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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 March, 2005, 11:51 GMT
Your testing tales
The driving test is 70 years old this week, and its status as one of the most nerve-wracking rites of passage is unparalleled. And as many Magazine readers have been sharing, the potential for something to go wrong is as great as ever.

Of course none of the embarrassing things would happen during driving tests if we weren't so nervous. But despite the introduction of written tests, there's no joy of coursework for learner drivers - it's the practical driving skills on the day that the examiner is looking for.

As Stephanie, UK, wrote, the problems can start well before the engine is started. "I'd forgotten to sign my driving licence *blush*." It took her another three attempts, and now she gets about mostly by cycle.

Daniel, UK, thought he was doing well when he spotted that his examiner hadn't put his seat belt on. "I thought he was testing me, so I firmly asked him to do so."

Big mistake. "He said that as we were still on the private ground of the test centre car park, he was not required to do so. He hated me from that moment on," he writes.

But what about the examiner himself? Phil Broeders writes: "My instructor turned up - a nice guy but he must have weighed at least 20 stone. When he got in the car, it leaned alarmingly to the left and made going round right hand turns a bit tricky - the car seemed to be on two wheels."

Tim Edgar took his test 36 years ago. "Take the next right," the examiner told him, and he did - right on to a garage forecourt. "On second thoughts, perhaps we don't need petrol," Tim stammered as he drew up in front of the pumps. "A perfect turn back on to the main road and then taking the turning I was supposed to have done must have saved me. I passed, but to this day I always remember it every time I fill up."

There were plenty of adventures out on the open road too.

Kathryn, UK, wrote: "On my driving test, I swerved to avoid an injured pigeon, and ended up in the path of an articulated lorry. At this point, I did the sensible thing and closed my eyes. My instructor took the wheel and deposited us in the roadside ditch. Upon opening my eyes, I discovered my instructor was nearly in tears. I failed."

Mark, UK, wrote that a friend of his had stopped to allow out an articulated lorry which was reversing into the road. "It kept reversing and even hit the car and was slowly pushing it back. My friend looked at the examiner and asked if he should reverse. The examiner replied that he wasn't allowed to give him any help otherwise he would have to fail him, but if he was being reversed into by a lorry, he would be reversing. He passed."

Iain Bagnall, Wales, wrote that a friend failed his first test when he was asked "to turn around in the road using the forward and reverse gears", in other words a three-point turn. "Naturally, he simply drove into someone's driveway and out again. The examiner was unimpressed."

Kerry, UK, failed because "I had stalled the car without realising it. It wasn't until the examiner suggested I restart the engine that I realised why I was rolling down the road trying to do a parallel park.

And then there's the joy of emergency stops.

"Geordie Driver" wrote that he had been warned by the instructor that it was "highly likely" that the emergency stop would be required on a particular road. "On going down that road the examiner looked back behind to see if there was anything behind us. At that moment, a child on a tricycle rolled out of a driveway, and I had to make an emergency stop. The examiner hit his head on the windscreen. His comment on seeing the child and feeling his bump was: 'OK you've passed. Take me back to the test centre, my bump hurts.'"

But for the sheer there-but-for-the-grace-of-God element, Kev's story stands out. You're sitting in the car, trying to feel at ease and confident. You have a stranger in the car with you, you're not making conversation. So what do you do? Obviously do what Kev's friend did. "He decided he would turn the radio on. He thought he might as well have music on while he was doing it."

He failed.

Watch footage of bad driving from the 1930s


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