How to Fail Your Driving Test

I renewed my driver’s license on Friday. The new Connecticut licenses are sparkly and my picture is surprisingly accurate, even on the alluring “Man, what a cute driver-girl” side. But never mind that, since I’m ‘Under 21 until February 10th, 2005’ and my whole license is oriented vertically for immediate identification. The thick red stripe wasn’t distinct enough? Didn’t they notice, no one has to card me to know that I’m under 21! They did let me walk away with my old license though, a keepsake.

I think going in for the new one was even better than the first time back in junior year. It was completely anxiety free, but I still felt all that excitement because it brought back the positive memories of a virgin driver. Like lucking out with a great photo, putting that card in my wallet for the first time, listening to Nelly Furtado in my 1988 Honda Accord on the way to school, the RHS parking lot dynamic, rolling the windows all the way down after school, melting Gap lipshines on the dashboard and sticking Everyday Kolor in the windows. We took ourselves so seriously in our cars back then.

Of course, all that stuff was a million times sweeter for me because I was so devastated when I failed my driving test the first time. Hey, I needed some extra practice. I took myself a little too seriously and I needed to get a hold of my driving ego before I got that stamp of approval from the government! In honor of proving myself with three successful years as a licensed driver (well, except for pushing the car into chelsea’s tree on the first day of senior year and that one minor court incident), here is the article I wrote for ‘The Voice’ after the whole experience:

How to Fail Your Driving Test

On the day of my driver’s license test at the Danbury DMV, my greatest concern was the condition of my hair. I certainly did not want it to appear anything less than shiny, voluminous and strawberry blonde in my license picture! Little did I know how much I would have preferred the stereotypically unpleasant picture to no license at all, which is what I had in my wallet on the way home on that October afternoon.

There were three major moments during my testing experience on October 19th, 2000, that hinted at my imminent fate. First, when I asked the clerk who took my forms if I would need them again that day, he joked that I would not, “Until you come back.” He though it was quite funny. I shrugged it off, oblivious to the possibility of my failure. Secondly, once I had completed the written portion of the test (I missed two—whoops) the police officer attempted to scare me by saying, “Well, you failed,” as he looked at my score. At this point, I grew somewhat nervous.

Finally, while sitting in the DMV parking lot after executing a back-in parking job, I thought to myself, these exact words: “I, from this moment forward, am a licensed driver!”

Not only did these coincidental events foreshadow the trauma to come, they made it all the more disappointing. Although the 12 minutes on the road are a blur in my memory, I know from my evaluation sheet that I failed because: A) When I was, “told to go left, [I] activated [my] right turn signal,” B) I used “no signal out of East Pembroke Road, and C) because the “operator [that was yours truly] approached junctions and made no effort to slow, stop, or check site line before proceeding.”

Never mind that this government official, besides being rude, abrupt, and completely devoid of human emotion, misspelled “sight line.”

In my defense…I was extremely nervous. In anticipating a right turn, after practicing routes during Driver’s Ed practice, I put on my right turn signal momentarily when the instructor spoke. At East Pembroke Road, I put on the correct turn signal, but the dramatic angle of the intersection caused the signal to automatically deactivate just before I turned. Finally, I was told during my final hours of Ridgefield High School’s Driver’s Ed that if I made any indication that I planned to stop my car at a place where there was no stop sign, I would fail the test. Therefore, when I approached these stop sign-less ‘junctions,’ I went against my driver’s instincts and maintained my speed to show that I wasn’t trying to stop. What else was I to do?

“So,” the inspector said after he had described my mistakes in agonizing detail, “You’re going to have to come back.” All this while standing next to the cone I had tipped over on it’s edge while parking. I didn’t think it could get any worse, until I fainted right there on the pavement. No matter how nervous you are on the day of your test, eat something before you go.

I made technical mistakes, but my errors before the test may have been even more destructive. First of all, I told far too many people that I was taking my test. I went so far as to carry a cellophane balloon from one of my friends through the halls the day before my appointment. This hurt my pride afterward, when I had to take the bus to school and break the news to everyone when they asked me excitedly, “Can I see your license?” Secondly, at 6 PM, the Danbury roads are busy and confusing enough for those who are familiar with them. An appointment at a less hectic time and a little touring and practice would have been in my best interest.

But most importantly, I did not trust my instincts. The DMV officers want to see that you know the rules, but their top priority is that you are a safe, observant driver. Had I relaxed, listened to instructions, and followed my own instincts, I would not have had to wait another two months to achieve the rights to the road.

Going back to the DMV on December 12th was a day to remember. This appointment took place at 2 PM – a much better time of day for mini-road trips in the greater Danbury area. I didn’t have to retake the written test, since I had passed it the first time. My road test lasted a long 25 minutes, but the inspector had checked off all the sections before we got in the car, and he skimmed a newspaper as we drove.

So, when your time comes, relax, but take it seriously. Listen to that voice in your head – it’s your “inner-driver,” and it usually has your best interest in heart. Be a cautious driver. But most importantly, don’t let yourself think that your lifetime as a driver depends on this one drive. Even I got behind the wheel again.

Quote of the day: “I looked above the other day, because I think that i’m good and ready for a change, and I live my life by the moon” – Nelly Furtado


October 30, 2009


Responses to this entry are most welcome!  However, please note that comments submitted by readers since January 31, 2004 and in the future do not reflect the opinions of EmLocke. I do not endorse advice posted by readers, except where expressly stated otherwise.  I am not, nor have I ever been an employee of the Department of Motor Vehicles.