Reversepilgrims Blog

a northwest family moves to the UK

dazzled and confused April 4, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — reversepilgrims @ 11:34 pm

The good news is that we both passed the theory and hazard perception tests. Two down, one to go.

I attribute our success to the countless hours spent glued to the laptop screen taking practice tests. My favorite questions are the ones about using “dipped headlights” to prevent “dazzling” oncoming cars. (I didn’t even know you could dip a headlight before I moved here.) When I read those questions I can’t help but picture a driver sticking their arm out the window and jiggling their spread-eagle hand with a huge fake smile plastered on their face. Good times.

The bad news is that we still have to take the driving test. Unfortunately there is no laptop involved this time.

People ask me what is so hard about passing a driving test. These characters usually fall into one of two categories. They are either people who hold a British driving license and took the test about 30 years ago OR they are American. In response to both groups I would like to present Exhibit A: a photo of my husband making the universal sign for ‘what the @#$?’

The British folks are likely wondering just what the problem is and the Americans are wondering what those signs mean.

For my American friends, the sign means that the national speed limit applies here. The national speed limit on a single carriageway, like this one, is 60 mph. There are rarely middle of the road speed limits posted here. You are either in town with a posted speed limit of 30, or out of town where it is 60 mph. (The signs on the opposite side of these is 30 mph, clearly fair warning for drivers coming the other way that they are entering a village.) The motorways are 70.

Does 60 mph seem appropriate for a road like this? (insert raised eyebrows, cockeyed lips and tilted heads here) Now I know that the Brits are saying, of course you wouldn’t go that fast around a corner like that, and they would be correct in quoting the Highway Code. You are supposed to be reasonable and adjust your speed to meet the road characteristics and conditions. But for those of us who are used to relying on a 10, 15, 20, or 25 mph sign indicating the maximum speed limit for the turn ahead (with the speed you actually plan to take the turn then calculated in a split second using a complex equation with variables like ‘who else is in the car’ and ‘if you feel lucky’), a sign indicating a top speed of 60 is a bit vague.

We should just stop our sniveling and get on with it, say the Brits, but those self same scoffers are clearly not planning to pay someone to climb in the passenger seat, critique their driving and hand out a verdict anytime soon.

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3 Responses to “dazzled and confused”

  1. Kathy Says:

    LOVE these posts about the driver’s licensing and road rules. We have not tackled the DL issue and after reading your posts aren’t sure if we are going to! I suppose we will choose to live dangerously and pray we aren’t pulled over.

    Your writing is so entertaining!

  2. Caity Says:

    I’m a Brit (born and raised here) who took her driving licence test six years ago. It took me three times to pass, and I’m by no means a bad driver! My parents were infuriating because they had taken the test over 30 years ago, and I’m their eldest – I would have LOVED to have paid for my Mum to take the test again so that she could see for herself just how many ridiculous ways it is possible to fail.

    That said, I do think having signs at every corner (every corner!!) specifying how fast to take it is a bit much – how then do people actually learn road sense?

    Good luck on your test 🙂

  3. Driving in traffic is more than just knowing how to operate the mechanisms which control the vehicle; it requires knowing how to apply the rules of the road. An effective driver also has an intuitive understanding of the basics of vehicle handling and can drive responsibly.


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