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That Run-Down Feeling

Claim:   Driving examiner gets run over during a road test.

LEGEND

Example:   [Smith, 1983]

A friend of mine recently told me a story concerning a young lad who was taking his motorcycle driving test for the first time. He had gone through all the various sections of the test and was left with just the emergency stop to do.

The examiner asked him to drive round the block several times and said that he would step out into the road at one point and the boy would have to stop sharply — the expectation was that the would have to keep the motorcycle in a straight line and upright.

Well, off round the block went the boy. However, he was delayed for a while as a delivery lorry was blocking the road. As he turned the final corner to drive down to where the driving examiner had been, he was surprised to see an ambulance and the examiner being placed on a stretcher. What had happened was the examiner had made rather an error. He had stepped out in front of the wrong motorcycle and the driver, not expecting this, had been knocked down.
 

Origins:   The earliest print reference to this story is 1978 when it turned up in a collection of legends published that year. Healey and Glanvill, however, state the legend has been around in verbal form since the introduction of the bike test in England soon after World War II.

There's something especially satisfying about picturing a driving examiner run down during a test. Each of us has had to face the rigors of becoming licenced to drive, the wrestle with impersonal bureaucracy followed by a harrowing examination
of our driving skills (during which, often as not, glaring shortcomings in our abilities come to light). It's natural for some of those feelings of resentment to be transferred to the person orchestrating the test.

Driving exams are occasions fraught with opportunities for things to go terribly wrong. During one in 1995, a 78-year-old Illinois woman ran over her son, killing him. The examiner had the door open and was telling her to use her turn signals, and for some reason she got nervous or confused and put the car in reverse.

Most mishaps that happen during driving examinations are of the minor variety, but every examiner has his or her war stories to tell. One from Fullerton (California) recalls an applicant who was pulled over for driving under the influence while taking the test. An examiner in Toronto (Canada) almost had his life ended when the son of the woman whose vegetable garden the applicant had just sent the car plowing through came after him with a 2x4. (Moral of the story; never back through a fence at the DMV.)

It's not unusual either for applicants to show up driving stolen cars. As for fatalities, another examiner from Toronto recalls the time when a bus driver he was putting through his paces suffered a massive heart attack while attempting to execute a turn.

But sometimes it's funny:
Paula Anderson, nicknamed the Wicked Witch of the West, recalls the time she took a woman down a one-way street.

"Every time I told her to turn, she said she couldn't because the sign said she could only drive in the direction the arrow was pointing," Anderson says.

"When we came to a field at the end of the street, I told her she had to make a decision because we weren't driving an all-terrain vehicle."2
Barbara "one way street smarts" Mikkelson

Last updated:   5 April 2011

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Sources:

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   The Baby Train.
    New York: W. W. Norton, 1993.   ISBN 0-393-31208-9   (pp. 214-215).

    Dale, Rodney.   The Tumour in the Whale.
    London: Duckworth, 1978.   ISBN 0-7156-1314-6   (p. 125).

    2.   Mitchell, Bob.   "Driving Examiners' Best Friend Is Humor."
    The Toronto Star.   27 June 1994   (p. A1).

    Reuters.   "Woman Runs Over Son in Driving Test Error."
    Los Angeles Times.   29 July 1995   (p. A21).

    Simon, Richard and David Haldane.   "Tougher Driving Test Keeps More Off Road."
    Los Angeles Times.   11 August 1996   (p. A1).

    1.   Smith, Paul.   The Book of Nasty Legends.
    London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983.   ISBN 0-00-636856-5   (p. 77).

Also told in:

    Healey, Phil and Rick Glanvill.   Now! That's What I Call Urban Myths.
    London: Virgin Books, 1996.   ISBN 0-86369-969-3   (pp. 9-10).