A while ago I decided that if I was going to live in this country, I’d needed to learn how to drive. So, I took their multiple choice test to get my provisional license and figured that I’d have my full license within a year.
That was in 2006.
What I didn’t know at the time was that it’s incredibly difficult to get a license here. The national pass rate average is only 50.8%. This is probably because the scoring is kind of complex and the score card that the tester evaluates the driver with is so effing big which makes failing so easy.
A quick lesson in driving test scoring in Ireland
As you can see from the sheet, there are about 90 faults you can make on your test, and there are three degrees of faults.
If you do something foolish like, I don’t know, drive on the wrong side of the road or go through a red light, it’s a grade three fault, one tick in the red box and you automatically fail.
If you do something minor four times, you fail. Like, you forget to signal. They would tick four blue boxes in the ‘signals’ category and you fail. You can get seven blue box ticks around the sheet (as long as they aren’t in the same category). If you get an eighth, you fail.
You don’t fail with any grade one faults.
So you drive around for 30 minutes, reverse around a corner, start on a hill and navigate a turn-about and the tester ticks off any faults along the way.
Compare this to the test I took in New Jersey when I was 17 where, at the time, I only had to pass five maneuvers -- driving, stopping, parallel parking, reversing and turning. And you could fail two of them and still be issued a license. (I passed them all.) This test is a bit more difficult and why only half of the people who take the test actually pass.
In 2006 I passed the test to get a provisional license and intended on upgrading that permit to a full license within a year. That didn’t happen. In 2009, after years of driving on the wrong left side of the road, I failed my first attempt at the driving test so spectacularly I didn’t think it would be possible for me to ever take the test again. I was going to have to keep praying to the driving gods that I wouldn’t get pulled over on my American license (which, you know, isn’t exactly legal. But it kind of is.... not really, though).
Fast forward three years and I figure out that my third provisional license is about to expire and the only way to renew said license is to apply for my dreaded drivers test. I applied, took some lessons on how to do something that I had already been doing since 1998 and held my breath as I drove around Churchtown (47.8% pass rate) with an uptight but softspoken gentleman in the passenger seat. I brought my friend Lorna with me as my licensed driver and moral support and she bought me a coffee beforehand... to calm my nerves? Because coffee is known to have such calming properties? We didn't think this through.
Forty-five minutes after leaving Lorna in a coffee shop with a book about football (unexpected, right?) I came out doing a little dance. I passed. I somehow passed even though the tester criticised me and my inability to feel comfortable going around cars by driving on the other side of the road.
It all comes 'round full circle, doesn't it?