Ever been in a car when the brakes fail? Halfway up a steep hill with a drop-off at the bottom is where it happened to me.
Add to that the general non-workingness of the handbrake and the fact that I had only been driving for a few months at that point and you have the explanation for my subconscious distrust of brakes (and general avoidance of hills).
No, this isn’t the reason for the mid-week quote, that’s more to do with how much our world (at least here in the West) is set up for cars instead of people. Which is in large part why I will tomorrow be sitting a driver licensing test – even if you don’t want to live a car-centric life, it still pays to be able to drive. (Legally.)
New Zealand’s driver licensing system, for those of you unfamiliar with it, has three stages. First the Learner’s, for which you have to pass a multichoice theory test, and which entitles you to start learning the practical (with a qualified driver beside you). After that the Restricted – a fairly rigorous practical test, after passing which you can drive solo (although, true to name, with restrictions). Finally there’s the Full licence test – and two years after that you can start teaching others to drive, God help them.
All of this is intended to make up for the fact that NZ allows teens to become licenced drivers when their hormone-raddled under-developed brains probably shouldn’t be given charge of anything more dangerous than an electric toothbrush (never mind a tonne of speeding metal). Even after the recent changes to up the age, it’s still possible to be driving solo by 16 1/2.
I was at the learner stage when I had my hill-side inkling of mortality (don’t ask me how I got down safely, I have no idea). My aunt had nobly volunteered to teach me the practical side of motoring, although who knows if she would have if she’d realised what a job it was going to be. (I highly recommend psychiatric nurses as driving instructors, by the way – they don’t scare easily.)
I am not at all talented when it comes to modern technologies like the horseless carriage, and have lived a mostly car-free life, which is how I’ve managed to procrastinate on sitting my full until a week before my restricted expires. That makes ten years since I got my learner’s licence – five times the minimum for progressing to a full.
I didn’t actually realise the full effect the hill episode had had on my driving until the instructor I recently drove with pointed out that I tend to overuse my clutch and underuse my brake when I need to slow at intersections. Misuse my clutch might be more what she was thinking, but she was too kind to say so.
She’s more or less broken me of that habit, but unfortunately I’ve got several years of not doing the right combination of brake and clutch in/change down/clutch out to make up for – most of my driving experience, in fact. As the saying goes, practice makes persistent.
So I’ve got to get that sorted before I sit the test tomorrow. I figure practice today, practice tomorrow, don’t get flustered, and I might have a chance. Wish me luck!
What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you behind the wheel of a car? I probably won’t see your comments before the test (practice practice practice!) so don’t worry about psyching me out – let ‘er rip!