I remember it clearly, the unfamiliarity of sitting in the driver’s seat, my legs like jelly, clambering for the clutch and the sudden jerk of the car as it stalled. I could faintly hear the collective sighs coming from the other cars as I joined the stream of early morning traffic.
Instinctively, I shrank behind the steering wheel of a car adorned with flashy signs warning those around me. “Learner driver”, they read in bold red lettering. The months leading up to my driving test had been filled with moments like this. But, as my hours behind the wheel increased, so did my confidence.
Passing your driving test is an important rite of passage. With the cost of driving lessons, car hire, booking fees and time constraints, there is a lot of pressure to pass the first time around. My instructor, Amrish Surujballie, at Omar’s Driving School, braved the roads of Durban with me and, last month, I passed my test on the first try.
It is no surprise that nerves and a lack of confidence play a significant role in contributing to people’s failed tests. Surujballie said: “The most common reasons people fail their test is if they have not been taught the proper K53 method and if their nervousness gets the better of them.
“Another reason for most people’s failures is bumping into a pole while doing alley docking from the right-hand side,” he added.
To get you on the road to driving success, Surujballie shared his top six tips for passing your test:
● Once you have your learner's licence and if you have a car at home, regardless of whether its an automatic or manual, get a licensed (and patient) driver to take you for your first driving experience. It is a daunting and exciting experience, but it is the beginning of your journey towards getting road sense and being confident.
● If you don’t have access to a car at home then look for a reputable driving school or instructor to get you started. A driving school car comes with a dual-control system and the experience of an instructor, which makes the learning process far less stressful and is a relief to most parents dreading the prospect of letting their child drive them crazy.
● Everyone’s capability to grasp driving varies, so take your time in learning and applying the correct habits and technical aspects, not just to pass the driving test, but to be a safe and confident driver in any traffic condition or scenario. There’s no substitute for practice, practice and more practice.
● Driving schools can advise you on your test readiness and when and where to book. Each testing station has a range of available test dates from within a week to a two or more monthlong waiting period. For your convenience, some test stations are open on alternate weekends to book tests as well as other services like licence renewals.
● The K53 test is unlike how your parents or friends drive; the technical aspects and methods need to be understood and applied correctly so ensure your driving instructor is inculcating those aspects. Knowing what’s expected and having being taught correctly makes the driving test a lot easier and stress free.
● You may use your driving school’s vehicle or your own to do the test, so ensure the vehicle is not just roadworthy but mechanically sound. Some vehicles are easier than others to learn and pass with.