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The Lead - Up to The Irish Driving Test.
First of all let us say categorically, that passing the Driving Test is only the beginning of your driving career irrespective of how well you do on the day of the exam. It is going to take the average novice driver maybe three years of constant, regular driving, before he or she can then say “I am now becoming an experienced driver. Please notice the emphasis on the word “becoming”. Arrival on the Experienced Driver Podium will take much longer. I guess it really depends on the amount of driving one undertakes on a daily, weekly basis, the level of night-time driving, and also the traffic conditions during daily sorties will dictate how long this learning experience will take. To paraphrase Robert Oppenheimer, the inventor of the Atomic bomb….. “I am become a destroyer of worlds” This could be applied to many learner drivers who pass their Driving Test and then proceed to total their cars and those of other drivers in the weeks and months following the Test.
Passing the Driving Test is a combination of basic driving skills, positive attitude, detailed preparation, attention to detail, practise in the general area where Tests are undertaken and plenty of in-depth Instruction by a Driving School. The need for professional instruction cannot be underestimated and the insider information imparted to the pupil by the Instructor will give a Test candidate the best possible chance of a positive result. Many of these aspects are ignored by Test candidates and we will explore in greater detail what will be required throughout the remainder of the text. There are numerous details to be attended to during this preparation and if the candidate takes these on board with a positive focus, a good result with ensue.
We will have a look at the aspects of the car that need to be checked:-
Tyres……… Tyres need to be in good condition with well above legal limit tread depth and with no cuts, splits or bulges to the sidewall. The tyres with the best treads should always be on the front axle and this is something that should be regarded as an essential part of your weekly technical check. Tyre pressures should be according to the tyre specification since incorrectly inflated tyres are not only unsafe but will wear out very quickly and give an uncomfortable ride.
Lights and Indicators……All brake lights and indicators should be functioning correctly and lenses must be damage –free and clean. Its really important to carry a couple of spare bulbs in your emergency kit for last minute replacement since they can blow at any time and a failed brake light or indicator will mean that the Test will not be carried out.
Loose Items ……..All loose items in the car (and who doesn’t have them?) should be removed but rear head rests, if fitted, must be retained despite their obstruction of the rear windscreen. The fad for having dangly spiders, furry dice and nodding dogs on the rear parcel shelf is not the way to create an impression with the Driving Examiner and block vision .In fact I always cringe when I see these in cars, particularly those that are obviously driven by learner drivers. It is also a particularly dangerous sport to be driving as a learner Driver and not displaying L Plates .I am always amazed at pupils who turn up for pre test lessons in their own cars with no L plates .The number of excuses would fill the chapter of a book. It’s a sad reflection that basic driving laws are flouted continually by learner Drivers but even worse is the all too common sight of Learner Drivers under tuition with so called Instructors who actually drive out of Test Centres with no L Plates showing. It shows a disregard for the Law and the need for superb driving skills and the need for concentration. Of course mobile phones should be switched off and out of sight.
Windscreens and mirrors…..These should be crack-free and clean.
Service …….Its a good idea to have the Car serviced prior to your test and any technical problems that you have been putting off getting fixed should be dealt with .If an Instrument warning light comes on during a Test due to mechanical problems then the Test will be aborted by the Examiner.
Paperwork……..Insurance disc, Road Tax disc and N.C.T. certificate, if appropriate need to be in place and readable. If any of these are faded and unreadable the Test will be cancelled .Change of ownership of vehicles close to the Driving Test appointment, leading to lack of documentation for whatever reason, will lead to the Test being cancelled by the Tester. Nothing other than the original .official documents will be accepted so it’s important not to leave anything to chance.
Provisional License………..A current Irish provisional license is required in order to sit the Irish Driving Test, Foreign licenses from countries outside the EU will not be accepted .It is also worth pointing out that in order to be issued with a Provisional Licence one must first pass the Driver Theory Test. All these aspects take time to complete and so it’s not something that you can accomplish in a couple of days and require thought and planning .Details of the provisional licence and theory test requirements can be found on the Astral Driving School web site; details at the end of this article .
Perhaps all of this might seem just another load of bureaucracy but it indicates the importance and the level of concern that is placed on the acquisition of an Irish Driving Licence by the Authorities. European legislation continues to fuel the changes to driving laws and there are a considerable amount of new laws in the can which are about to be rolled out. We are talking about Speed cameras Nationwide, the full implementation of the penalty points system, a dedicated Garda Traffic Corps, and mandatory tuition in line with most other European Countries. The regulation, examination and monitoring of Driving Instructors is another aspect currently about to be introduced and all of the above is destined to make a coordinated improvement to our horrific road Traffic accident statistics.
The Driver…. There are occasions when, when on the days leading up to the Driving Test disaster strikes… a change of car, a mechanical problem which cannot be resolved in time, or even an accident on the way to the Test. This latter happened to a pupil of mine recently, who, while trying to circumvent the long Driving Test waiting list by driving half way across the country to a strange Town, had a contretemps with a rather large truck. The moral here for Irish drivers is that it is not a good idea to attempt a Driving Test, miles away from your home location. It requires a good deal of practise and familiarisation of the area and test routes close to your chosen centre to give you a good chance of passing first time.
What we are not saying is that practise on Test Routes will guarantee success nor are we saying that by practising on Test Routes till the cows come home will take the place of good basic skills and professional Driving lessons .It is just one of the ways that a keen learner driver can tip the balance in his or her favour. Another important tip is to reconnoitre the general area in the few days before the Test and again on the day of the Test if that’s possible to check for major road or building works which could create a difficult situation that may not be handled to the Examiner’s satisfaction.
In Limerick as in many parts of the Country there are significant building, drainage and other projects going on continually, resulting in much road network disruption. In fact I have often felt that Limerick was the most dug-up City in the Universe. I am sure it’s all necessary and we will all benefit in the long run. It is not uncommon for a really excellent pupil who has all the hallmarks of becoming a courteous and skilful driver and who is deserving of Driving Test success to fall foul of such situations during the Test and pick up a grade three disqualification. Stray dogs, stray Pedestrians (of whom there are many) and particularly very young children playing in quiet side streets all present very real and demanding hazards during the Test.
All of the above hazards can be planned for and an in-depth preparation for the Driving Test covering all the points mentioned will go a long way to achieving success.
We are going to end this article as we began by stating that passing the Driving Test is only the beginning of a career on the road and that it would be a good idea to contemplate taking some additional Night-time and Motorway lessons before embarking on any long journeys or adventures. There is an ever increasing army of novice Drivers coming onto the roads here in Ireland and this will continue to grow in line with the population increase we are currently experiencing .All new immigrants should regard it as a top priority to take professional Driving lessons and certainly not leave this until a couple of weeks before the Test appointment.
About the Author
About the Author.
Robin Piggott is the owner of Astral School of Motoring which is based in Limerick, Ireland .He has thirty five years of Driving Experience and has driven Professionally for most of this time, including teaching in house.