The Wildcat Tribune

Tips to Pass the Driving Test

Michael Tobin, Web Editor

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The Pleasanton DMV used to be one of the last places teenagers in the Tri-Valley would want to go to get their license.  That was because the toughest driving examiner in the history of mankind worked there – a man everyone simply called “Scary Larry.” Well, okay, maybe this is a bit of an exaggeration about Scary Larry (aka Larry Chan), but rumor has it that he did fail ALOT of teenagers.  So when Scary Larry announced his retirement two years ago, after working 20 years for the California DMV, it was big news amongst us teenagers.  The Contra Costa Times newspaper published an article about it, titled “Scary Larry, a driving test examiner with a reputation for failing grades, retires.”  Despite the fact I knew I would no longer have to worry about facing Scary Larry when I signed up for the exam last August, I was still very nervous. One reason is that the Pleasanton DMV is situated in an area that has several complicated intersections that are often used in the test.  Especially tricky are the ones that have right turn lanes that split off in a Y shaped fashion that are sandwiched between two different traffic signals:  a signal light immediately to the left and a merge sign immediately to the right. Like deciding which parent to listen when one tells you to do the opposite of what the other told you to do (usually they are unaware of this), you feel like the law is going to crack down across your shoulders regardless of what you do.  Also, the Pleasanton DMV examiners have a reputation for being especially tough on the crosswalks and the bike lanes.  “Touch the painted white line of a bike lane or turn into a crosswalk with a pedestrian (no matter how long the crosswalk is or how far away the pedestrian is relative to your car) and its game over man,” one of my friends warned.

So with typical test anxiety, I drove my car up to the designated starting area in the DMV parking lot and waited for the next available examiner.  About five minutes into the wait, I looked up and saw a man dressed in a dark t-shirt and faded jeans, and sporting straggly shoulder length hair, approach my car.  In a loud voice, he said, “Good morning, Einstein.  Ready to take your test?” “Why was he calling me Einstein?” I wondered, and “was that a good thing or a bad thing?”  Although Einstein was one of the greatest physicists of all time, he definitely was not known for his good looks. Then it dawned on me that my Hawaiian t-shirt had a small picture of Einstein in the upper right corner.  “Well, at least he seems very friendly,” I thought of the DMV examiner.  Then the man proceeded to offer me some strange advice, which confused me even more.  “Remember to turn right when you want to go right, and turn left when you want to go left, and you will do just fine,” he instructed.  Before I could finish pondering how bizarre the man’s comments seemed, he crossed back over to the curb side, picked up a discarded cigarette butt off the street, popped it in his mouth, and then disappeared around the corner.  Whoa, just as the “I don’t think that was the real DMV guy,” light bulb went on in my head, another man approached my car and he was carrying a clip-board.  This guy did prove to be the real examiner, and so my behind-the-wheel exam officially began.

Approximately thirty minutes later, I found I did pass the exam, with only a few minor errors marked on my score sheet.  For those of you already through driver’s education and driver’s training and are now almost done with the required 50 hours of supervised provisional permit driving, you may be wondering, “What exactly will the DMV behind-the-wheel test cover and how will they score me?”  The behind-the-wheel score sheet actually consists of three parts:  the Pre-Drive Checklist, the Critical Driving Error section, and the Maneuvers evaluation section.

In the Pre-Drive part of the test, the examiner doesn’t yet get into your car.  He stands outside your parked car and asks you questions to see if you know how use the turn signals, emergency flashers, windshield wipers, defroster, horn, etc.  He will also quiz you on arm signals.  Your car itself will also get looked over too.  The examiner will not get even get in your car if the headlights, brake lights, seat belts, or turn signals aren’t working.  To pass the exam, you can make no more than 3 errors in this Pre-Drive section.

The remaining two parts of the exam, the Critical Driving Error section and the Maneuvers evaluation section, begin as soon as the engine is turned on and you and the examiner exit the DMV parking lot.  In an approximately 4 block radius around the DMV, the examiner will spend the next 20 minutes grading your driving skills.  To pass the exam, you not only must have no more than three Pre-Driver errors, but also zero Critical errors, and less than sixteen Maneuver errors.  In part two of this two part article, which will be published in the next installment of the Wildcat Tribune, I will go over the eight critical errors the DMV says you must avoid to pass the exam.  Words of advice will also be offered from fellow DVHS students who already passed the exam.  Future drivers stay tuned!

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Tips to Pass the Driving Test