You Must Be Insured To Drive This Car

I decided to take my new driving license for a short spin up to Oxford. Henry was kind enough to offer his car and company during the trip. Michael and Yu Kyoung rounded out the standard seating capacity. When Henry picked us up from Staines, he hopped out of the car and rang his insurance company to add me to the policy.

They asked some questions about my age and how long I’ve had my license. We told them that I’ve had a US license since 1989 and that I had just passed my UK driving test. Apparently, this was no good. I was not allowed to drive the car. They mentioned something about a high-performance (about 200 Brake Horsepower) engine and a new driver. Now, we had explained that I’m not a new driver, just a new UK license holder but we didn’t get a chance to detail the power of my previous vehicles which were all above the 200 mark with a single anomoly of 315 BHP in one car!

Either way, I ended up in the navigator’s chair once again. I hear that I’ll be able to drive for real after I’ve had my license for a year. I hope it’s true. I must say that I did an excellent job of navigating us to Oxford. The day was great. We had a great pub lunch followed by a walking tour given by a rather eccentric woman. Her husband was with her and took care of forcing stragglers and people who tried to quit the tour early to keep up with us. The tour took a whopping two and a half hours! It was mostly interesting however and I got to see a good portion of Oxford and learn about it’s peculiar ways.

I’m now just sitting back and waiting until I can drive again. I understand that if I picked up an old mini for a few hundred quid and took out an insurance policy that I would be covered by third party on any of my mates’ cars. It’s an interesting option but I’m not too keen to own a car again – MOT inspections, looking for parking, paying insurance and buying petrol are not on my list of fun activities in life. I think I’ll be patient and write another story about being able to drive again next year.
Note: Trip Pictures are also available.

Passing the Driving Test

I can drive again! Well, almost. After two incidents of not being able to drive when I wanted to because my US license is invalid after residing in the UK for one year, I decided to get my UK driving license. I had heard horror stories some from people and read an article in the Wall Street Journal about how difficult the UK driving license test is so I was quite nervous.

I’m thirty one years old. The last time I took a driving test, I was fifteen. I had probably forgotten many of the things that I learned sixteen years ago and to add insult to injury, many of the “right” things that I had learned in the US are “wrong” in the UK. So, instead of just learning to drive I had to unlearn bad habits as well.

Bad Habit 1: Coasting. To most of my American readers this isn’t an issue. Coasting refers to holding in the clutch and allowing the car to coast in neutral. It turns out that I do this quite often. I hold the clutch in for about ten to twenty meters before a stop or make a turn. I’m still not convinced that the English way is the correct way since you’re not supposed to push the clutch in until right before the car starts to stall but I have to pass a test so I have to learn the correct answers to the questions.

Bad Habit 2: Crossing my hands when turning. Nicole agrees with me that we were actually taught to cross our hands when turning because it allowed you to turn smoothly and keep control of the car. Here I was taught to use the push-pull method where your hands never cross and since you can’t actually let the wheel slide through your hands after a turn (in either country) then you end up working hard to make any sort of turn.

Bad Habit 3: Just using eye movement to look into the mirrors. This isn’t a bad habit in the true sense of driving safety but it is a bad habit when you are trying to pass a test. If the examiner cannot see that you use MSM (Mirror – Signal – Manoeuvre). I tend to check my mirrors rather frequently and so I know what is happening around me at most times. Either way, I had to force myself into the correct thinking for the exam.

Bad Habit 4: Not doing manoeuvres at a crawl. I do understand that you have more control but simply reversing around a corner took more time than I have ever spent in a potentially dangerous situation. I like to get off the road quickly to avoid any danger. I learned to crawl for the test though.

So that was it. After paying for ten hours of lessons I was confident I would pass the test. Well, not that confident. I couldn’t sleep at all the night before. I was going over all my bad habits and thinking about how I would NOT do them. So I arrived at my test slightly tired, excited and nervous. I got in the car, drove off did everything mostly right (only two minor faults out of fifteen allowed) and passed my test!

Now, at age thirty-one, I can drive. Again.