Friday, November 9, 2018

Expat Talk: I Passed My UK Driving Test!

You guys. After three months of lessons, a short hiatus (you know, while I gave birth and raised a baby, NBD), and two more months of lessons ... I passed my UK driving test!

It's probably my greatest achievement to date (besides giving birth).

I kid you not.

Driving in the UK is so hard.

"Oh, because it's on the wrong side of the road?" I hear you say.


Because there are bikes that weave in and out of traffic, big red buses that look like they're heading straight for you, streets that are narrow AF, pedestrians who oh-so-casually just decide to dart in front of you while you're driving through a busy part of town because they can, and ... did I mention the streets are NARROW AF??

They are. (I once screamed during a lesson when a bus passed me because I thought we were going to collide. We didn't. Obviously.)

Not to mention, I was taking my lessons at 9:00 p.m. at night, when I was completely zombified after a full-on day (and night before) of taking care of an 8-month-old.

The first time I took (and failed) my test in London, I was 8 months pregnant. I waited too long to enter a mini roundabout and failed for "undue hesitation". I was so disappointed because I seemed to have the perfect test conditions: relatively empty roads, a sunny (but not too sunny!) day, a super easy route, and the easiest manoeuvre possible (pull over to the right and reverse two car spaces - versus parallel parking or bay parking).

I cried about it when I got home.

Then I went into labor two weeks later and had a baby.


This time, I had less than ideal conditions: heavy rain and heavy traffic. I was so flustered during my "practice run" with my instructor, I nearly burst into tears. Then, when I met the examiner, I was so nervous and disoriented, I started walking in the opposite direction to where the car was parked!

The first part of the test was the "independent driving" portion of the exam - basically, the examiner attaches a sat nav to your dashboard and expects you to follow the instructions for 20 minutes or so (they give you directions after that). You're allowed to ask questions for clarity, etc. but I nearly missed a turn, and thought two turns were much earlier than they were ... so, basically, I was pretty sure I'd failed early on.

At this point, I was feeling pretty miserable and, coming up to a mini roundabout (where I failed the first time around), I whispered, "What am I doing?" which probably wasn't the best thing to do aloud, but my brain somehow comprehended that I had the right of way, so I completed the turn with just about the appropriate amount of slowing down.


By the time we returned to the test center, I was a shaky mess. And when the examiner turned to say, "I'm pleased to say you passed", my reaction wasn't one of joy, but of actual concern. I nearly began to point out all the mistakes I thought I'd made, but thought better of it at the last minute and clamped my mouth shut, mumbling a "thank you" instead, as she filled out my pass certificate (I ended up completing the test with only one minor fault).

Having taken nearly six months of lessons and taken the theory and driving exams in the UK, I can say that the standard of driving here is definitely higher than that of the US (though you wouldn't know it with the maniacs driving around where I live). For example, you're taught to check your mirrors each time before signalling, stopping, or pulling away (basically if you're ever changing speed or direction) which - unless I'm mistaken - we were never taught in the US. If you're caught signalling too early or too late (or not checking your mirrors at the appropriate time), it could be (depending on the situation) grounds for failing your test.

And yeah, I haven't driven yet since I passed (especially not with the baby in the back!). But I'm eager to get more practice in and build up my confidence again!

Do you drive? How many times did it take for you to pass your test? I passed my practical test in the US the first time, but failed the theory twice!


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