OPINION: Waiting for their test will stand new drivers in good stead

The new driving test format was first introduced in December 2017

The wait will be worth it for new drivers, says Helen McDermott - Credit: Archant

I suppose at the age of 25 I was relatively mature when I finally got my driving licence.

I passed after my third attempt.

Of course, I was delighted to have got the precious licence at last but it was pretty scary going out in a car on my own for the first time.

Now that we are reading about the long delays in learning to drive and taking their test I can only sympathise with all the young folk kept waiting so long.

Learning to drive was not only one of the most expensive things I ever did but also the most terrifying.

In retrospect I certainly wasn’t ready to have passed first time.

The second time I took the test the instructor who came with me to the test centre put the handbrake on so firmly that when it came time to set off with the examiner I couldn’t budge the wretched thing. The examiner did it for me eventually but this was not a great start.

I did pass the third time and by then was certainly more confident than previously but rather poorer financially.

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It does make me wonder if instructors in those days put anyone up for the test whether they were ready or not.

After all, there were no waiting lists then and there seemed to be plenty of instructors to go round.

I was pleased to read that the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency is now advising that students should be put up for a test only if they are certain of passing. This makes financial sense and it’s much safer too.

At the risk of sounding sexist it did seem in the past that most men I knew were much more confident about the whole driving experience. I do wonder if some people seem born to drive, while others like me found it very hard work.

I think it’s fair to say that I don’t come from a family of great drivers.

My mum never learned, and as for my auntie Doreen in spite of hundreds of hours instruction she never did pass her test.

It didn’t help that she was very argumentative. When her poor instructor told her to practise driving up and down a rather steep hill in St Albans she refused, saying that if she passed her test she would never go up that hill anyway.

My father learned to drive in the war and so never took a proper civilian driving test.

He was a middle lane hogger and thought everyone else was at fault all the time.

Going in a car with him was an ordeal.

On every journey there was a lot of hooting and angry gesturing from other drivers.

They didn’t bother dad at all; it was never his fault and naturally you couldn’t tell him anything.

After he went straight over a roundabout instead of going round it I decided to avoid getting in a car with him as much as possible.

Over the years, and with the confidence of youth, I drove all over the place.

There were a few scary moments, such as when my old banger of a Hillman Imp blew into the central crash barrier after its front end was lifted by a huge gust of wind, and there was the time all my lights failed on a dark Suffolk night.

But I took them all in my stride. I actually came to enjoy driving my little Triumph Spitfire. It actually turned out not to be a Spitfire at all, more of a slack-jawed dribbler but I was fond of

it, even though it broke down so many times that the AA people became quite good friends.

Now though I’m becoming rather reluctant to drive but I have to as the only one in the household who can actually do it at the moment.

I must say that lockdown with its quieter roads made driving so much easier.

Perhaps it’s an age thing but I do find that both men and women seem to be driving too fast. I might take some refresher lessons to help me cope, if I can find a decent professional instructor.

Good luck to all today’s learners. When you pass your test please don’t be selfish and remember all you’ve been taught: driving is a privilege.

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