teen male driver living in home is going to be expensive).
  • The5thMaryThe5thMary Shipmate
    I am 56 years old and never had any desire to drive an automobile. I am also a person with severe anxiety and I know I would be a menace on the roads, so why scare other drivers and myself, needlessly?

    In 11th grade, our gym teacher began driver's education for all of us who had turned sixteen. I watched the films (the one about sliding on ice nearly turned all of my hair grey!) and did the written assignments but wasn't very enthused. I got my learner's permit when I was seventeen but no one ever had time to take me driving. Long story short, my oldest sister tried to teach me by having me drive around her church's parking lot but I kept steering into a large pile of broken glass! 🤣. She told me to drive out onto the main (busy) road in front of the church. I did but refused to go any faster than about 25 m.p.h. I was absolutely terrified. I only drove a few yards and then pulled over and jumped out saying, "No, no, I don't like this! Driving is not for me!" and made her get into the driver's seat. And that was my first and last driving lesson.

    I only live in cities that have great public transportation.
  • HuiaHuia Shipmate
    @The5thMary, well done looking after yourself.
  • I tried to pass the driving test 6 or 7 times (I lost count) before finding out I have a large blind spot to the left of my vision. I thought I was just losing concentration but it turned out that parked cars really were just popping up out of nowhere.
Sign In or Register to comment.