Monday, July 29, 2013

one more teenage driver on the road

Driver's license, check! And only six days after turning 16 and a half. I guess you could say I was eager to be able to drive! Now I can drive myself to work and get bubble tea at my own will. My mom has been relieved of her chauffeur duties. Here I am, super giddy after getting my license.


Before work today, my mom and I went to the Gaithersburg MVA for my driving test. I tried to find information about the test beforehand, but they are pretty good about keeping everything a mystery! So now that I've gone through the whole process, here's the inside scoop on how to pass the test.

Once at the MVA, you can bypass the long intake line at driver services if you have an appointment for the road test. You can go right to another line at the "road test" window.

My examiner had an electronic tablet and stylus where he was scoring me. I couldn't really see the screen from my angle, but it looked like he was checking boxes.

First, he asked me to turn on my front lights, high beams, hazards, and turn signals, and open my windows. It's a good thing they don't ask you to pop the hood or change the tires. Then, he got into the car and proceeded to turn the temperature down to 66°C. So that made for a loud and chilly drive. Make sure to lock the doors (which I forgot), adjust your seat and mirrors, and then put on your seat belt. My examiner put on his own seat belt, but I've heard some terrifying stories about the examiner pretending to buckle in and then failing you when you don't notice. But, seriously, what kind of person tries to trick nervous test-takers? Well, you should still check your examiner's seat belt in case they are in a bad mood and feel like failing some people.

Then, he told me some generic instructions in a very slow and monotonous voice, and we drove into the nearby parking lot. First, I had to parallel park in less than three minutes. There was a concrete curb to the side, and cones with flags to mark the front and back of the space. After I finished, I thought he was going to open his door to check that I was less than a foot from the curb, but he just told me to exit the spot. So, it all remains a mystery, but I assume that I was close enough to the curb, or he would have told me to readjust.

Then I had to do a two-point turn to back into a space. It was a tight space, marked again with cones on both sides. This skill will definitely come in handy for trips to the mall. Apparently, hitting a cone would be an automatic fail, so go slowly! In the real world, I guess that would equate to hitting the car next to you while parking. Not good.

Surprisingly, no three-point turn was required, so we went on to the street portion of the test. Luckily, I had practiced the course with my mom the day before! It definitely made me more confident for the test, so I recommend driving through the course ahead of time. Here is a map of the course that I spent way too long making. Click it to look at all of the details, including tiny symbols for traffic signals.


 Here are the directions:
  1. Left from test lot onto Metropolitan Grove Rd.
  2. Left onto Clopper Rd.
  3. Right onto Quince Orchard Rd.
  4. Right onto Bank St.
  5. Right onto Firstfield Rd.
  6. Right onto Bureau Dr.
  7. Right onto W. Diamond Ave./Clopper Rd.
  8. Right onto Metropolitan Grove Rd., and back to the MVA.
Your examiner might vary the test route slightly, but it will be in the same general area. My examiner actually shortened the route for me. After step 5, he told me to turn left onto Clopper Rd and then right onto Metropolitan Grove Rd.
My driver's ed instructor also showed me a shorter alternate route that the examiner might use. It's in a more residential area, and in my opinion, much less difficult. For this one:
  1. Left from test lot onto Metropolitan Grove Rd.
  2. Right onto Clopper Rd.
  3. Left onto Pheasant Run Dr. 
  4. Right onto Longdraft Rd.
  5. Right onto Clopper Rd.
  6. Left onto Metropolitan Grove Rd., and back to the MVA.
"Automatic Fail!" and what I didn't know before I took my in-car driver's ed lessons:
  • Do not exceed the speed limit by even 1 mph for a few seconds. My in-car instructor scolded me for this and claimed it is an automatic fail. Don't feel pressured to speed up by the many cars tailgating you.
  • Do not let the front bumper of your car pass the stop line or the sidewalk at a stop sign. According to my in-car instructor this is also an automatic fail.
  • Another rule that no real drivers follow: do not stop in front of a driveway. This may cause problems if the sensor for the traffic signal is under that spot.
  • Do not change lanes at an intersection, no matter how small the intersection is.
  • Make sure to look out for the signs on the road. The examiner will ask you to identify some signs after you pass them. Most of them are speed limit signs (25 or 35 mph), but there are also traffic signal warning signs, pedestrian warning signs, and no parking signs on the course. My examiner asked me about a sign when we were almost back at the MVA. I thought we were done, so I hadn't been looking at the signs. Luckily, I glanced in my rear-view mirror and saw a no parking sign.
  • Check your mirrors and scan intersections as obviously as possible.
I was so nervous during the test that my legs kept trembling when I was stopped at traffic signals. Only pressing the pedals made my legs stop moving. And it didn't help that I had the most stoic examiner ever. When we finished the road test, he kept a blank face and gave me a ticket with a number on it. He just said, "Wait for your number to be called." So I was left to wait without knowing whether or not I passed. When my mom looked to me to see how I did, I could only shrug. But, I assumed that I passed, because it would be cruel to make me wait if I had failed. Then, everything started to set in when my number was called and I filled out the information for my license! To my dismay, they had to take a new license picture, rather than using the one from my learner's permit. When I asked if I could see the picture, the guy scoffed and said, "It's fine." Hmph. A woman would have understood and let me see the picture.

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