Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Getting Behind The Wheel

Ever since we arrived in New Zealand I was aware of a skill I would have to learn sooner than later, something I had no inclination for at home, driving. Having always lived in Belfast city centre or extremely close to it, I had never needed a car to get to and from work and had never taken to getting into a car behind the wheel.

I remember my first 'lesson' many years ago where I'd asked my Mum to show me the basic manouvres in the cul-de-sac where we lived. No sooner had I turned the ignition and made the car jolt forward and stall, my lesson was over. She retreated back to the house in a panic and it would be many years later before I sat in the right front seat again.

I relied on friends to take me places where we were going, aware that this freeloading would someday have to come to an end. I would have to learn how to drive.

Our car in New Zealand, like a lot of the cars here, is an automatic. It does not suffer jolts forward when the ignition is turned and there are no gear shifts to master. Naturally I will not be able to drive a manual but Lou is very content with an automatic and I suspect future cars, regardless of my ability to learn manual, will nevertheless be automatic.

I'm not entirely sure of the process of theory tests in the UK and Ireland but in New Zealand it is a very straight forward process. Firstly, it is recommended that a road code booklet be purchased ($25) and studied. As I have been a passenger for many years and observed the rules of the road, most of the booklet is straight forward in terms of how to drive and behave on the road. The only things new to me was with regards to tire thickness legality, stopping distances and what to do if your car breaks down on a motorway (Flip up the bonnet and pop the boot).

The test itself is called a 'scratch test' as it is 35 multiple choice questions, 32 of which must be correct for you to pass. Each question has 4 possible answers with a foil square hiding 3 X's and a tick. 25 questions make up the first section of general road usage while the last sheet with 10 questions tests your extended knowledge of the road and vehicle with more technical questions such as the aforementioned minimal tyre thickness (which is incidentally 1.5mm).

The application costs $40 and the test is the same again with 30 minutes to complete. I didn't time myself but I estimate it took around 15 minutes at most. (In case you're wondering, I passed).

I was given a sheet of paper indicating my learner status until the licence arrives in the post in a weeks time. The best thing about applying for your theory test is, much the same for New Zealand's form of MOT, the Warrant of Fitness, you can just walk in and do it - no booking or hanging around.

My brother Keith took his theory test around a month or so ago in order that he could share the driving with his wife Jenny as they made their way around the country. She also had to take the test so she could legally supervise his driving as a front seat passenger and I'm sure she's loving it.

So, in a short time, I will be, to steal a literary title, On The Road.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Jenny said...

Hey, nice one - I didn't know you had taken your test! Congratulations, and I hope you enjoy learning.

Skry is doing great on the roads up here - he has done nearly all the driving since we left Abel Tasman and headed up to Coromandel. I have no fear at all of being his supervising driver :)

12:35 pm  

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