Driving test from ’80s less complex

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Need to know more now: teen driver

We begin our series on the driving licence system and how it is perceived by teenagers in Oamaru with an interesting exercise. Road safety co-ordinator Elton Crane gets young driver Lance Schaffer to turn back time.
Lance Schaffer is 16 and holds a restricted licence. He volunteered to attempt the practical aspect of a driving test from the 1980s. Although Lance passed the test, he scored two poor marks, including one for excessive speed.  His initial impression of the 1980s’ test was that it did not really compare with what is expected from young drivers today. ‘‘The timeframe and the simplicity of it — it’s not as detailed or involved as the new restricted test,’’ he said. ‘‘All you had to do is drive round, make sure you indicate, don’t go too fast, and you pass.’’ When he was learning to drive, Lance learned the core skills — ‘‘the basics on how to multi­task, how to drive well and drive in sticky situations’’ — on his family farm. ‘‘It was quite different to town driving, where everything’s a lot more fast­paced. All you’ve got to worry about on the farm is sheep going in the opposite direction.’’ Skills learned on the farm needed to be translated into the real world. This meant dealing with road rules and other road users. ‘‘On my learner’s, I did the majority with Mum and she didn’t talk as much as other parents do, like freaking out. She just sort of sat there and let me figure out my own mistakes, which was really good.  ‘‘I knew the basics — I just had to apply the rules.’’ During the 1980s’ test, the testing officer marked Lance’s demeanour as ‘‘over­confident’’, which can be typical of young men. A level of confidence is necessary when driving, though it needs to be managed.  Lance’s opinion is that ‘‘you’ve really got to have confidence in yourself to stick with your decisions. Even if it’s a bad one, just go round the block and try again. If you don’t have confidence, you’re going to stop in the middle of the road and freak out. You don’t? Farm driving gave me years to build up my confidence ?
— Lance Schaffer want to do that. ‘‘Farm driving gave me years to build up my confidence. It must be hard for some town guys to just build it up off the block.’’ Lance believes the graduated licence system is ‘‘quite good’’. ‘‘I think that the restricted licence, if you practise well and get driving lessons, is easy to get. I think the timing [18 months or 12 months if you complete a defensive driving course] is quite long and a lot of bad habits can creep in over that time.  ‘‘To an extent, driving lessons are the best way to go because it goes through that detail that you’ll get a critical error on, which you really need, because if you make a little mistake, that’s it. ‘‘To get my learner’s, I did the AA $20 tests and they’re really good. I didn’t bother with apps because I’ve heard stories about them and the questions are a bit different to what you get. If you get the prepaid ones, it’s plain sailing to get your learner’s.’’ He said there was one key piece of advice he had taken on board. ‘‘One tip [AA driving instructor] Sue Gardner gave me, I’ve been amazed by it since the day she told me. You don’t centreline hug — you make sure the centreline is in the bottom right corner of your windscreen and that gives you a metre on either side of your vehicle.  ‘‘That’s such a good tip.’’