There is a big misconception about the average road test. It's not just a driving test. It's also a checking test. The examiner is checking to see if the driver is checking.
All of the skill-related tasks are less important than the actual act of driving. The examiners will always be keenly observing the driver's skill and safety throughout the road test.
Parking tasks such as the parallel, hill, reverse stall and simple pull-over park are much less important than the actual care and control of the vehicle at all speeds, in everyday traffic.
Most people taking the road test, however, give far too much weight to the skill-related parking activities.
They are careful to be a certain distance from the curb, for example. But the examiners are watching for other items. They want to see the candidate for a driver's licence signal, scan and check the mirrors and blind spot before pulling off the road. Once the parking manoeuvre is completed, the driver must make a 360-degree check, followed by the signal, scan, mirror and blind-spot observation, before safely pulling away from the curb.
Many new drivers are far too concerned with the distraction of the parking manoeuvre to notice whether they are in a low-speed school or playground zone. After they have done a superb job of parking, the examinees often fail the road test because they do not notice a sign warning of a lower speed zone.
When asked to do a U-turn, two-point or three-point turn, many new drivers are concerned with the skill necessary to negotiate the space requirements, rather than the observation techniques needed to safely complete the tasks.
This same checking format, signal-scan-mirror-blind spot, must be done when pulling off or onto the road when executing the straight-line backing manoeuvre, hazard-perception identification and open-door-safely exercise. There will be 15-20 opportunities to do a 360-degree check on an initial driver's road test in most every jurisdiction in North America.
Examiners will also be checking to see that new drivers look both left and right at every intersection, crosswalk or side access to the road travelled during the road test. They will be careful to determine whether the new driver has a clear view at obstructed visibility intersections. The examiners will be checking the stop position of the vehicle at each and every intersection, especially those where two stops are warranted because of limited lateral visibility.
It really does not matter much if a driver is a little far from the curb on a parallel park, or backs onto a line marker in a reverse stall park. Even if a driver turns the wheels the wrong way on a hill park, no failure results. What really matters is the care and control of the vehicle and the accompanying observations executed during the road test.
Everyone who attempts to qualify on a driving test should be a proficient driver.
Sadly, that is not always the case. If a person is not a good driver, it's best not to attempt the road test. If the candidate is a safe and skill-ful driver, all that remains to ensure success is a rigorous checking regime.
Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and in the Central Interior of B.C. He is the former Western Canadian vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas and a certified B.C. teacher.
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