How I failed my driving test 10 times

The following is a coming of age story. It is about one man’s triumph against insurmountable odds. It is a tale of frustration, despair and, finally, victory. It is the story of how I go my driver’s licence.

Despite living in various Australian country towns all my life, I managed to reach my 17th birthday without ever having sat behind the wheel of a motorised vehicle. No driving around a relative’s farm. No tearing up the bush in a go-cart. I was never even the little car when we played Monopoly.

So there I was, a vehicularly illiterate 17-year-old who only managed to get his L-plates because of the laughably easy written test (Sample questions: At a stop sign do you a) stop or b) go?). My father, possibly foreseeing the ordeal I would be undergoing, said he would under no circumstances teach me how to drive and would rather pay for as many lessons as it took rather than be in a car while I was in control.

If that seems rather harsh, it should be noted that my hand-eye coordination was so bad I was unable to tie shoe laces until I was 11. They first time I managed to catch a ball during a competitive tee-ball game both my teammates and the opposing side spontaneously applauded.

My first driving instructor was seven foot tall American who somehow managed to fold himself into his dual-control Hyundai every lesson. He had the charming habit of leaning out the window and shouting suggestions at female pedestrians.

I failed about five driving tests that year, including a near-miss with a sausage sizzle in a Bunnings carpark and an unfortunate reflex decision to play “punch buggy yellow” with my rather taciturn tester.

The next year I moved to Perth for university and was fortunate to live in student housing on campus. Some people say the best part of university is the intellectual stimulation. Others say it is the lifelong friendships. For me it was being able to walk to class. I did help liberate a number of street signs from their poles but for the first two years of study my only dealing with the road was by the medium of the Transperth bus.

Unfortunately as graduation loomed I realised if I wanted to become a journalist I would have to eventually pass my driving test. Sure Clark Kent didn’t have his licence but he made other arrangements that weren’t available to me.

My second driving instructor was a straight-talking Indian man. He was so straight-talking that after my second lesson he said “Ben, you will never be able to drive a manual car. Do not even try” and then gave me the phone number of an instructor who specialised in automatic driving.

As well as teaching clutch-challenged people how to drive, my third driving instructor appeared to operate some kind of courier business. A typical lesson involved him telling me to drive to a specific address and park out the front. He would then get out of the car, knock on the door, be given a box, get back in the car and tell me to drive to another address. Again he would get out, knock on the door, hand the box over and return to the car with a brown paper bag. The lesson would end with him looking inside the bag, then smiling at me and saying “Well done Ben”.

I failed three driving tests while under his tutelage, including a heart breaking incident when I passed every single exercise but went through the wrong entrance to the depot at the end of the test and was failed.

While his unique methods were not the reason I continually failed the tests, I felt it was time to get a new instructor.

Lucky instructor number four was a laid-back surfer type whose maxim of  “wear shoes, don’t wear shoes, it’s all the same to me” was oddly comforting. His lessons coincided with a tester who liked to tell prospective drivers “Hit a dog, automatic fail. Hit a cat, automatic pass”. I don’t know if he was joking but after failing another two tests I was getting desperate.

And then, after five years, 10 tests and about a thousand dollars spent on lessons, it all clicked. I got into the car, indicated correctly, merged seamlessly, even reversed parallel parked. There was no moment when driving suddenly made sense to me. I was just as nervous before that test as with all the others. It was as if God, the universe or even then West Australian Transport Minister Alannah MacTiernan just decided it was my day to pass.

I wish I could say the moral of the story was never give up but if I had failed one more test I would have honestly just invested in a book of taxi vouchers and saved myself the stress. But whenever I see an L-plater on the road, I give them all the time and space they need. Because while some people are lucky enough to get their licence straight away, for others it was the hardest thing we ever had to do.

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7 thoughts on “How I failed my driving test 10 times

  1. I love the weird courier instructor! haha.

    I had a sleazy female teacher who would make me drive past building sites and say “phwoar, I love it when men wear those little shorts.” I couldn’t work out how to ‘sack’ her and get a better teacher, but thankfully she had a car accident** which saved me the embarrassment.

