Sorry -- driving test cancelled
My son has been learning to drive this summer, and had his test booked for just before he went back to university. Then, with less than 24 hours notice, the Driving Standards Agency rang to cancel: the driving tester was ill.
For those of you reading this outside the UK, the British driving test falls into two parts. The first is the “theory test”, which is a mixture of “hazard awareness” simulations and multiple choice questions on the Highway Code and basic driving skills. The multiple choice questions tend to run along these lines:
You see a small child about to run across the road in front of your car. Do you
a) Shout at it to get out of the way
b) Accelerate, as fast as possible, to give it a chance to cross safely
c) Do an emergency stop
You feel like a cigaratte while driving. Do you
a) Keep going, but try to reach onto the back seat for the packet of Marlboro Lights you think you left there
b) Speed up to get more quickly to the nearest lay-by
c) Stop when it is safe to do so
The right answer is almost always the one containing the words “stop” or “cautiously” (as in “proceed cautiously”). "Accelerate" or "speed" are usually wrong. I can't see much harm in rubbing in the idea that being slow or stationary is a good thing; but the whole exam isn’t really that much of a challenge.
The practical test is something else, and it includes horrible exercises like “reversing round a corner”. That’s the equivalent of the Latin gerund: not used all that much in real life but a stinker to perform correctly if you have to.
Anyway the son had got to peak performance for this and then the test was cancelled.
Part of my objection was the money. I had discovered that extending the insurance on my humble (but new) Vauxhall Corsa, from one careful 50+ lady driver to a 20 year old male learner would cost almost much as buying another car for him practice on, insured at the legal minimum. In retrospect, I think that buying another car might have been a good idea. But instead he did the whole thing on lessons: 10 hours in the last pre-(would-be) test week.
The letter, giving an appointment for a new test (in 7 weeks time, no less) said that the DSA would “repay all reasonable claims” resulting from the cancellation. But I suspect that means just the fee for the Driving School’s car over the period of the (cancelled) test – not all those extra lessons running up to it.
There’s also the issue of personal inconvenience, psyching oneself up etc etc. I mean, in the university we don’t say to students: sorry your viva’s been cancelled because the examiner is ill. We have contingency plans. And just imagine the stink in the Daily Mail if we didn’t.
The DSA, it seems, is running on the equivalent of Thatcherite 100% bed-occupancy in the NHS. Everything looks OK till you have a flu epidemic and then it’s NO BEDS and you have the elderly dying in the hospital corridor.
In this case it works OK until one of the examiners gets ill. Then there is no question of a stand-in examiner (a veteran brought out of retirement, someone “on call”, let alone a staff examiner ready to plug the gap), or of adjustments later in the week. It’s back to square one, and a test in almost two months as if you’d never booked one in the first place (and all those revision lessons all over again).
Sometimes “efficiency” means leaving a bit of slack in the system. It may make you look under-employed at the margins. But at least you have a Plan B when stuff happens.