What the L? Britain’s worst driver keeps trying
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If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. But when it comes to driving, some people should just give up.
That’s the view taken by Girls star Lena Dunham and echoed by road safety campaigners, psychologists and friends of the intelligent yet spatially unaware.
“I don’t drive,” Dunham told an interviewer. “Some people are not meant to be mothers, and some people are not meant to drive.”
Those people might include a Kent woman who hasn’t passed her test after 250 lessons.
Janine Mars, 31, a construction worker from Chatham, has spent more than £5000 ($9700) on lessons over 14 years and failed four tests. “I think I will learn one day,” she said. “I just find there’s so much to think about, what with the steering wheel, pedals, gear lever and everything that’s happening on the road. It doesn’t come naturally.”
When it comes to sitting the test, Mars is not the worst offender. A 42-year-old man from Stoke-on-Trent failed 36 driving tests before passing on his 37th go.
There is no limit on the number of times you can take your test in Britain. Figures from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency show that some people have extraordinary determination.
One 28-year-old woman from Southwark has failed the theory test 110 times, and a 30-year-old man from Peterborough hasn’t passed after 86 attempts.
Of the top 20 people who repeatedly failed their theory test, 15 are men and five are women. When it comes to repeatedly failing the practical test, women account for 14 out of the top 20 offenders.
Albert Einstein never learned how to drive, saying it was far too complicated, and anecdotal evidence suggests a number of highly intelligent people are similarly car-shy.
David Crundall, a professor of psychology at Nottingham Trent University, says people who fail repeatedly should look for possible reasons. “Two or three fails and you can attribute it to factors such as the sun in your eyes, wet roads, or nervousness,” he says. “But with people who come back for their fifth or sixth test, you will find there’s definitely something amiss.”
In Austria and other countries, psychological tests are part of the driving exam. But not in Britain, which Professor Crundall feels is a mistake.
“In this country we have medical evaluations and visual examinations for fitness to drive. But there isn’t anywhere you can go to assess the psychological aspects.”
Brian Mooney of the Alliance of British Drivers says people should be encouraged to drive more, not less, if they are struggling. “It’s like French,” he says. “The more you speak it, the better you are.”
He also wants laws to force those who fail repeatedly to seek professional help. “At the moment, there is no legal requirement to have qualified instruction,” he says. “Anyone can teach you how to drive. Unless there is a good reason not to, people who fail more than three times should be asked to take qualified instruction.”
Mars has booked a week off work to take an intensive course. “I think that’s the only way,” she says. “I’ve been having one lesson a week for years and it’s no good. I need to spend a week just driving.”