My son has asked me to teach him to drive.
This is worrying, particularly as he is only six years old. OK – technically he’s sixteen… but it only seems like two minutes ago that he was still driving around the garden in his plastic bobby car. I mean, how can I possibly face this tiny child (who is now only about eight inches taller than me) being at the wheel of a car, out there, in German traffic?
The good news is that at sixteen he can’t actually take his test yet – he’ll have to wait until his next birthday, which is still 6 months away. Even better… while he’s learning, he can get to practice at the Verkehrsübungsplatz – a cute little network of streets and traffic signs for people to try out their driving skills away from the real scary German roads.
Until he turns seventeen, he can practice driving there… and he can also study for the theory test. This will involve him sitting in a classroom away from the traffic – which is pretty much what he does most days at school too.
I’m keen to find out what they teach him at the theory school. Right now, he is under too many naive pre-conceptions about driving.
For a start, he thinks that drivers use the left hand lane on the Autobahn for overtaking. Actually, they don’t. At least only VW and Fiat drivers do this. Drivers of BMW, Audi, Porsche and anything with an oversized sound system are most likely to whizz round you on the inside, having sat on your bumper and flashed their lights for the obligatory 5 seconds first.
He also thinks that drivers don’t use their mobile phones when driving. I know this for a fact to be wrong. Only the other day, a white van driver ahead of me took a call on his cell phone which clearly was an urgent message saying: “Swerve across three lanes of traffic right NOW” – because that’s exactly what he did. This type of phone call is fairly common, especially on the A57.
Obviously at the Verkehrsübungsplatz, there is a 30kmh speed limit, which cramps the style of any wannabe boy racers. My son is already frustrated, as he thinks he’s Michael Schumacher.
But I like that speed limit. I keep reminding myself that all of these other learner drivers on the course are being taught the German traffic rules by their parents. Parents who are real live German drivers. Some of the kids are even learning in BMWs and Audis. I suspect they may already be up to “advanced” driving, like not indicating and cutting in. I’m expecting them to practice shooting up to the next kid and flashing their lights to overtake at any moment. I swear I overheard one Dad telling his son: “And now we’re going to practice waving the Stinkefinger at other motorists while making this manoeuvre…”
So while I’m cringing at the crunching gears and squealing clutch as we have the fifteenth attempt at a hill start next week… spare a thought for me. And next year, when you’re out on the roads, drive safely for the sake of my son, who will still believe you’re about to indicate as you pull in ahead of him…