Being my own chauffeur

Allison: Don't let the fast-paced world fool you into thinking you should be a confident driver overnight.

GROWING up, I had always been eager to obtain my driving licence – a rite of passage that Malaysian teens are only allowed to undergo after they have turned 17.

Being able to take the wheel meant that I would not have to rely on my family or public transport to travel around.

So, imagine my excitement last year when the time came for me to learn driving.

First, there was a six-hour course I had to attend, in which I listened to lectures on the Malaysian driving curriculum.

Then came the tricky part: the much-dreaded highway code exam. I had heard horror stories from my friends about how tricky it could be to obtain a pass for this – candidates need to score at least 42 out of 50 marks.

In the exam waiting room, I witnessed both joy and sorrow as teens my age walked out with papers indicating their respective scores.

As I had worked my fingers to the bone in preparation for it and taken my time to read the questions thoroughly during the exam, I passed with a score of 48 out of 50. The next step was to start my driving lessons. The first time I hopped into the car with my instructor and stepped on the pedal, I was filled with exhilaration.

Driving felt very foreign and I had to make sure I paid close attention to my surroundings while manoeuvring the vehicle.

This became a routine for the following lessons: driving around the practice circuit which consisted of making turns, parking the vehicle, and navigating roundabouts and a slope.

Having accustomed myself to the routine, I was thrust onto the main road without warning one morning.

“Now, Allison, I want you to make your way out of the driving centre onto the highway,” the instructor said to me.

All of a sudden, it dawned on me: this was the real world! There was no slow driving, nor the option of slamming on the brakes if I got too anxious.

I felt like a fish out of water. How was I allowed to be on the road? I was just a kid!

I had trouble maintaining my distance between the vehicles around me and paying close attention to the traffic lights.

This was all new territory for me. However, with the help of my instructor, I gradually found my footing.

A few weeks later, I took my official driving test. First up was the road test. Multiple traffic light junctions and some minor mistakes later, I walked out with a grin on my face and waving a paper with the word “Lulus” (“Pass”) in bright red ink.

Then came the part I dreaded the most: the driving circuit test. I watched as drivers before me were called out of their vehicles one by one after making mistakes.

With shaky legs, I slowly worked my way around the circuit as the examiners observed from a watch tower like hawks. I felt indescribable joy as I turned the wheel one last time and completed the circle. I knew I had achieved something I had anticipated for a long time – I passed the test! Gaining confidence in driving takes time, effort and patience. Don’t let the fast-paced world fool you into thinking you should be a confident driver overnight.

Allison, 18, a student in Penang, is a participant of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team.

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