    Great article, Ben!

    ** thankfully she bounced-back from the accident quickly, but in her brief time off teaching I RAN AND DIDN’T LOOK BACK.

  2. This is hilarious 🙂

    I just failed my first one, and this cheered me up a little. I love how you seem to stay so positive even though people have made negative comments in your story and failing your test so many times.

    Good job on finally passing. 🙂

  3. Just failed my test today on my sixteenth birthday. This story makes me a little more comfortable with the thought of ending up like spongebob failing all his boat mobile tests.

  4. I failedy driving test just last month of this year. While I had all the chance in the world and advantage to pass, I perfectly screwed it! My instructor was famous (that I thought of), she truly was (I can vouched on that), in VicRoads’ examiners. I will not detail every thing that went through during the test, but of what I witnessed between her and the examiners, yes, I spot it on, I will surely (could have) passed the driving test.
    I wasn’t even nervous on that day. I faked my nervousness, just so I thought it will help. But mind you, it didn’t work. Faking things esp nervousness can be so damn bad thing esp when it comes to driving test.
    So while I started the engine, my instructor sitting next to me, at the back was the examiner. I did the reversed the car perfectly, saw the pedestrians, stopped with the confused driver of a mini van, and there I went off, flashing with a fake nervous smile.
    At the exit of Vicroads (forgot to mentioned.. This is in Australia), there was this give way line. I waited, but the saddest truth of signalling never occured to me that moment. I signalled for like 2secs and I cancelled it (dunno why). So I went off to the road, very nicely. Minutes passed, examiner rold me to do a 3.turn, that I did. I hit the kerb but not that hard (but I still hit it! Damn it!). So we went on, pedestrians check I gave way and nicely done with crossing the streets, intersections, though missing some of the turns, but still he ley me to go on. Not until we reached this Uturn in a roundabout. I didn’t signal,so nothing else to say. I failed because of that. I was like, what did I just do??! Why you want me pull over? Did I just failed? What went wrong? Seriously, I had no idea!
    We went back to Vicroads testing center, still trying to manage to be as calm as possible. I was disappointed because I spent thousand of dollars with my sessions with the driving instructor and paid $180 plus $55 for the testing fee, then….just like that???!
    I went home , the instructor drove me home, feeling “what just happened” thing. I cried a river, suffered depression for a week, everyday was a struggle to live in this cruel world. But, I tried to be strong for my kids.
    In the end, I booked for another test, and guess what, I passed! Lucky?? Nope, my faith with our God helped me through it. Practice a lot, and never give up. You may be given a thorn first, but expect a rose that will bloom thereafter.

  5. This Is a fab story ben! As I just failed my 1oth test! it is soul destroying and like many others I drive perfectly on a lesson but on a test I do the most stupid little things that count as a fail. People are quick to judge not realising how stressful and heart breaking it is for us constant fail(es) I can totally relate to your story and I must say I have been so close to throwing in the towel but I think NO WAY! I have spent so much money and so many hours learning to drive I will not let anyone take away my dream to drive! I have so much sympathy for folk who do not pass first second third on so on, For anyone reading my post and feels they wanna give up don’t ! No matter how many times it take you your licence is yours forever once you have it its yours to keep! So here goes test number 11 🙂 wee lisa

  6. Hey I just failed my fifth test in england and like everyone else is saying, it really is soul destroying! i’ve booked my 6th test but i’m literally getting to that point where it’s like why do i even bother? I’m just going to fail again!

  7. Hi, That did make me feel good. I failed by 2nd test. Nervous and I was driving manual in a hilly suburb of Queensland, Australia. Less than 50m of turns on winding roads. Everything fine, indicators, shoulder check, 3. but then came reverse, down the slope, hit the kerb and failed the test. Why? Why? It is a kerb, only. And then I was too slow, while in last test I was fast, dude decide what you want. I feel such a failure, two test 😥
    Don’t give up it is. What about all $50s I am giving every time?!?! Test number 3rd it will be.

    Thanks for giving me company.

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