Life in the US: Driving Test…

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This may not sound like a magic moment story, but bear with me!

We’ve now been in the States for a year!

There are many positives to this, however there was one huge negative… I could no longer put off sitting my driving test.

There are many things to get used to when you move to a new country.

New house, new schools, new friends.

Where can I get bread that isn’t sweet? How do I prove to the bank/RMV/doctors that I live here when nothing is in my name? Where can I buy knickers that will be up to M&S standards? What are garbanzo beans? What brand of washing powder/baked beans/loo roll should I buy? Why can I not find an equivalent to Petit Filous (and find myself buying yogurts with flavours like Cotton Candy, Raspberry Rainbow and Blue Raspberry Lemonade instead!)? What is a swimming bubble?

I was very nervous about driving on the other side of the road when we first moved, but it quickly became the new normal as I negotiated school runs, play dates, shopping and activities.

When you have kids you don’t have the luxury of pleading ‘it’s too hard’.

Initially we were able to drive, and get insurance, on our UK licences. But, as residents, we knew we had to get US licences – and that had to happen before our car insurance was up for renewal.

In the way of the very best procrastinators, we put it off as long as possible, until the pressure was really on!

Hubby kindly agreed to do it all first – to warn me of the pitfalls to help me through the process…

First off, you must get your Learners Permit. This involves a multiple choice theory test, in which you must get 18 out of 25 questions right. This would be simple if it stuck to rules of the road, however, it’s a Learners Permit – therefore it is assumed that you are 16 and must know all the penalties that you will incur should you drive unsupervised/at night/with passengers, speed or drag race, as a Junior Operator.

I can now tell you exactly how many days your licence would be suspended for any of the above infractions, on a first, second or even a third occasion! And how much you would need to pay to get it back…

Sadly, it has been some time since I could be described as a ‘junior’ anything.

Of course, just to add to the confusion, all stopping distances etc. are in feet. White lines and yellow lines are reversed and all junctions are yellow boxes, minus the yellow boxes.

And, don’t get me started on 4-way stops.

Thankfully, we both passed the theory test!

Getting to sit it in the first place was my biggest challenge as I struggled to meet the ID requirements… Specifically, proving I was actually a resident – for ease of admin when we moved, everything was in hubby’s name – for anyone about to go through this process, make sure at least one bank/utility account has your name on it!

Next came the practical driving test.

Now, I have to admit, I found myself a little annoyed frustrated by this.

I can completely understand the need to learn the Drivers Manual (equivalent to the Highway Code). The rules of the road are subtly different, you need to know about school buses and emergency vehicles and how to negotiate a 4-way stop when you arrive at the same time as someone else (my tactic is to slow down if it looks like that might happen…).

But, if I’m initially trusted/allowed to drive on my UK licence, why do I have to sit a practical test to get my State licence?

You know what it’s like when you try to think about something that has become so automatic, you immediately forget how to do it. And to have to prove you can drive safely 22 years after you sat the test for the first time…

Stressed much? Oh, yes.

Again, hubby sat the test first – and passed. The pressure was now on me!

A key element was manoeuvres – namely a three point turn, parallel park and straight reverse.

As a matter of principle, I don’t parallel park, and in the land of the car – there really is no need to! The thought of failing my test by cocking it up though was too much, I’ve spent the last two weeks practicing them!

On Saturday, at 11.30, I sat my test.

I can’t remember the last time I was so nervous about something. Ridiculous really, but you just never know – and something as simple as hitting the kerb in your three point turn, or making a mess of your parallel park could mean game over.

And, there were moments when I really did feel like I had forgotten how to drive!

To sit the test you need a car that has an accessible emergency (hand) brake and a sponsor to sit in the car with you. In our car the handbrake is a ‘foot operated parking brake’, not exactly accessible! So, the simplest thing for us to do was use a driving school in order to get a car and a sponsor. This meant I had never driven the car before…

We were sent out in twos, so a lovely and rather nervous young girl, asked me if she could go first. I think I probably sounded like her mum when I said, of course you can, whatever makes you feel comfortable… She completed her test perfectly – in calm, distraction free, silence.

