As some of you may know, when I originally started work for the LAS five years ago, I really wanted to be a paramedic, and working in the control room was an interim measure until I passed my driving test.

I soon hit a stumbling block when I discovered I was actually completely terrible at driving. I also found that I enjoyed working in the control room a lot more than I expected, particularly when I was promoted to allocator earlier this year. I would also find the pay drop from allocator to student paramedic totally crippling, as I live on my own in London and have a lot of student debts. In short, the paramedic dreams and driving lessons kind of fell by the wayside.

However, 2009 has been a year of everything miraculously going right for me, and therefore I decided to give my driving test a fifth and final try. If there was any time for me to pass, it would be now. After all, compared with some of the things I’ve achieved this year, it should be a breeze, right? On the other hand, if I failed again, I could say with certainty: “Okay, it’s time to give up. I tried my hardest and I couldn’t do it and now it is time to stop wasting my time and money.”

Of course, life always presents you with the one outcome you didn’t bargain for. I failed – but I failed by a whisker. I failed on the sodding reverse around the blooming corner, even though I know this is a manoeuvre I can perform in my sleep. I failed because I was so bloody nervous that my leg was shaking like an epileptic and I couldn’t control the clutch and the car hopped all the way round the corner and up towards the kerb, and then I panicked and lost control of the steering and stalled the car and it was a TOTAL MESS. Then we drove on and I pootled happily around the North Circular and round Charlie Brown’s roundabout taking the third exit with white van men and kamikaze drivers in beaten up Escorts cutting into me and failing to utilise any signals. I did a perfect turn in the road and sailed up and down Woodford New Road without breaking the speed limit. I pulled off a hill start in heavy traffic. Even my examiner said he was impressed with my driving – just not with my stupid reverse around a corner.

If I had been a miserable failure, it would have been easy to say “that’s that” and quit with honour. It would have been an easy decision to give up wasting £20 a week (the price of a ticket to Brighton, a bottle of champagne or two posh eyeshadows!) on driving lessons. I would never have had to face a £10k pay cut in order to become a student paramedic. I could give up the dream of driving an ambulance, knowing I was chasing something that was never going to happen, and concentrate on what I do have instead.

But I was so close…

And “Nee Naw 2: From Room to Road” is a book that is just itching to be written.

So I think I will give it one more go. In a few months’ time, though. I think I’ve got enough to be getting on with at the moment.

Published Aug 14, 2009 - 43 Comments and counting

43 Comments on “Driving Test”
  1. Flash Bristow Says:

    Apparently this comment is too long so I'll split it…

    Sounds like you went to the Wanstead test centre. The routes there are a bugger; go for the Loughton one (but get a bit of practise in that area first). Much nicer roads and a car park at the centre so you don't have to maneuvre to get started. (I have taken tests at both centres.)

    I sympathise with the nerves. I too can't handle driving tests. Every time I failed it was something different and down to nerves, so it wasn't something I could improve before the next test. I was dry wretching, panting and shaking, it made it harder to control the car. So I know how you feel. All I can suggest for that is that you get the earliest test you can in the morning so you don't have the day to work yourself up. Just eat a banana for breakfast or something simple. And do some deep calming breathing.

  2. Flash Bristow Says:

    … continued …

    I speak from experience; it took me 7 tests to pass. You need regular practise and lessons as often as you can afford them, and if you find the examiner is being a bugger (I had one that took against me, long story), ensure that a friend or instructor sits in the back, as is your right. You may find that suddenly they aren't marking you down as badly.. miraculously I passed when I did that. Went from lots of marking down to an almost clean sheet and a pass.

    Good luck! Don't give up.

  3. Suzi Brent Says:

    Thanks! Yes, it was Wanstead. I have done Loughton (and Chingford) in the past, though. The reason I chose Wanstead is because it doesn't have a car park so I don't have to worry about bay parking, which I was terrible at. TBH I would have failed this test even if I'd been in Outer Mongolia with no other cars around because the other traffic didn't bother me – it was just the stupid reverse around a corner.

    Anyway, thanks for the tips :)

  4. Rob Says:

    Good luck with that!

    I'm currently studying to get my C1 so I can drive the ambulances! And I currently work in the police control room at Hendon! It's a lot better to be out on the road! (Although that 10k pay cut isn't going to be nice during the first year! But hey, it's not all about money!!!)

  5. Chapati Says:

    You should have bribed the examiner with chocolates to let the reverse round the corner slide ;-)

    Only kidding…

    Good luck next time :D

  6. Flash Bristow Says:

    Oh ok! I hate Wanstead because you might end up parked in a tight spot which is hard to get out of when starting the test… at Loughton you just get there early and reverse in so you can drive straight out.

    Anyway I'm really sorry you failed, I know how gutting and frustrating it is, and I hope you keep going!

    Incidentally when I finally passed I signed up with the Institute of Advanced Motorists, they taught me how to be a better driver and I passed their test 9 months after getting my licence. It reassured me that even though it took years to get my licence I AM a good driver, in fact better than most people out there. Plus it means you can get cheaper insurance!

