"But you already know how to drive," you say. "You've had a US driving licence for over a decade!"
That is not the assumption that the UK Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) makes about a US driving licence. And to be honest, I am in complete agreement with them. The UK practical driving test is much, much harder than any of the US practical driving tests. To get my US licence, I had driving lessons for three weeks (totalling about 12 hours) and practised in the car twice with my father (parallel parking and three-point turns). Then I took my test and passed it.
It may be possible to do this in the UK, but I think it's pretty rare. I'm planning on having several months of driving lessons and lots of private practice with the bloke before I attempt the test. Not only am I driving on the opposite side of the road, I'm in a manual transmission (with the shifter on the other side) and the traffic control methods are completely different, from the signage to the roundabouts. I'm also having to break bad habits, like crossing over my hands on the steering wheel when I turn. This is an unconscious hangover from my first car, a Datsun 280Z that didn't have power steering and handled like a pregnant whale.
I don't particularly want to drive. In fact, one of the reasons I moved to this country in the first place was so that I didn't have to drive. Having a car is pretty pointless when you live in central London and work at an office job. But now I'm moving to the Worcestershire countryside, and sometimes a car will be the only option for getting around, so I have to do it.
A few notes from my driving lessons:
- The Vauxhall Corsa, my driving instructor's vehicle, is an incredibly forgiving car. It takes a lot of effort to stall the thing, as its clutch point is about a mile wide. Naturally I've still managed to do it, by dint of stomping on the brakes and forgetting to engage the clutch at all.
- Sophie, our Citroën, is a temperamental little tart. She punishes even the slightest mismatch between clutch point and gas pedal with a series of head-snapping jerks.
- Me: *smacks right hand into door frame* Andre, my driving instructor: "Are you trying to shift on the other side of the car again?" Me: "No, of course not." Andre: *chuckle*
- Me to Andre: "I prefer to pretend as if I haven't driven before." Andre: "Don't worry, you don't have to pretend." AHAHAHA.