Remember your first time as a driver?
By Steve Wallace
Times Colonist, February 10 2017
Do you remember the first time you drove a car?
It happens to be one of the lasting memories of most people.
Do you remember your driving test? It is also one of the memories often stored for life.
My first time behind the wheel was on my father’s knees, as an eight-year-old, in the Camp Borden army-base parking lot.
The 1957 VW never made it out of first gear.
The back and forth weaving must have threatened my dad with a bout of sea sickness, or perhaps he thought his kid was switched at birth.
In any case, the drive did not last that long.
My driving test was much less noteworthy.
It was in that same 1957 VW.
My father, a military driving instructor, presented me for the road test and explained to the civilian driving examiner, a recently retired military man, in his best Black Watch regimental sergeant-major’s voice, that I was ready to pass the test.
It actually sounded more like an order than a statement of fact.
The test went well, with only one minor penalty point for a late shoulder check.
In those days, there were no markings on the back of any vehicles to identify student drivers being taught by parents.
Most of the vehicles were manual transmission. Horns often blasted when a learner would stall several times at a red light, particularly on an incline when the vehicle faded backward.
Nowadays, things are different. All learners must be identified by an L or N or a mandated “STUDENT DRIVER” sign at the back of a driving-school vehicle.
It is much easier to spot a learner and accommodate any seemingly odd behaviour.
For this reason, many learners — not only in driving-school vehicles but also parent-taught — are afforded a greater degree of courtesy than in bygone years.
The vast majority of drivers are very patient with those who are learning to drive.
One of my colleagues, a driving instructor for a competing firm, asked me to give a heartfelt thank-you to members of the public for their collective courtesy toward learners.
Perhaps we all remember our own first time behind the wheel.
Maybe it is a self-preservation reflex or a fear factor.
Thank you nonetheless.
There are certainly times when driving instructors must introduce new material.
For whatever reason, we might get into a situation that impedes traffic.
We never intentionally want to hold up traffic, but it does happen from time to time.
In those cases, we all appreciate the courtesy afforded.
Many driving instructors will choose a multi-lane road for a first-time highway drive.
This allows others to pass, if need be.
The same goes for multi-lane roads in the city.
Instructors can activate the four-way flashers when there is cause to warn following traffic.
They have an extra brake and strategically placed additional mirrors to keep track of vehicles approaching from the rear.
Most also employ eye mirrors to ensure the student driver is looking in the proper direction at the appropriate time.
Student drivers are not always with an instructor.
On many occasions, they are with a driving examiner, taking a road test.
The examiners are there to give directions and observe.
They will award a licence on the basis of the test drive.
They will only intervene by taking verbal or active control of the vehicle, resulting in a failure on the road test.
Sometimes it is impossible to differentiate between a driving lesson and a test.
Examiners also appreciate the courtesy afforded.