Learning from Six Failures
“US is a country on wheels, especially outside major cities and in smaller towns
across the Midwest. If you cannot drive, you will miss seeing much of the US
culture and lifestyle.” Ms. Wang said. You will never guess from her smooth driving
that she failed the driving test six times.
1 year ago, Ms. Wang arrived the US as a visiting professor at the University of Missouri.
She had never considered driving in China, but when she came to the Midwest U.S.,
she realized she was helpless without a car. She had to learn to drive simply to get
to work, send her daughter to school, and even buy food.
Similar to China, the driving test in the U.S. includes both a written and road test.
Ms. Wang had no problem passing the written test, but the test behind the
wheel did not go so well.
Ms. Wang had never learned to drive in China. “I purchased a car and started to practice.
I had heard all cars outside China had automatic transmissions, simply turn the steering
wheel, step on the gas and go. However, to me it was as difficult as piloting an airplane!”
Her first driving test began with a mistake. She started the car, pushed the gas pedal
– but the testing officer asked her to stop. She had not checked the rearview mirrors.
Once on the road, she turned onto a narrow two－way street but was not watching for oncoming traffic. The officer had to yell “Stop!!!”
Next, she drove to an intersection, noticing no pedestrians, she proceeded without
coming to a full stop. This mistake ended the test.
After the first failure, Ms. Wang reviewed the traffic rules and reminded herself to pay
more attention to the details. She was quite confident going into the second exam.
But her mistake had occurred before the test began — she completely forgot to put on her seatbelt! “Don’t hit the gas if you’re not wearing
a seatbelt.” The officer exclaimed. On that note, Ms. Wang stopped the car in a panic,
and forgot to signal her lane change. It was not going well.
Ms. Wang took the road test six times in all, and found many different ways to fail.
The more she failed, the more nervous she became, and the more details she overlooked.
After the third failure, she had to go to a compulsory driver training. When she finally
passed the road test – on her sixth attempt – she was already too exhausted to celebrate.
Experienced Drivers Also Struggle
Mr. Chen immigrated to the U.S. half year ago. He had been driving in China for 10 years,
saw all types of road conditions – be it the superhighways, rutted dirt roads or jay crossing
on busy streets.
He was confident the written test would be easy for him, not to mention that he could chose
the Chinese version. So he quickly skimmed the driver’s guide right before going to the test
center and finished the exam based on his Chinese driving experience, and guessing. He got
15 of 21 questions wrong, failing the exam.
Three days later, after studying the driver’s guide several times, he passed the exam.
The written test was difficult enough, but the road test was even more daunting.
The nightmare of three road test trials was unforgettable.
Mr. Chen’s first road test was failed because of DEER! Yes, deer! In America, cars yield to
not only pedestrians, but also deer. As experienced as he was, Mr. Chen had never imaged
a situation like this – Several deers walked across the street right in front of their car, the
instructor yelled, “Slow down and stop!”
In the second road test, Mr. Chen swore his could yield to deers. He got on the car,
remembered to fastened seat belt and started the car. Everything was going well until the
car jerked all of a sudden. He drove through a ditch right beside a construction zone.
“I should have slowed down!” Mr. Chen regretted. Before long, the car approached an
intersection. Noticing some pedestrians were about to cross, instead of stopping the car
to yield to the pedestrian, Mr. Chen sped up. When seeing the instructor took notes on that,
his heart sank. By this time, Mr. Chen’s hands were all wet. When a fire engine drove by,
Mr. Chen completely forgot to slow down, which concluded his second driving test.
Ashamed and embarrassed, Mr. Chen picked up the driver’s guide again. This time, he
reviewed it word by word and he passed the third road test. “No matter how skillful I am,
I still have to learn the driving rules in the U.S.,” Mr. Chen summarized.
You May interviewed two experienced driving instructors about getting a U.S. driver’s license.
Teresa Woodgate owns a driver training school in Cheboygan, Michigan. She not only
teaches new drivers but also has been a road test officer for 13 years.
Eclipse is a private instructor in Columbia, Missouri. He has helped more than 20 Chinese
drivers get their U.S. license.
YOU MAY: What advice do you have for new drivers?
Teresa: A reliable private driving instructor is the key for learning to drive well. Many
experienced drivers don’t know how to teach driving. However, in a few hours of lessons,
a private driving instructor can help you learn the skills to pass the road test. Look online
for reviews of driving instructors before you decide. The best instructors have years of
experience and high ratings from many students.
YOU MAY: What do you think is the hardest part of the road test?
Teresa: A good driver doesn’t need super skills –it’s not a race. The key is to be very careful and cautious. Almost anyone can memorize the
written rules, but good driving habits are harder to learn. Some foreign drivers have poor
English and can’t communicate with instructor or road test officer. If there is language
barrier then bring a translator for taking road test.
YOU MAY: What common mistakes do Chinese drivers make?
Eclipse: I see Chinese drivers make the same mistakes over and over –it’s easy to see who learned to drive in China just by watching them on the road. Most of
these mistakes are enough to fail the road test!
1. They don’t wear a seatbelt.
2. They change lanes without checking their blind spots – sometimes without looking at all.
3. They don’t stop at the stop signs. Road test officers expect a full stop and check both
directions before driving on.
4. They don’t take turns at a 4-way stop. They think “me first” not “first come, first go”.
5. They don’t yield to pedestrians. They expect pedestrians will get out of their way.
6. They don’t pull over and stop to let police cars, ambulances and fire engines pass.
7. They don’t signal when changing lanes or turning.
9. They don’t pull over when there is a police car right behind them with flashing lights, and
they don’t know to keep their hands on the wheel when the policeman checks them.
10. They don’t really understand that American traffic laws are all about respecting life
and staying safe.