So, if you follow my tweets, you'll know that I recently took my driving theory test and have now started driving lessons. Why am I doing all this when I've been driving for almost 15 years now? Well, in the UK, you are only allowed to drive on an American license for a year before having to get your UK license. Actually, you should start going through the hoops about 3-4 months before your American license is no longer valid, because it takes quite a bit of time to get all the tests scheduled and taken. I didn't do that, so now I'm scrambling!
Anyway, unlike my husband, I am scared out of my mind about this driving test. I wasn't as scared about the theory test, because, really, it's just memorizing a bunch of answers. But the driving test? It's like one of the hardest in the world! Since I'm so prone to freak outs about not being remotely prepared for things, I've started my driving lessons about a month before my test. Now, if you've never driven a day in your life, you'd probably need more than a month. But, I already know how to drive a manual, so it is all about getting rid of "bad" habits.
I thought this would be relatively easy in the whole scheme of things. I mean, I'm not trying to learn how to use a clutch and stuff, right? WRONG! Apparently I do several things wrong according to how the driving testers test you in the UK:
Handbrake Use. I only use it when I park. Apparently here, you should use it when you're stopped for any amount of time longer than you having to inch out to go forward, like at stop lights and stop signs and when giving way (yielding) to other cars. This is a difficult "bad" habit to break, because it's hard for me to switch my brain to the handbrake.
Clutch Use at Stops. I was taught to not use the engine to brake at a stop (unlike on a hill, when you should downshift instead of overheating your brakes), because it wears on the engine which is much more expensive to fix than the brakes. Here, you should use the engine to brake so you retain control over the vehicle. This annoys me beyond belief, and my dad actually did some internet searches about this. There seem to be arguments on both sides of this. However, I find it very intriguing that there also seem to be a lot of Brits having to replace the clutch before 100k miles on their car. Now, I'm not sure how normal this is in general, but I KNOW that if we ever had to change the clutch out on my first car (which happened to be our family car for 14 years), it was not before 100k miles.
Clutch use around corners. I tend to downshift before a turn, then come off the clutch and give it gas as I go around a corner. This is a no no, and one I plan to try and remedy. You should already be in the lower gear before you go around the corner.
Hand placement on steering wheel. It's just like the US-10 and 2. However, who on earth doesn't cross their hands while driving around corners? Really??? So, yeah, obviously I need to work on this.
I learned all this in my first driving lesson. And, seriously, even though I have no problem driving here and have driven a decent amount since moving here, I felt like a total new driver as soon as someone was marking how well I did! It all seemed overwhelming, like I couldn't possibly remember everything I was supposed to be doing.
If I ever say I want to be a teenager again (highly unlikely), I'll remember this. It's exactly how I imagine I felt when I was 15 and learning how to drive for the first time. Whew!!