Saturday, May 21, 2011

Life in the fast lane

I am so bloody proud to have earned a pass for my UK Driving Theory Test.
Pardon the language. Ahem.

Initially, I must admit, I underestimated it.

It was super cocky of me to think that, since almost every Tom, Dick and Harry out there has a drivers license, it can't be that difficult for me, to get one. For the past few years I've been tackling MPharm materials, surely a mere common test ain't gonna make me break a sweat?

But NO. Oh boy how wrong I was. The first time I attempted a mock theory test online, I failed with a miserable 35/50. To pass, the minimum score would have to be 43/50. I read the DSA driving book (300+ pages), and The Highway Code (150+ pages), and still managed to fail the mock theory tests all the way up to 2 days before the exam.

It was until some wonderful preregs reminded me of the miracle I'm entitled to as an iPhone user: The Theory Test AppS. YES. APPSSSSS... Many of them, FREE on AppStore. Then started a vicious round of Q&A on the train/bus/while walking for the last 12 hours up to the exam.

That saved me. In the Questions section at least. I brushed past the Hazard Perception test, almost barely to pass the entire test. Gee. All this coming from one who holds a Malaysian Driver's License, passed from 1st attempt.

I'm sure the practical exam is gonna drive me right up the wall with frustration, but I'll get to that soon. For those who are interested to get the UK Drivers License, the RIGHT way. Not the, dodgy way, you know. Here's how:

1) Get a Provisional Drivers License.
- Submit your details to DVLA, and they will post you the form.
- Fill in the form correctly, include: photo, cheque for £50, and relevant passport (with visa).
- Your 2-part Provisional Drivers License will arrive within 1 week.
- This allows you to drive under the supervision of a full Drivers License holder above 21 years old.

2) Get an instructor.
- You could find one through recommendation, or through good Driving Schools like BSM, AA.
- They can be expensive. The average price is around £25, depending on your area.
- I recommend 2-hour lesson slots, instead of 1-hour. You can wander off further, and have more time to practice your new skills under supervision. Especially you don't have a car to practice at other times like myself.

3) Theory test.
- Your instructor/ driving school will normally book it for you for free, alternatively, you can do it online.
- The soonest slot you can book is approximately 2 weeks ahead of time.
- You will need, at least "The Highway Code", which is £ 2.50 from any good bookstore.
- Practice test questions VIGOROUSLY online or via iPhone apps, and familiarize yourself with Hazard Perception videos.
- All you need for the exam is your 2-part Provisional Drivers License, and a responsive clicking finger.

4) Practical Exam.
- I will update once I have done mine.

In the mean time, if you are considering whether to obtain a license the proper way, or the dodgy way, I recommend the PROPER way.


Well why do you think so many people die in car accidents in Malaysia, especially during the festive season, when the spirit of celebration is tainted by the stale smell of blood on the highways?

This is the price to pay for the extent of bribery and cutting corners in our culture of obtaining a Driver License.

This is why UK roads are ridiculously safe to travel on. (Except late at night when most people are drunk) Because the people who holds a Drivers License, well and truly deserves it.

Price-wise, I am confident that I can obtain my license in well under £600. Although I have a target of £ 500. Here is the breakdown:

Provisional Drivers License : £ 50
Theory Test : £ 31
Practical Test : £ 62 (£75 on weekends, evenings, and bank holidays)
The Highway Code book : £ 2.50

Subtotal : £145.50

Target lessons : £ 352
(16 hours x £ 22)

GRAND TOTAL : £ 497.50

If you choose to do it the less proper way, I heard it would cost about £300+ and it takes about 2 weeks to 1 month to get it sorted out. But would you really be comfortable for a stranger to take your passport and visa, few hundred hundred pounds in exchange for only a Drivers License?

And then, go out on the roads, not knowing any UK road rules, speed limits, and restrictions. Get out there, get fined, clamped, tickets by traffic officers as a result of your ignorance. Your demerit points will eventually take your license away. Or, because you lack the knowledge to care for your car, or know how to deal with fog/rain/snow conditions, you and your car will end up in trouble in a God forsaken place.

I don't think its worth it to be honest. I feel like I have fulfilled a duty to myself to keep myself and others safe, and eventually that extra bit of money will save me from unwanted expenditure like fines, and garage bills.

However, to each his own.