Today I had the absolute pleasure and enjoyment of watching the facial and sheer emotional expression of one very happy young lady.I’ll never use real-life names here for obvious reasons, so let’s call this young lady Sylvia, because she reminds me of the Japanese name for a particular Nissan car model. Sylvia was introduced to me earlier this week after the office booked her in for a couple of ‘lessons’ prior to her test today. We met on Monday, the first thing which came to light was that she was going for a manual driver’s license. I own and teach in an automatic vehicle. Big stuff-up by the office, BUT….we persevered. Sylvia & I went for a drive that day, me being chauffeured in air-conditioned comfort, she doing the driving. It was plain from the outset that this young lady could drive, and quite well. She was very chatty and we got on like a house on fire, which is both good…..and not so good. Not BAD, just not so good, especially from the perspective of her paying attention to the job at hand, which was driving. Still, her attention to detail was okay and her efficiency & economy with the physical task of handling a motor vehicle was extremely good. That’s all I’ll say here. We had some jiggery-pokery in securing another driving school vehicle in manual form for today’s test, but I managed to get hold of a Suzuki Swift from a fellow trainer (many thanks, Peter) and we were able to proceed.
Okay, none of us are perfect when it comes to driving and I’m the first to admit it. After driving for 40 years prior to taking on the role of driving instructor, I’d had to un-learn 40 years of bad habits, so I am determined to not allow my students to start off on the wrong foot. Sylvia had, and may still even now have, a heavy right foot. We all forget to check the speedometer as often as we should and despite being failed on her first test for speeding, today’s examiner noted that she may have been speeding at one point (more than 4kph over is speeding) but gave her the benefit of the doubt. I have to admit, my heart skipped a beat at that point in the debrief. There were a couple of other Non-Critical Driving Errors (NCDE) – road position and hesitation in judgement on decision making – but I put that down to nerves and the fact that I’d impressed on her if she deemed a particular situation to be unsafe – DON’T GO! We who drive already and have done so for a long time give no consideration to “judgement”. We just do what we need to do. In a driving test, the examiners look extremely closely at all aspects of a drivers behaviour, and while some may not be critical, they will make comment. Critical Driving Errors (CDE) are the likes of failing to come to a complete halt at a stop sign, speeding more than 4kph over the signed limit, encroaching on a pedestrian crossing while a pedestrian is on said crossing, causing a near collision event, failure to show critical judgement, and so on. Some seem esoteric, some are quite blatant.
At the end of the 35 minute test – a driving examiner can keep you on the road in a test situation for a maximum of 35 minutes in Queensland – the car re-appeared in the testing centre parking lot, so I wandered over as the examiner opened her door. This is accepted practice. The instructor may listen in to the post test debrief, but offer no comment until it’s complete. By standing over the open door, I can read the examination report over the examiner’s shoulder as he/she gives the debrief. Basically, an analysis of what he/she noted during the test, the critical or non-critical errors uncovered, and either grants a pass or sometimes, sadly, delivers a fail. As I listened to the debrief today, I was reading the tick boxes for NCDE and CDE, noting with mounting joy that Sylvia had no CDE’s marked. I knew then she’d succeeded. Still, what the examiner has to say is valuable, and as today’s examiner said, “these are issues which you really need to take to heart & be aware of”. Rightly so. She ticked the PASS box & overt joy, happiness and gross smiling broke out.
I do what I do these days – teaching people to drive safely – because I’m passionate about driving and passionate about doing so safely. Our roads are a killing zone and every single day I’m out there, I see multiple examples of dead people just waiting their inevitable altercation with destiny. It’s not good enough, and if I can help make a difference to someone’s driving lifespan by teaching them how to avoid hazards while handling the lethal weapon they’re piloting around our streets & highways, then my contribution to longer and happier lives for all concerned is worthwhile.
Oh, and Sylvia spent the rest of today, driving. It’s what one does when one is 18 years of age, and has successfully passed the rite of passage that holding a driver’s license most surely is.