What Do You Mean I Can’t Drive Your Car …

Mini Driver No More - Elizabeth Harper

I’m grounded.

After 35 years of getting into a car, fastening the seatbelt, and turning the key in the ignition, I no longer can do that … at least not in this country, for now.

Moving to the UK has its challenges and some are easier to understand than others. I can understand why I should have to take a written test to prove I know the rules of the road here, but having had a valid driver’s license for 35 years in the US, I would think I might be able to skip the driving part of the exam.

I know you’re probably thinking, ” Oh good grief Elizabeth, just take the test and stop moaning about it! ” I might think the same without knowing the rest of the story.

While I was stuck in Atlanta this summer John opened the annual bill from his auto insurance company to find that it had jumped from a reasonable 180 BPS (about $295 US) to over 700 BPS which is about $1150 dollars.

Calling to discuss the huge increase, he discovered that my provisional license which is like a learner’s permit in the US had caused the rate increase. It seems after 35 years of driving I now have more in common with a teenage boy than the other 50 year-old female drivers out there.

Being a sensible man when it comes to money, John did what I would have done and took me off the policy grounding me until I can pass the test and be eligible for a more reasonable rate of insurance. I have to wonder if my 35 years of driving will be acknowledged by the insurance company when I do pass or will that part of my life be as non-existent as my credit rating.

That’s right, I have no credit rating anymore either. I still have one in the US just not over here, but that’s another post that perhaps I can combine with a one titled, ” What do you mean I’m not qualified? ” or maybe one I’ll call ” What about my university degree and years of professional work experience, doesn’t that count? “

Sorry, I think I slipped over into the beginnings of a rant for a second. I’m back now.

Getting behind the wheel with no car insurance means hiring a driving instructor. Yes, I did say a driving instructor. Never mind that I’ve driven from Scotland to London three times in a rental car and loads of places between Cornwall and London, I can only drive on my American license for a year before being required to get a UK one and that year is long gone.

So I’m grounded for now until I hire an instructor and pay more money (my learner’s permit or provisional license) cost about $82 dollars. The test fees will be another 93 BPS or about $150 US and don’t even ask what an instructor will cost. Just know that it’s enough to go away somewhere nice for the weekend or a week depending on how many days you can squeak by with before being tested. I haven’t called yet so I don’t know if there’s a required minimum.

When you have an instructor you drive their car for the driving portion of the test and I assume that may drive the cost up a bit. I’m so unenthused about the process and the cost factor that my Highway Code Handbook is still largely unread. I move it from one place to another around the house ignoring it as I can’t help feeling a bit offended by my loss of mobility and parts of my previous identity.

It’s like being 16 again only this time I’m a high-risk teenage boy.

Today’s challenge is to read and study the book and maybe call the instructor to see when I can get back on the road again. Ugh!

11 thoughts on “What Do You Mean I Can’t Drive Your Car …

  1. Great post Elizabeth. It gets even more insane when you consider that I can move to Denmark, drive on the wrong side of the road (well as far as I’m concerned as a Brit), with street signs in another language and yet as an EU citizen I can drive on my UK driving license as long as I wish and it certainly doesn’t affect what we pay in car insurance! That pond between the US and UK seems to get wider and wider sometimes for absolutely no logical reason. What happened to good old common sense when it comes to these matters?

  2. Oh, Elizabeth how unfair! I would be spitting feathers … sometimes I think all this bureaucracy is just to keep jobs ticking over for other people. I do know however that things are just as bad in other European countries … if not worse. Modern life is so frustrating …

  3. Grrrrr don’t even start me on credit rating where I’m doing the exact mirror as you and deemed an idiot and incompetent in the US for no recognised credit rating despite duh, having had a mortage and more in the UK for over a quarter century. Far worse, the US seems to judge one’s suitability for a role partly on credit rating in which case despite being American born and still passport holding, is likely to lead to me being rejected for jobs for which I am otherwise an excellent fit. Ridiculous rules, truly.

    If you can bite that driving test bullet, pass the test, and be free enough to get in a car and drive anyone to the hospital if an emergency happens or simply, to drive because you want to be able to drive, you’ll be glad you did. But I totally am with you on how idiotic the thinking is, and there are many others, such as reciprocity of qualification recognition, like it across many countries in the world. It may be a shrinking world, but the world’s legislation is not necessarily in step with that, which only holds employment mobility back.

  4. I’m in the same boat — and driving school (again, pretty much obligatory to even get entered for the test) runs about a thousand euros. Needless to say I’m two and a half years over my no-license limit and no driving school in sight. Makes me sad because I looooove to drive.

  5. Wow, what a way to go. Just because THEY drive on the wrong side of road, shouldn’t effect your credit rating. At least they don’t make you wear an ankle bracelet.
    I’m stuck at home as well, but for different reasons. I don’t mind to much, I guess. But it’s rather inconvenient to others when I just need a few things from the gro. store. And there’s the worry of an emergency visit to the Vet.
    Hey, at least you look Pretty Cool in it!
    Good Luck & xxooxoxox

  6. I sympathize re the credit rating; I had to start from scratch here in the US, too, and it’s only now, after more than five years, that the small note regarding there not being enough history, is slowly disappearing from my credit reports. The driving test, however, was very easy, as it tends to be over here. And much less expensive, too. By the way, when I moved from Germany to the UK I could exchange my German license for an English one, no tests needed, but perhaps there is no such agreement with America. Good luck with the test, love the car!

  7. I truly feel your pain….I went through the same thing when I moved to Australia nearly 15 years ago….the driving lessons, the nervousness of passing written and actual driving tests, and the mental challenge of my age and driving on the “other” side of the road, coupled with my obvious “slacking off” of road rules, proper maneuvers and road etiquittecy. I’m sure you will survive as I did and have a chuckle about it later.

  8. Good for John! Now go take that test! BTW, is that a clown car you’re sitting in, or is every car in the UK that tiny? Perhaps my perspective is skewed after sitting in a Hummer for so many years.

  9. As someone who has had to go through he same experience because we moved to the US, I sympathise wholeheartedly……..having owned a number of homes between us, had mortgages, professionally qualified, educated, had thriving careers……..we arrived in the US & were not able to secure so much as a Chilli’s frequent diner card! They subject us to the same if it makes you feel any better?!
    In answer to an earlier comment we do not drive on the wrong side of the road……….it is actually called the left. As ffor the comment about a ‘clown car’…….that mini is a beautiful example of a classic car, if only more Americans would ditch their hummers (& the like) we could enjoy this beautiful planet for longer.

  10. That Mini is huge compared with a Smart Car ! (http://uk.smart.com).
    Other people in the world who drive on the left include one of the largest populations – India. Also Japan, Indonesia (the world’s fourth most populous country), Australia, most of sub Saharan Africa etc etc. So we’re not quite alone in our idiosyncrasy !

  11. i’m sorry that you are grounded but at the same time relieved that i’m not the only one frustrated with driving over there. i didn’t even know about the the one year rule until a few years after i passed it!
    one thing that always bugs me about it though is that visitors (myself included now!) can get off a plane without evr having been in a left hand drive car and rent a car and merrily drive off into the countryside but those of you lived there have to jump through some very expensive hoops to do the same thing.

    i say if the bottom line is about safety then make it safe for everyone!
    i think it’s more about money…if you tell tourists they can’t drive-there goes your tourist trade!

    btw, i had a dull brown version of that mini and love, love, loved it!! but it sat in front of my house i had to give it up to someone who could take it for long drives along the country lanes~~

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