We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Definitely, my strangest driving test

By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, March 9, 2012

I will always remember the strangest driving test – which, by the way, should never have happened. Experience is invaluable. I was a rookie driving instructor, having opened my own driving school, a one car operation in the Interior of B.C.

One of my learning drivers was the son of a school bus driver, who had only one request – that he get his driver’s license prior to the family leaving town on a holiday. They lived quite a ways out of town. The plan was for Stan (not his real name) to stay behind and have transportation to and from school. The test day was set and things were going as planned. The student would get his license and the rest of the family would be able to go on the much-anticipated holiday. A vehicle was a necessity, not a luxury.

As I drove to the meeting with the student, I saw a fellow standing by the highway. It was my student. His family car was in the ditch and looked to be damaged enough to be not drivable. The road was icy and covered with snow. He said he would explain later, and wanted to get on with the driving warm up before the scheduled test.

I asked if he had his money for the test, identification and learners license. He said it was in the car in the ditch. He went to get his wallet, which was in the glove compartment. As he stretched across the front seat to retrieve it, the door slammed shut on his extended left leg. I jumped over the snow bank and helped him back to the road. He insisted that it was his left leg and he could still drive for the test appointment. He took a few Aspirin tablets to dull the pain and off we went. As we did the warm up drive, he had a chance to collect himself and concentrate on his car control, which was surprisingly good considering the preceding events.

I helped him walk into the testing station and heard the examiner ask about his obvious limp. Before I could explain, I heard him tell the examiner that his foot was asleep. He went through the test with a near perfect performance, got his picture taken and left the office beaming with pride, license in hand. Only then did I learn the real story. His father, who had consumed too much alcohol, refused to give him a ride to town. He had taken the car and attempted the drive to town on his own, against the stated restrictions on his learner’s driver’s licence. He hit a patch of ice and lost control of the vehicle.

As I drove back to the bus garage to drop Stan off and give his mother the “news” about the driving test, it occurred to me that there may be a less joyful response than I had originally anticipated. I drove in and stopped the driving school car. Stan got out on the passenger side and steadied himself. I rolled down the driver side window, in order to give Diane (not her real name) the results of the test and the events leading up to it.

I told her I had some very good news and some bad news, and some very bad news and awful news. “Your son did an almost flawless driving test and passed with flying colours. That is the good news.” She was very pleased, but wanted to know about the bad news. I responded: “His leg is broken, your car is totaled and your husband is drunk.” I made a speedy escape, leaving Stan to explain the rest of the story. Stan later became the president of the chamber of commerce, a testament to his determination and my poor judgment at test time.

Steve Wallace is a member of the College of Teachers and the owner of Joan Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and in the Interior of B.C.


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