International driving skills put to the test

Sunraysia Daily journalist Marina Hacquin and Sunraysia Drive School driver instructor Sam Cummaudo. 
Picture: Louise Donges

Sunraysia Daily journalist Marina Hacquin and Sunraysia Drive School driver instructor Sam Cummaudo. Picture: Louise Donges

I HAVE been driving in Australia for three years, owned two cars, survived a 1649 km trip from Brisbane to Mildura and most importantly, never had a car accident in my life.

But would I pass the VicRoads driving test?

With Sunraysia Drive School driver instructor Sam Cummaudo in the passenger seat, I was ready to find out.

Just like the French driving test, Mr Cummaudo asked me to turn the signal lights and the windscreen wipers on – an easy task, until he mentioned the word “demister,” which I had never heard of before.

Fortunately, the logos are universal and after a brief description, I was able to activate the demister and get on my way.

It was then time to get into serious business.

“You will start the car and turn right at the end of the street. You can go when you consider it is safe to do so,” Mr Cummaudo said.

We drove in a silence that was broken only by Mr Cummaudo’s instructions.

As I was driving through a couple of roundabouts and traffic lights, Mr Cummaudo started writing in his notebook. 

Hands position too low on the steering wheel. Braking too late. Mirror checks lacking. Stopping too close to the vehicle at the front. Parallel park too close to the curb.

Several bad habits to fix, but nothing major – not until we got to the railway crossing.

Never in France or in Queensland have I encountered a railway crossing that wasn’t secured with lights and automatic gates.

For some reason, my brain confused a “stop” sign with a “give way” sign. I slowed down, briefly checked each side of the railway and went on.

I did not stop for the required three seconds – this is how I failed my mock Victorian driving test.

But, here’s the thing: If all international drivers, like myself, were to receive an information session with a Victorian driving instructor before hitting the road, we would be warned about different road signals, signs and all things unique to driving in Australia ... as well as the three second rule.

When I first moved to Australia three years ago, I had just turned 20 and certainly wasn’t what some would call an ”experienced driver”.

Yet I was able to hit the road shortly after my arrival with little instructions and, looking back, I did not feel entirely safe.

Not that I did not have the ability to drive safely – just like any Australian citizen, I spent at least 30 hours learning with a driver’s instructor in my home country, not even mentioning the theory, before undertaking my driving test.

But some rules, signs and habits are slightly different than in France.

On the road, safety should be the priority and when looking back at my driving history, I believe there should be an information session with question and answers for international drivers who are planning on staying in Australia for some time.​

Pick up a copy of Satrday's Sunraysia Daily to see how Marina was scored by driver instructor Sam Cummaudo. To subscribe to our digital edition, click here

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