Spare A Thought For The Driving Test Examiner

Let us have a look at the test from the examiner’s point of view. It might prove illuminating. Details will be as they were when I last conducted a test. It is slightly different now, with changed appointment times that sound more like a train timetable, and slightly altered test content. Essentially it is still the same, though. It has been since 1935, and seems likely to remain the same in essence, for the foreseeable future.

We each did nine tests a day then, reducing to eight in winter due to the shorter days. On Fridays in the Metropolitan Traffic Area we did only seven, for some reason no-one seemed able to discover. The shorter day was extremely welcome, and there was a lot of bitterness when it was increased to eight.

The daily appointment times were 45 minutes apart, with an extra 15 minutes for an (unofficial) morning break, and an hour for lunch. There was no break between 2pm and 5pm. There were no evening or week-end tests.

By the time you got to the car, doing the eyesight test on the way, you were already seven or eight minutes into the test period. With around five minutes for the highway code questions at the end, and a further five minutes needed to get back to your office desk, plus another five minutes for the full written report if it was a “fail”, you were already left with an insufficient 22 minutes for the driving part. It was easy to find out that it was insufficient because if you did a full route yourself, doing everything properly, no speeding and all the manoeuvres etc, it usually took 20 minutes. You can’t expect a candidate to do it in the same time!

Officially you were forbidden to cut a route, in the interests of uniformity. You were forbidden to go off route or you lost the “umbrella” of insurance and backing if anything went wrong. You were also forbidden to be late for the next appointment. Clearly these “prime directives” were in conflict. In practice, depending on the area around a test centre, few tests completed a full route. It was also possible to be so late from a test that there was insufficient time to conduct the next one, so it had to be cancelled, but this caused an inquest, so you went out and just ran late, unless you were able to recoup the lost minutes by further cutting a route.

Most examiners fervently denied cutting routes, because it was forbidden. Noticeably however they were out much longer than usual when on a “check test”, with the supervisor in the back!

You were, therefore, constantly breaking the rules, and laying yourself open to criticism from higher up, just to get the job done. It was still possible at lunch time to have five full “fail” write-ups to do, thereby losing your lunch, and one or two more at the end of the day. There frequently simply wasn’t time to do them between tests when, anyway, you were supposed to be relaxing so as to go out for the next one “with a smile on your voice”.

So next time you drive along at 25mph where it is safe and legal to do 30, when you take five minutes to do the turn in the road when it can be done in one minute, and when you turn left instead of the requested right, not to mention the occasional stall – spare a thought for the examiner!

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