My accent proved too interesting to ignore, and most of my test was carried out while having an in depth conversation about moving to the States – despite the fact that this was a little distracting, I figured that engaging and showing that I was able to comfortably drive and have a conversation at the same time was probably a good bet!

My best moment was forgetting to put the car in reverse in my three point turn (!), although as I pointed out to the examiner, I wouldn’t have got very far…

But being able to focus on the twenty questions in addition to instructions, was clearly a winner – I passed!

And that is my magic moment for this week :)

I am linking up with the wonderful Jaime at The Oliver’s Madhouse – why not hop on over and take a look at some other magical moments!


When looking through photos to write a post for the lovely Charly at Podcast the one picture I kept coming back to was the one of the back of my Learners Permit, proving that I had indeed passed my test! So, I have updated this post to include the image! Hope that’s not cheating too much :) So, I am also linking up to What’s the Story? To see other stories behind the picture, click on the badge below.


32 thoughts on “Life in the US: Driving Test…”

  1. Congratulations! I so needed to read this right now! I’m a Brit about to move from New Zealand (where I’ve been living for 15 years) to the USA – and I’m dreading the whole driving thing! Good advice about ensuring some utilities are in ‘my name’ too! Many thanks!!

  2. Congratulations, I was extremely nervous about driving over here too but picked it up pretty quick. We didn’t need to pass a driving test though and just had to exchange our UK licences, although that was a huge relief at the time it unfortunately means the driving standards here in Ontario are pitifully low because of the amount of immigrants!

    1. Thank you! It was so silly, I’d been driving quite happily for nearly a year over here, but I was sooo nervous about being tested on it! I believe it varies from State to State… Part of me still wishes I hadn’t had to do it!

  3. I was feeling sick just reading this. I took me 3 attempts to pass in this country and 20 years later I still can’t and don’t even try to parallel park. Well done you, I would have been a nervous wreck #whatsthestory

  4. Such great news Sara – congratulations, I’m really chuffed for you. It sounds like its been a lengthy and stressful time. Always weird doing things in another country that you’re not familiar with. Must feel quite invigorated now! Thank you for linking up with #whatsthestory

  5. Fantastic well done you – and I would say you had to work harder with all that chat whilst yo took your test! I do have one question though – what are garbanzo beans??
    Congratulations and most definitely a magic moment to be proud of xx

  6. MASSIVE MASSIVE congratulations honey! i would absolutely be petrified if i had to re set my test!! well done you! x

    Thanks for linking up with #MagicMoments

  7. Yay congratulations Sara really well done, that is no mean feat., I have driven in the states ONCE! on roads that were full of those 4 way stops, I swear I nearly cried. When we got to our destination I was a nervous wreck. I refused to drive for the rest of the trip ha :)

  8. Of all the countries in the world, the US must top the list in terms of you must be able to just jump into a car and drive. I love the country. Congratulations on passing a test in a relatively new environment.

    1. Absolutely – everyone drives, everywhere – I am known in our town as ‘the woman who walks’! People will say, oh, I know you, I’ve seen you walking…! Thank you so much – it was pretty nerve wracking!

  9. Brilliant! Well done you! I always feel sorry for people from the US starting contracts here as they have to do a test too. So glad I don’t! :D

  10. sandinmytoestk

    Congratulations! We’ve moved to Dubai almost three years ago, and I still haven’t gotten around to getting my license, because they are notoriously tough to get here. Here from #MagicMoments

  11. Congrats on passing! It isn’t easy and I am so glad that I didn’t have to sit my test at home in Canada as they have this and graduated licensing which is even more annoying than the states. I take my hat off to you, its not easy and talking when you are trying to remain calm and concentrate is hard.

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