It was a damp, muggy evening in an industrial estate typical of recessionary Ireland. Along the black vastness of an empty car park, a small, blue Fiat carefully careened its way around corners and abandoned warehouses.
“Get out! Quick! Get out of the car!”
Without asking any questions, I threw the driver door open, and tried to jump from the car… while the seatbelt was still intact. With my escape momentarily halted, panic began to set in.
“Wha-I can’t… What’s wrong?”
“There’s a huge spider right above your visor!”
And with that, I lost all reason.
A broken seatbelt, bruised shoulder and angry girlfriend later, I was left to reflect on the farce that was my first unofficial driving lesson. Not that it was my fault, but anyway.
The driving system in Ireland also shares that touch of farcical comedy. Consider those who fail the National Car Test (NCT).
“Sorry sir/ma’am, but your vehicle is unfit and has failed the NCT. Now, take your unworthy car, drive around for a few days/weeks/months, get it sorted and come back again. Have a safe drive home.”
Similarly, what are the rules surrounding those who are in possession of a learner’s permit but fail their driving test? They drive home, still learners and blissfully unaccompanied.
I would like to propose a simple solution.
On the day that I take that fateful exam, I will be bringing the mother. She is fully licensed, full of good advice, and if, God forbid, I feel the pangs of hunger during those stressful 40 minutes, she will be on hand to whip up a sandwich. Maybe there will be one for the stern-faced examiner too.
“Left here please.”
“No bother. Butter or mayo?”
If a miracle eventually happens and I pass, I can have a pint and she can drive me home, or vice versa. And when I finally decide to become a rally driver, who better to have in the front seat?
But the legislation that is being forced upon learner drivers in this country, to me, are almost as ridiculous as Mario Balotelli’s hair, which looks like a speed ramp on top of a smooth hill. We now have to take a day-long driving course, not to mention the additional costs of pre-tests which mount the already huge cost of learning to get the bite point – when the plates of the clutch connect as the clutch pedal is released.
Dublin’s roads have been declared the safest of all EU capitals. This is despite the fact that drivers who haven’t had at least 12 driving lessons use our roads. How can we be sure they even know how to brake?