From Permit to License, Part 8: Full Circle

During the February school vacation week, my son and I went out on the road twice. The first was to practice driving in inclement weather, which turned out to only be a light drizzle. He was able to successfully navigate both local back roads and a portion of our nearby interstate with the windshield wipers set to intermittent.

The second excursion was arranged to be a review of the items that will be on the Massachusetts RMV license road exam, which my son had decided to schedule for the month of April, giving him (and me) 6-8 weeks to hone his talents.

This was intended to be a review of what he had already learned, but it wound up serving as a reminder that inexperienced drivers need to engage in regular repetitions in order to master the skills needed to pass a licensure test.

My son had no difficulty backing up in a straight line, although I did need to remind him to use his right turn signal when pulling over to the curb. Similarly, his three-point turns were flawless, and he has remembered to come to a complete and full stop prior to crossing the solid white stop line ahead of stop signs.

The difficulty, as with so many young drivers, manifested itself at the parallel parking test location. Despite having performed this task on numerous prior occasions, my son could not get the proper feel for when to cut the wheel while backing into the space. The first time he waited too long, and the second he turned the wheel too soon. Finally on the third attempt he managed to execute the drill successfully. Of note was that two other families were also using the test lot behind the RMV that morning, and we all kept taking turns using the parallel parking test area. All of the teens practicing seemed to face similar challenges.

After some coaching, my son was able to remember the correct procedure for a hill start. Again, the use of turn signals was a problem, but the actual steps such as engaging the parking brake and turning the wheels toward the curb were not an issue.

However, that is not to say everything is rainbows and butterflies. When practicing parking in a lined space in a parking lot nearby, my son drove over a small patch of ice left from a previous week’s snowstorm. The car slipped a bit, and wound up in a slightly crooked angle. Ever the anxious parent, I audibly (and regrettably) let out a brief gasp. 

My son was not appreciative, and responded, “Your making that noise will not make me drive better.” I apologized for the outburst, explaining that I was still new to being a driving instructor. Then I  had him back the car up and redo the parking exercise. This time the car was straight and we both felt much better for the experience.  

Afterward we agreed that we would need to go back out and practice the exam sections--especially the parallel parking portion--a few more times before the April test. And despite my nervousness, I reassured him that he was doing fine and had my full support. I came away feeling as though I had failed a much more important test, but promised myself I’d work on improving. 


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