Delan Azabani

Practical driving assessment

I'm pleased to say that I've passed my driving test with only a mere three points lost, leaving me with at least 30 months remaining in the meandering process known to Western Australians as the "Graduated Driver Training and Licensing" system. In just under six months' time, I'll be able to undertake a largely irrelevant and unrealistic computerised reaction timing test, after which I'll be allowed to drive unaccompanied, sort of.

Although I've had my learner's permit for nearly two years now, I've long procrastinated actually taking the assessments required to pass through the four stages towards obtaining a full licence. I started learning on the family car, which has a CVT, and that was pretty easy to pick up. I craved the idea of being able to drive stick, but that wasn't realised until I acquired a new Subaru Impreza to practise with. To say that it's absolutely brilliant and I love it would be an understatement. The old automatic feels startlingly mundane to drive now, as I must remind myself that there's nothing for my left foot or hand to do.

I set myself a goal of passing before my second year of university starts, and I managed to meet that deadline by just a week. Some techniques were tricky at first, like hill starts, but I quickly got the hang of it with the help of a few lessons with Brad from Allwest Driving School. A friend of mine recommended him, and I would most certainly do the same. All I can say is that he's experienced, professional, friendly, and above all a very effective driving instructor. He's totally a top bloke, and I'm not even shilling right now. That's really unethical and potentially illegal; how could you accuse me of something like that?

Also a welcome aid was Brad's recent choice of a Suzuki Swift as the basis for his dual control training vehicle. It's trivial to drive, and impossible to stall in my experience; when hill starting, you can find the friction point every time even if it isn't yet established in muscle memory, as the front of the car tends to lift up noticeably. Try that on my Impreza and you'll simply stall it before any signs of the clutch engaging, which used to be a problem for me back when I was still unfamiliar with clutch control.

With all licensing centres booked out for tests until at least May or June, I was feeling rather hopeless until Brad managed to snag a cancelled slot for me in Willagee. Unlike the "flat as a pancake" Cannington, Willagee is very hilly, but I took what I could get. The week before the test was pretty frantic and stressful, as I tried to perfect my skills, or at least, the skills assessed. It all paid off, to my great relief, and a nearly perfect score.

The main challenge is over. Thanks to our state government's Department of Transport, however, I'll still have to drive with a supervisor for at least six months, and record 25 hours of this driving in a log book during this time. Then I'll undergo a two year provisional period, in a quarter of which I will be unable to drive for the five hours from midnight every day. Pretty confusing stuff made worse by no federal consistency, and the rules have already changed a couple of times since my permit. Stay tuned for August.