Despite International Driving Licenses being available, you can pretty much forget about buying one before coming out to BC. Why? Well, your UK license is only valid for 90 days, and as the International License is tied to your national document – you get the picture. So, towards the end of last November I as unable to drive in BC without passing both a knowledge and practical test. Having said that, it wasn’t too much of an issue as until the UK house sold there were no funds available to buy a car. But, with a visitor arriving before Christmas, Lesley accepted the challenge of passing her test and being the nominated rental car driver, and responded with a resounding first time pass on the road test. The pressure was on!
When the house sale completed I suddenly had good reason to pass my tests, so, I dived in to the ‘orange’ book, passed my theory and arranged for some tune-up lessons with the same school that Lesley had used. Have a go at a practice knowledge test. The pass mark is 80%
After a couple of one and a half hour lessons and a pre-test run I’m pleased to report that I passed my test on 25th Jan. Boy, was I nervous. Many years have passed since my first driving test and suddenly having to drive to speed limits rather than driving to prevailing conditions was a real challenge, a much harder feat than driving on the right in a left hand drive vehicle. There are other subtle differences in driving techniques here as well, all designed to un-nerve the Brit newcomer. Here are a few examples.
- Pretty much any steering other than palming is okay. No ‘push-me, pull-you’ required here. It’s amazing that after years of not using the push/pull method, how quickly one returns to it when in a lesson. Point to Canada.
- Leaving BIG space margins in front of you at junctions. If I left more than a foot spare when behind a car in the UK another car would try and nip in! Point to Canada.
- Turning right on red lights (unless there’s a no right turn sign). Makes perfect sense. Point to Canada. Or is it, as it’s not consistent across the Provinces. Hmmm, note to self. If I make it out of BC I may just get in to trouble at a set of lights. so, neutral.
- Shoulder checks. If one’s changing direction, shoulder check, Mirrors are not enough. I ended up thinking my head was going to unscrew. Neutral.
- Cheap signing. There are plenty of 30kph signs around built up areas for schools and playgrounds and this is good. However, the signs are not placed in a consistent manner, they may be on a corner, 10 yards in or whatever takes the sign planters fancy. What really takes the biscuit is not having an ‘end of zone’ sign. It’s a matter of looking for the back of the start of zone sign on the opposite side of the road. Point to UK.
I’m sure other gems would pop up if I thought about it for longer and I’m sure Lesley will have something to say on the subject at some point.
So, the wheels. Was it to be a Chevy, Pontiac, Buick, Dodge? Was it to be a vast SUV, gigantic truck (just stand next to a Dodge RAM and wonder to yourself, why? Seriously, the top of the bonnet must be 5 feet from the ground – it’s immense), the ubiquitous mini van or just a darned large sedan?
Nope, a Ford Focus, and it’s a beaut. Black, with leather trim, alloys and low mileage, it’s a perfect first car, even more so when considering there’s a wannbe teen driver in the household and insurance is sky high. The ICBC appear to be pretty much a monopoly, making money for the Provincial Government.
So, that’s it, wheels at last. Will I miss the Sky Train and buses? Yes, I will and I’m sure I’ll still be using transit a lot as it’s cheap and reliable.
Now, where did I leave that Hummer brochure?