Wednesday, August 5, 2009

How We Passed the Road Test for Driver's License on our First Take

Here in Ohio, in order to obtain a driver's license, you need to pass two examinations: the knowledge test and the driving test. Passing the knowledge test for me and my husband was a breeze. All the information was written on the booklet that the BMV gave out. I read it twice and memorized the important points. Alvin actually got a perfect score. I got one mistake, too bad, hahaha. Then we made a schedule for the driving test. The earliest date that we could get was after one month. That, for me, was ample time to be confident on the road. Driving within Cincinnati and doing 2 hours going to Pennsylvania and another 4 hours from Maryland to West Virginia gave me that needed boost in morale. We also interviewed and obtained tips from friends who took the exams.

Anyway, the road test consisted of two parts as well: the road test and the maneuverability test. I did well with the road test, having gotten used to driving in small roads, main roads and freeways. What almost killed me was the maneuverability test because the Mitsubishi Endeavor was so wide that I kept on hitting the left poles. On my third try, my husband was already calling home and asking my little angels to pray with their aunt that I will succeed, otherwise, I will flunk the test. I was also bombarding heaven with my own prayers as the inspector alighted the Endeavor and checked the poles to see if I knocked down the marker or caused the marker to be bumped off the painted red square (which will give me an outright failure score of 26). Anyway, just for an overview, there is a Road Test Scoring Sheet that the inspector carries with her. There are equivalent points that they deduct for every error you make in both the Road Test and the Maneuverability Test.

So for the Road Test, the greatest deduction is 15 points which they give for following errors: Failure to yield to pedestrian and failure to yield to other traffic. The rule is that when you see a pedestrian step down on the road, even if you can still pass by, you must stop and allow the pedestrian to cross. Yielding to other traffic requires knowledge of right of way especially in intersections with 4-point Stop Signs. Other point deductions are as follows, 10 points if you follow too closely or if you violate speed limit. My husband got a deduction on the speed limit thing because when he crossed an intersection the speed limit suddenly changed from 35 to 25 mph. He just slowed down but only managed to reach 32 mph. I guess he was driving at speeds between 35-40 mph (a 5 mph over the speed limit which is still allowable). When it was my turn, I made sure I stepped a little on the brake to bring down the speedometer between 25-30 mph. That was a blessing because I got no deductions for the road test, which gave me enough leeway to make two mistakes in the maneuverability test as I will explain later. Anyway, other minor errors which will cause you 5 point deductions are: failure to properly check traffic before pulling into traffic, straddling lanes or driving in center of road, changing lanes without properly checking traffic to rear, making unnecessary stops on roadway, improper steering (erratic, weaving), improper braking (too early/late, jerky), driving too fast/slow for conditions, failing to stop in position to see in all directions, failing to look in all directions, improper observance of stop sign/traffic light.

Just a note on STOP signs especially for fellow Filipino immigrants who are not used to this STOP sign. The inspector really wants you to make a complete stop just before the sign before you proceed. However, stopping too long will also cause points to be deducted on you. So some would suggest saying S-T-O-P for the right interval before moving. What I do is to step on the brakes, look at the right then at the left, then proceed if clear. As for the traffic lights, there are "opportunity right turns" whereby you can turn right on red signal if there is no sign indicating that you can only turn right on green. Opportunity left turns on the other hand means that there is no left green arrow for you but only green sign. So you need to allow approaching cars going through the intersection first and can only make a left when the intersection is clear of approaching cars. This can be quite tricky especially if the traffic light changes too soon and there is a long line of cars coming from the opposite direction.

Additional errors that will cause you 5 point deductions are failure to signal change of lanes, failure to signal turns/stops, improper signals (wrong, too soon/late), improper approach to turn, improper speed (too fast/slow), driving into improper lane, turning too wide/short, or improper vehicle position to turn. Again all the information on the proper way to do all these are written in the BMV manual. So if you are the obsessive-compulsive type who really sticks to the rules, you will pass the test with flying colors.

Minor errors that will cause 2 point deductions on the road test are failure to use windshield wipers and/or defrosters (so do not take the test during winter or on a rainy day so you do not have to worry about this), spending too much time starting engine, selecting wrong gear, staying in the same gear too long (yes, you guessed it right... you will make less mistakes with an automatic), not releasing emergency brakes, not starting/stopping smoothly or stalling vehicle, or hesitating too long for conditions.

Now for the maneuverability test, this is how they will deduct points from you: 2 points if you stop to check progress, 5 points if you do not stop in parallel with the course or misjudging stopping points, 10 points if you strike a marker (which I did twice!) and 26 points (a failure because you should only have 25 maximum points for deductions) for the following dangerous actions: knocking down the marker (which I thought I did!), bumping a marker off the printed square (again, I thought I also committed this... apparently almost, but not quite), traffic crash or any dangerous action. They give immediate failure if you get involved in a traffic crash, you perform one of the above dangerous actions, make serious violation (red light, stop sign, yield to traffic and others), refuse to follow instructions or unable to follow instructions.

Well, to end the story, when I made my third try of backing up to the course markers, I finally did it. Praise God! Having passed the test after one take is such sweet glory and I am taking efforts to share the content of the Road Test Scoring Sheet in a very detailed fashion so that others will not have to take it twice, thrice or even enroll in a driving school just to pass the driving test. One very helpful tip that was shared to us is that when you back up the car, make sure both your hands stay on the steering wheel. This was a very useful piece of information because my husband and I are used to backing our cars with the right hand behind the passenger seat. We would have flunked the test have we done just that during the backing up phase of the maneuverability test. Thank God for sending His angels in the guise of families and friends. :)

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