  7. Sarah Says:

    I just failed my second test by touching (not even mounting!) the kerb behind me on a parallel park. I didn't even get any minors for the rest of the test. Keep going!

  8. domino Says:

    I failed my test when I realised about ten minutes in that I'd forgotten to put my seatbelt on because I was so nervous. Couldn't do a blessed thing right after that.

  9. Elliott Says:

    Don't give up on your dreams….

  10. Suzi Brent Says:

    … said Alexandra from X Factor.

  11. Suzi Brent Says:

    I should have said that I'd dedicate my book to him and send him a free copy.

  12. Nelly Says:

    That brought me right back… that shaky leg thing – it was absolutely horrendous. I passed on the fourth go just before I turned 40 and took about twelve years to get there. I've been driving now for fifteen years. Don't give up.

  13. Elliott Says:

    @ Suzi….. Never watched X Factor (last time I watched it was when the girl had the dancing Border Collie…). Don't give up…. you were so close this time… so very close….

  14. Carl Says:


    Dont worry, just remember that there are A LOT of people in the same situation as you, the driving test (and the lessons not to mention cost of lessons on the way to getting there) is one of the most nerve-wracking, emotional experiences a person can go through however once you pass, it is euphoric to say the least. After reading your post, I can only sympathise with what your going through as it took me 3 attempts but the one thing that kept me driven to succeed was the fact that once I finally got that license, it would be mine forever (unless I do something silly) and would open up alot more opportunites not to mention ease of travelling.

    I wish you the best of luck, keep your chin up and I hope your next blog post beams with the excitement that comes with passing that dreaded test!

    Kind Regards


  15. bluekieran Says:

    I used to get very nervous on driving tests too; so did my Mum. She passed by taking valium before the test, but I didn't fancy that and just kept at it. Eventually passed on my eighth try – in an area I'd never even been driven around before.

    I didn't so much get over the nerves as learn to drive even when nervous, but whatever the reason I'm very glad I got it in the end. I see no reason why you shouldn't too.

  16. harry Says:

    I got the wobbly feet thing on the ambulance driving assessment (having already had to pass the driving test and the minibus test and the c1 test to get there) it was awful. stalled it at the first give way, coming out of an ambulance station, in an ambulance and in front of people, felt like quite the noggin. and then shot through the next one too fast. somehow pulled myself together, nailed the reverse round a corner, revved the hell out of a hill start and scraped a 'satisfactory'

    I found the way to overcome it is to be more assertive, grab the steering wheel 'by the horns' and remind yourself you're totally determined to show them the best driving you've got. Good luck.

  17. Guy Says:

    Good luck Suzi, finding your blog interesting since I was shown it by a friend when I was in bed with Swine Flu (don't worry I didn't call you!!!)
    Looking forward to the book and "NeeNaw with Blues" in the future.

  18. greenandblue Says:

    It took me 3 times to pass my driving test, when I eventually did I managed to do so with not a single fault and in only a half hour test (instead of the normal 3/4hr). I swear it was all down the fact that I spent the entire test talking to the examiner about roundabouts in foreign countries (mainly France and America). It relaxed me and probably distracted him from picking up on any faults!

  19. greenandblue Says:

    It took me 3 times to pass my driving test, when I eventually did I managed to do so with not a single fault and in only a half hour test (instead of the normal 3/4hr). I swear it was all down the fact that I spent the entire test talking to the examiner about roundabouts in foreign countries (mainly France and America). It relaxed me and probably distracted him from picking up on any faults!

  20. Katherine Howell Says:

    Go Suzi! You will get there and you will be GREAT!

  21. Jasper Says:

    It might be a good idea to go to your GP and ask for a few tabs propranolol. Next to being used for hypertension it is also used for performance anxiety off-label. It doesn't reduce concentration like valium does (which isn't even allowed while driving) but reduces tremor and sweating.

    Just be sure to try it a few days before your actual test.

  22. DodgyBrain Says:

    hi Suzi, dont give up.
    i only passed my test 3 years ago (aged 32) and it was test No 6!, the only thing that helped me this time was bachs rescue remedy! and like you said could not do bay parking how ever many times i tried! (now spend my life parking in bays over and over again) the only thing i can think was different was i kept talking to myself talking through the steps rather loudly, did apologise to the examiner before hand and said i was not swearing at him but at myself and to ignore it lol and now able to drive my disabled son (motability car) and larger parking bays (disabled spaces help cause they are bigger lol) so keep your goal in mind and good luck for the next one x

  23. Flo Says:

    Hehe, this reminds me of the film "Happy Go Lucky" :-)
    Best of luck with your driving…don't give up the dream of being a paramedic!

    And regarding the money…you don't do the job for the money anyway, focus on the job and you'll be apples!

  24. Driving instructor Says:

    Sorry to hear you didn't make it this time, as you said you were so close, so just keep working on it, don't give, and I'm sure you will make it. Even if you decide not to take a pay cut, being able to drive is a very useful life skill to have.

    I wish you all the best.

    The Driving Instructor

  25. BikerGeek Says:

    So sorry to hear about not passing your driving test. Best wishes for next time.

