Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson

Clarkson on: driving tests

Before Quentin became an estate agent and drove around talking about people's fireplaces, he lent those dulcet tones to a programme called Driving School. You may remember it.

It focused on people learning to drive and it made a star of Maureen, whose mouth was on upside down.

Sadly, she never did get the hang of driving, but that didn't matter; some civil servant in beige trousers handed over a document saying that she was legally able to drive a Ferrari F40 on the Snake Pass in winter.

Well that's just brilliant. And Maureen isn't alone. There was another woman in the programme who, having passed her test, had another lesson because she wasn't confident enough. She wouldn't be, driving around with a dog the size of a wildebeest in the passenger seat.

Oh, how we laugh... right up to the moment when someone just like dog-woman ploughs into a primary school playground, killing 30 under-fives.

I'm sorry, but every day I see people in cars who were born to be on the bus. Hunched over the steering wheel, airbag an inch from those half-filled hot water bottles they used to call breasts, they peer into the gloom, looking neither left nor right.

Tom Cruise could be in the car alongside, waving his meat out of the window but these people wouldn't dare sneak a peek. They're driving along, petrified. And petrified means ‘turned into stone', by the way.

They can't look in a mirror to see what's behind, they can't glance out of the side window to see what's alongside, they just plough on, oblivious to the mayhem in their wake.

I found one of them yesterday doing 30 on an open, sweeping A road. The sun visor was pulled down behind her head which meant, of course, she had no idea I was overtaking when she began - with no warning whatsoever - to turn right.

"I’m sorry, but every day I see people in cars who were born to be on the bus"

We've all seen this and we all assume the police should be more vigilant and aggressive; but be realistic. Even if they do pull someone over they'll find it impossible to charge them with ‘sitting too far forward'. Or ‘doing 30'.

No. To attack this we have to get to the root of the problem - the driving examiner. I have some sympathy with these poor souls. Think about it. If you are scared half to death while someone is taking their test, you'll pass them. That way, there's a very small chance you'll meet them coming the other way on a dark night.

If you fail them, there's a very large chance that, in six months' time, they'll be back, ready to scare you to death all over again.

Here's the solution. First, anyone who fails their test three times is simply told that they may not apply again. They must accept that they can't drive, in the same way that I have now accepted that I'll never be an astronaut or a lesbian.

Second: anyone who has not passed their test by the age of 25 shall not be allowed to do so. Let's face facts here. If you're so disinterested in driving and cars that you allow eight years to slip by without trying to get a licence, then you are just never going to make a good enough driver.

Fact: if you are not interested in something, you will be no good at it. Proof: I am no good at cricket.

Basically, the driving licence will become a privilege and not a right, and in order to get one, I'm afraid that the test will need to be modified. You'll still be expected to brake sharply and reverse round a corner; town driving will remain to ensure you have good spatial awareness.

The written test will survive too, and don't worry if you live in Norfolk or Cornwall. I have no proposals for motorways to be on the curriculum, so you won't have to come to England.

However, you will be taken to a circuit which you will be expected to negotiate in a certain time - nothing mad; just fast enough to make the tyres squeal on the corners. We need to see that the car doesn't scare you and that you're able to take it to the red line once in a while.

We don't want you to break speed limits, they're there for a good reason. But, on the A44, we want to ensure you'll go at more than 30. And if you don't, you blind, deaf, old bat, we'll come round one night and fit a turbo to your Rover 400. A turbo with the wastegate jammed shut.


Jeremy Clarkson, Column

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