Looking Back: Learning to drive wasn't something women aspired to when I was growing up!

I passed my driving test when I was eight months pregnant. I maintain that it only happened because the examiner was worried about acting as midwife!
Monica Dyson portrait. Picture Scott MerryleesMonica Dyson portrait. Picture Scott Merrylees
Monica Dyson portrait. Picture Scott Merrylees

Most young women then were thinking about learning to drive. Women were more independent than ever before, and it provided a freedom of movement that our mothers had never experienced when family cars were not the norm anyway.

Some women had learnt to drive but they were mostly women recruited to do ‘men’s’ jobs during the Second World War even though, after a ten-hour shift, they were still expected to shop, clean, feed their families and ‘make do and mend’ After the war they returned to their jobs in the home and enjoyed their memories of emancipation and equality!

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The driving test was first introduced in March 1935, sometime before the start of the war, when there were 1.4 million drivers throughout the UK. At first it was voluntary testing to prevent a ‘rush’ of candidates when it became compulsory, in June 1935.

The driving test was first introduced in March 1935The driving test was first introduced in March 1935
The driving test was first introduced in March 1935

Then, there was no breathalyser test and drivers thought nothing of drinking and driving. There were some crude roadside tests in place if police suspected a driver was over the recognised level of sobriety. These included walking in a straight line, touching your nose, standing on one leg or reciting the alphabet backwards. Not easy even if sober!

In 1966 the Road Safety Act was passed which stated that there should be a set limit of 80 mg of alcohol in 100 cc of blood, and that it would be an offence to drive over that limit.

Today, the numbers of people learning to drive are at the lowest ever which has been attributed to the high cost of a provisional licence, and to the cost of lessons.

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My eldest grandson on becoming a teenager was bought a ‘Driving Experience Day’ which are specially designed for 10-to 17-year-olds. Not without criticism, but in a rapidly changing world, who is to say that teaching young people responsible driving is not a good idea?

And sad for the father who expressed surprise that his daughter had failed her driving test. As he said, ‘she texted me three times to say how well it was going!’