  26. Lanes Says:

    Is this a driving test specifically for Ambulances, or just your general drivers licence?

    If this is for just your everyday drivers licence, then you don't need more lessons, all you need is practice. I'd say by now you know every rule like the back of your hand and know what to do – it's just actually doing it without sweating a bucket.

    Get your friends and family to help out by getting you to drive whilst they supervise whenever there's a need (assuming your laws allow you to do so). Even popping up to the shops is good practice.

    The more practice you have at being behind the wheel, the more confident you'll be, and the easier you'll pass your test – and the more useful you'll be if a hazard ever presents itself whilst you're driving!

  27. Matyas B.-H. Says:

    Hi Suzie!

    Do you drive a C1 category vehicle on your driving lessons? If yes, could you please send me the name of the place or the driving instructor, as I will have my driving assessment soon and I would like to prepare myself for it? Thank you in advance. And joining to the others: don`t give up, if you`ve put so much efforts and energy for/into it. Hopefully next you will succeed.

    PS: In case you don`t drive the C1, could anyone recommend a place/instructor, which is affordable and have an Ambulance sized vehicle to practice with? Thank you, M.

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  29. Margo Says:

    I sympathize – I took 3 goes topass my test – I used to pass mock tests with my instructor with flying colours, but nerves let me down when I did it for real! (I gave myself mild whiplash with my first test due to doing a VERY good emergency stop when very very tense!)

    I'm convinced I eventually passed becasue I was stressed about other stuff, and hadn't any stress left over to panic about the test!

    Good luck with your next try.

  30. Keith Says:

    Get a good instructor {not a what we call in the trade the bottom basement brigade} and youll pass first time. In driving instruction ,like most things, you only get what you pay for.

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  32. doozergirl Says:

    I also failed multiple tests with exactly the same complaint – crippling nerves which meant I couldn't keep the clutch down due to a bad case of disco knees. Quite a few people I knew had the same problem and reccommended (and did) the same thing – anxiety medication from the GP. 1 Beta blocker later, and I'm the proud owner of a pink licence, not a green one. Now I would never advocate taking prescription meds to enhance performance etc on a regular basis, but I think part of the problem is the examination itself. Many people can drive fine, but lose it on test day because of anxiety. It's the single most stressful thing I've ever done, and I don't know if your examiners were as soulless and evil as mine, but they do NOTHING to help you. Anyway, that was my experience. Please do try again, and the best of luck.

  33. allan Says:

    good blog i hope you dont mind ive put a link on my blog to yuors. Keep up with the driving youl get there

  34. Janiegotagun Says:

    I'm with Elliott, you get one shot at this life and if being a Paramedic is what you ultimately want to do then don't give up the dream….

  35. Carly Says:

    Do it, re-test for that driving test! I am in a very similar situation, I have a conditional offer with LAS for student paramedic and its dependent on me passing my C1, which I have now failed 3 times because of silly mistakes!!! I totally sympathise with you, I'm chasing the paramedic dream too. But you can do this driving test, it will happen when its ready :) x

  36. TRTMH Says:

    it must depend on where you take your test cos YEARS AGO when I did mine I messed up reversing round the corner and the examiner passed me cos I knew exactly the distance I was from the kerb when he asked!Anyway,who on earth ever reverses round a corner???

  37. Miles Says:

    I failed my test because my examiner was a cunt…………….

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  39. Dawn Says:

    Just failed my third driving test today, down to nerves and stupid mistakes again. I have been having lessons for well over a year, I rarely miss any and my instructor tells me I'm perfectly capable, but the test conditions get to me everytime. I actually did much worse on this test than the one I took three months ago – with that I only had four minor faults until I was asked to do a bay park when I arrived back at the test centre and cocked it up, I was so gutted. That proves it's my nerves that are letting me down. I have booked another test in a month's time, so here's hoping I'll be luckier then!

  40. wozza Says:

    youll pass when youre ready to. dont panic

  41. wozza Says:

    hi dawn. try taking kalms or go to a herbalist? and get a mixture for your nerves. this seems to work for most of my most nervous of pupils

  42. M@D Says:

    I am going for test number 3 in a couple of weeks time… First test I got terrible shaky legs whilst doing my manouvres and actually clipped the curb whilst doing my reverse round the corner but did not fail my test for this! Second time got terrible shaky legs during my manouvres again! But failed because I could not see some give-way lines on the road (very faded) so should have treated it as a unmarked cross road… Both tests I had less than 4 minor faults! Planning on taking some Remedy Relief next time and hoping to pass! Good Luck!

  43. mathewsteff Says:

    Hi Suzi,

    Hats off to you for you patience!! That's very good effort from you. I think that people should never give up things, rather than they can achieve it and then think "Was this so Easy to do?". I do live life with this saying "Never Give up" since the task might have taken up by some one and he too had passed it then why cant i? So things are very natural and we have to do it in a natural way rather than Unnatural way!!!

    Nee Naw
    Nee Naw was a blog about life in the London Ambulance Service control room. It was written by Suzi Brent from 2005 to 2010. The blog is no longer being updated, but the archives will remain here.
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