In the September issue of Newslink (the MSA GB members’ monthly magazine) Tony Phillips, MSA GB Greater London, discussed in his column the driving test trial. One section stated: ‘Upon entering a side road which is a two-way road but is heavily parked on both sides with no immediate passing places, you see a removal van stopped in the middle of the road and just about to commence loading. What would you do?’ He was suggesting that the best course of action would be to do a manoeuvre you wouldn’t usually recommend, mainly reversing out of a side road on to a busy main road. Otherwise, you could be sat there all day!
In my mind’s eye I was immediately transported back to Arkley Road in Herne Bay, Kent on a pleasant spring day – the day I took my own driving test. I had just turned left off King’s Road, down Stanley Road, and as I passed King’s Road School, where I had been a pupil, I was asked to turn left into Arkley Road.
I was all over this ‘like a rash’; I knew the area like the back of my hand. The 1st Herne Bay Scout HQ was just coming up on the left – I’d been a cub and scout there but, of course, now I was 17 I had left all that behind. I was about to pass my driving test.
I had done the three-point turn and the reversing round the corner and the hill start (on the downs), just the emergency stop to go and then it was back to Sea Street, a few Highway Code questions, a couple of road signs and I would have a full driving licence.
Arkley Road turns sharp right before it gets to the scout hut. As I turned I gulped, I probably swore: parked cars on both sides of the road and slap bang in the middle of the road, not a furniture van as in Tony’s scenario, but a big red fire engine.
I looked at the examiner – he looked at me. My eyes, my whole face, beseeched him for help. I was in too much of panic to actually speak. He cast me a sympathetic look – at least I think it was sympathetic it could have been exasperation – he uttered those time-honoured words: “do what you would do if you were on your own”.
So I reversed back down Arkley Road, crossing over the Give Way lines on to the main road. For the five or 10 minutes it took me to drive back to the test centre I could think of nothing except ‘had I done the right thing?’ Back at the test centre my agony was exacerbated while we waded through the Highway Code question routine. Finally, the wait was over. The examiner uttered those wonderful words “I’m pleased to tell you, you have passed.”
He added. “By the way, you dealt with that fire engine really well…”