It was on 16th March 1935 that the very first driving test was taken. A driver in London was the first candidate, paying 7/6 for the test, which he passed. Initially optional, the driving test became compulsory later that year.
Perhaps it was not so many years later that my grandfather, who was born in 1913, made his first attempt at passing the driving test. It was always family tradition that he had taken seven attempts to pass his driving test, I never like to ask him whether the tradition was true. Whatever the number of times he had sat with the examiner, it was always a surprise that he held a full driving license.
Grandad drove with a determined manner. In his latter years, he drove a Rover 2000 at a sedate speed around the roads of the Langport area. Perhaps it was the quietness of the roads in our home area that allowed him to develop the habit of staring straight ahead and driving straight on.
There were no roundabouts in Langport in his days at the wheel so when he encountered them elsewhere, he drove in the style in which he had always driven, he would decide where he was going and continue without hesitation. Sitting alongside him one day as he drove me to Taunton station, we reached a roundabout at the edge of the town and went through the roundabout with a look neither to the right nor the left. Perhaps roundabouts had not been part of the testing process in his frequent encounters with examiners.
Reflecting on his driving style, I have decided that he was probably a man who simply did not like driving. If there were someone else to take the wheel, he would happily sit in the passenger seat
The 1935 test included much that is still tested, three point turns, reversing, hill starts. Taking my own driving test in 1984, I rolled backward on the hill start, moved out from a side road in third gear, and was less than proficient in reversing around a corner, and was still passed. I could only conclude that the examiner was a man of a more generous spirit than those my grandfather encountered.
With the passing years, I have come to believe that the sedate and steady progress that characterised his driving are not such a bad attitude. Driving to work, I now avoid the motorway, the journey is ten minutes longer, but is two miles shorter and allows me to ponder the emergence of springtime and the centuries old buildings. The only variation on his theme that I pursue is to give way at roundabouts.
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