Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Learning to Drive

Thirty five years after I took my first (and until now) only driving test, I took a driving lesson yesterday. The whole UK driving license saga started a few months back. One can only drive for one year on a foreign license here in the UK, so even though I hold both an Israeli and California drivers licenses, it appeared that I needed to go through the whole arduous process of getting a UK license. This means sending your passport off to Swansea for a few weeks to get a "provisional license" - this enables you to drive with a qualified driver. Then you are to study, sign up, and pass a theory test (including a "Hazard perception test") before you can take the practical driving test.

A few months back after rereading the application instructions for the tenth time, I realized that there may be a loophole. Holders of South African drivers licenses can just transfer their licenses (at a cost of GBP50) with no tests, nothing. The small print does say that holders of a "Book of Life" type license are ineligible, you must have the credit card license or submit an appropriate "proof of eligibility". Now back in 1978 when I got my SA license, there was no such thing as a credit card type license. I figured I would try my luck and sent off for a "proof of eligibility". I was pleasantly surprised when a few weeks later two proofs of eligibility for an SA license showed up (signed by different people). Happily I sent these off to the merry folks at the DSA in Swansea, only to find that UK bureaucracy is way ahead (they have had hundreds of years to perfect this). I received a curtly worded reply stating that they were "terribly sorry" but my application was invalid because my letter of eligibility did not include an expiry date. Back I wrote to the SA licensing department begging for a letter with an expiry date. They sadly informed me that this was not possible unless I came to South Africa and applied in person for a credit card type license. Oh and that process takes up to three months.

Sigh! So I bought the "UK Highway Code" book and a DVD to prepare for the theory tests and yesterday had my first driving lesson in thirty five years (courtesy of my relocation package). Well, it seems I should not be allowed on the road. I don't naturally MSM (mirror-signal-manoeuvre), don't check my blind spot when parallel parking, coast on the clutch too much, have no idea how to do a "reverse around a corner", and don't keep 2 secs distance (4 secs in the wet weather yesterday). It seems I need to learn to drive all over again. Maybe I'll just take the train from now on.

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