We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Tests challenge drivers, examiners

By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, September 2, 2011

Driving tests can be a stressful experience, but preparation on the part of the driver can go a long way toward making the examination a successful one.

If someone asked you to drive all day in an unfamiliar car, with a person you had never met before who had a restricted learner’s driving licence, would you do it?

There are people who do it every day. In fact, they may do it as many as nine times a day. They are driving examiners.

Their job is difficult and rewarding, with the potential for disaster at every turn. The examiners do not set the criteria for a pass or fail result on a driver’s test. That dubious responsibility lies with the government or their delegated authority.

The examiners assess the driving candidates on a relatively strict number of predetermined tasks.

The first of these tasks is a demonstration of the vehicle controls by the person about to take a driver’s test. After a visual inspection of the vehicle, the driving examiner will ask the candidate to start the vehicle.

Tooting the horn, flashing the high-low beam headlights and making sure the signals and brake lights are operational are all part of a pre-trip routine prior to the on-road test. Examiners are concerned when these elementary tasks cannot be performed properly. If a driver cannot locate the basic controls, what will their driving be like? Every examiner realizes how nerve-racking a driving test can be, even to an experienced driver. These testers are instructed to smile as they introduce themselves to anyone who is about to be tested. Putting the driver at ease is part of the job, but if a driver has no knowledge of the most basic vehicle controls at the beginning of a road test, the examiner is well within his or her rights to discontinue the testing process. I once had a student who was so nervous she forgot how to start the vehicle on a driver’s retest, despite having driven safely for 30 years. Never underestimate the stress of a driver’s test.

Every examiner will tell the person being tested how the test will unfold. The examiner will not trick the person being tested or ask any driver to do anything illegal. Ample time and warning will be allowed for the performance of each skill and safety manoeuvre. Drivers being tested are encouraged to ask for clarification of instructions at any time prior to or during the trip. Experienced examiners will actually point left or right when giving the instruction to turn. Many people are apt to confuse the right and left direction on a driver’s test. Examiners are not permitted to tell candidates how to perform a task.

Examiners will keep track of mistakes on the test. Most experienced testers will record a mistake well after the fact, so as not to telegraph the indiscretion or unnerve the driver being tested. Just because a tester is writing does not mean a mistake has been made. Examiners must record all sorts of administrative information on every test sheet. Positive comments often appear on a test sheet.

Some tests are aborted for various reasons. If there is an obvious lack of skill or safety, the examiner has a duty to end the drive and return to the testing station immediately.

At the conclusion of the test, there will be time to have the result given and explained by the examiner. The examiner will plainly state that the driver being tested was successful or not successful. Drivers are well within their rights and encouraged to ask for clarification of the results of the test. Appeal processes to supervisory staff on site are in place if the test result is to be contested.

Driver testing is stressful for everyone, candidates and testers alike. The better prepared a driver is for the test, the less stress will result for both driver and tester.

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

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