Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Can I Have An "L" Please?

When I arrived in California, I was told I could only drive with my British license for ten days… yes 10 whole days.  I didn’t even have any hope of getting a car within ten days, let alone the savvy and knowledge to take the driving test.  I wasn’t exactly sure I actually wanted to drive, given the fact everything was backwards and I’m not very good at remembering my right from my left.  But this being California, there was absolutely no way I could possibly survive without a car, so I had to get on with it and take the plunge.  Now, I’m not that brilliant at taking tests and I am ashamed to say I had to take my driving test five times before I passed in England – and that was before the written part was introduced.  I put it down to the fact I had been practicing for so long I had picked up some really, really bad habits that the test examiners just did not appreciate.  *smile* 

Yes, I am a learner!
There is a written test in California, but after reading the test book/handout thingy the test was quite easy because it’s multiple choice!  Just choose the weirdest answer and you’ve got it (apparently).  You don’t have to study the Highway Code for six months here…heck, you don’t even have to know how to drive to take the written portion. 

Then came the actual driving test.  I remembered what it was like in England having had so many opportunities to take that damn test and I must say, I was a little nervous.  So there we were, sitting in the car and the examiner tells me the usual “We will drive and I will ask you to make turns and if I slap my board onto the dashboard you will do an emergency stop..blahdy, blahdy, blah..”  Pretty much the usual, I thought.  So off we went – out of the test centre, up the road, around the corner… emergency stop… U-turn and then…. Nothing!  Oh dear, I thought, I've failed (again).  But no, it was back to the test centre where he told me I passed.  Wait, what?  That was it?  No 3 point turn or reversing around a corner?  No pulling away on a hill?  This has got to have been the easiest driving test in the history of the world.  W.O.W.

Fast forward a few years and it was my daughter's turn. There's not an overabundance of driving schools here, so the teaching bit came down to me. This was all very well and good, but then I realized there are no such thing as "L" plates in the good old US of A. I'd already known how to drive, so the thought hadn't crossed my mind when I was taking my test. But oh no, here there is no way of knowing whether the person driving in front of you is actually behind the wheel for the very first time, or if they are just an idiot.  [and quite frankly, there are quite a few idiots out there]

So this leaves me a little confused.  America seems to mollycoddle their children until they are adults – They don’t leave school until they are (at least) 18 and then on to college where you are still regarded as a child until you are (at least) 24,  they can’t drink, do drugs, sex and rock and roll or vote until they are 21 and yet they are allowed to get behind the wheel of a car at the age of 15.5  They have pretty much no training and there is nothing to warn other drivers that they are a learner and possibly only began driving half an hour ago – and yet they are on the freeway! *shudder*

If there ever was a need for “L” Plates then it’s here – and not just the little red “L” we get in England.  I think there needs to be a huge fluorescent sign on the back of every car saying “Baby Driving” (which can be switched out for the ubiquitous “Baby on Board” sign that everyone believes they need until their 'baby' is 26).


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