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Joe Butler profile

Joe Butler

November 2, 2018

Learning to drive Young driver stories 6 min read

Having passed my theory test and having mastered (mostly) all the skills for being a professional driver, I am now in the strange final stage of my journey towards passing my practical driving test. It is a void filled with uncertainty and preparation – here’s how I am getting myself ready for the Big Test.

This queasy feeling

Pass! But not the pass you would think. No, I have not passed my driving test, unfortunately, but I have passed my theory. And for any learner, this is a milestone completed. The first of two milestones, in fact. It is now that final hurdle -the Big Test- that I have set my sights on. However, now that I am touching distance of that golden Pass, the uncertainty is beginning to set in. I am beginning to quiver in angst, and I am praying that it will not affect my driving- not after I have worked so hard.

via GIPHY

Several months into this crazy whirlwind of an experience, I would say that I am quite able behind the wheel. At least, I would hope so, or else that is a lot of money down the drain! Admittedly, I have declared mini roundabouts my mortal enemy (who puts something that you are supposed to go around on a straight road!?) and have a bad habit of completely ignoring road markings and frequently find myself gallivanting down the wrong lane, which is not helped by the fact that I am oblivious to give-way lines. But- before you come and try to rip up my provisional in fear of being on the road with this calamity, cast your mind back to your first lessons and look how far you’ve come. It is a monumental achievement just to be even driving in the first place, that’s seventeen years in the waiting. Having only been on this life-changing journey for less than one year, I am pretty impressed with my progress. If I do say so myself.

However, this is the Big Test we’re talking about. This is not a friendly lesson with your protective instructor- this is an awkward scrutiny of your every move with a stranger armed with a clipboard, ready to eat you alive and stamp you with a fail. There is a reason learners are petrified of it, there is a reason it is dreaded and feared. Because it is scary! And now that I can feel its breath hot on my neck, I stop and think to myself – am I good enough to pass?

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An examiner’s nightmare

Examiners better beware if they are put in my passenger seat. Yes, I can do a bay park like a pro and my emergency stop is potently poignant, but I am still making some rookie mistakes. Recently, I have been having a battle against roundabouts. And no, it is my sworn foe, the mini roundabout, but its big sister- those massive roundabouts that take as long to drive around as it does for astronauts to orbit the moon. The phrase ‘a little too late’ best describes my approach. I brake too late, far too late, so late that I’m reaching the roundabout at the national speed limit, which does not make it easy to give way. Let’s not even mention the time (fine! times– it happened more than once) that I zoomed around in fifth gear, because who has time to change down when you hit a roundabout at 60mph?

Now, you’re probably thinking ‘just brake earlier you dimwit it’s not that hard!’ and you are right, but sat behind that wheel, my brain farts out logic and decides that the correct method is wrong. It always happens, don’t you find? In the heat of the moment, sometimes it is just impossible to get it right, even if I have been told a thousand times (thank you to my poor instructor to remaining sane) what I need to do. That being said, I am now starting to overcome in roundabout inhibition and at least now am driving around them in the right gear.

via GIPHY

That was just one example of these rookie mistakes. The pressure is on, the Big Test is coming, and I just know that something is going to go wrong! Every time of think of being sat with that examiner, I break out into a nervous sweat. Charming as it is, it is true. I am sure that all learners at this stage of their journey feel this same crushing inevitability, maybe it is just the peril of the Big Test, but I feel that I will never be prepared enough. As impressed as I may be with all my progress and successes, it only takes one foolish error to Fail.

Let’s just book it

I cannot let myself go into the Big Test believing I am going to fail, that just would not be productive, would it? Now that I am getting better at the dreaded roundabout, there is not much else that is noticeably wrong with my driving. I could probably be a driving instructor myself, I am that good. Okay, maybe not, because that would be lethal for all involved, but my point still stands. As I said, I have been driving for months and months, – plenty of time to have become the next Lewis Hamilton.

All I can do now, whilst my instructor begins to actually relax sat next to me, is to practice. And then practice some more. My manoeuvres are majestic and my driving cautious, and whilst my ability to read road signs leaves something to be desired (who would have thought there was a pedestrian crossing there?) there should be no reason why I should not pass. The driving journey is nearly over; it is time to realise my ability and take the Big Test. Oh dear- I have started sweating again, quite profusely. Let’s just book it now. What could possibly go wrong?

Joe Butler profile

By Joe Butler

'When I pass, I cannot wait to get my own car and get onto the roads! Learning to drive has been a whirlwind experience of ups and downs, but I have grown to love being behind the wheel. The feeling of being able to go wherever I want is thrilling and I am counting down the minutes until I pass.'  See more posts by Joe

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