Where The Utterly Fearless Test Their Mettle


When people learn that I once taught driver education to teenagers, they usually ask some variant of the question “Did you ever come close to dying?” I ignore the one terrifying instance where a student got confused over the difference between a solid green and a green arrow (“They’re both green!”) and tell my questioner that we had a teacher brake that allowed us to avoid most dangers.

Yes, in the scheme of things my job was far less threatening than it sounds. I was like the character in that Wayan Brothers film who got a Distinguished Service Medal for losing an eye in the war, but it turned out he worked in an office and lost the eye during a rubber-band fight. But do you know who in the driver-certification world truly spends their days in Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone?

The people who administer the drive-tests at the DMV.

Unlike driver ed teachers, these folks know nothing about the person whose car they enter. They have no history watching the person drive like I did. They don’t have a footbrake because the tests aren’t done in a DMV car. Their only clue that they might be in for a rough ride is the smell of alcohol on a test-taker’s breath.

“Revvin’ up your engine!

Listen to her howlin’ roar!

Metal under tension!

Highway to the Danger Zone!

I’ll take you!

Right into the Danger Zone!”

Just how much of a fearless badass do you have to be to administer the DMV driving test? One story (of many) will suffice. This one comes from England, where test administrators face the additional danger of everyone driving on the wrong side of the road. A guy was administering a lesson back in the day when raised head-rests weren’t standard on cars. You just had a smallish seat that your head and neck rose above. So this guy tells the test-taker to do an emergency stop. The driver squeals to the curb and pounds the brakes. A big, old-school style, hardbacked road atlas flies off the shelf in the back of the car beneath the rear windshield. The atlas rockets through the air and tags the test administrator in the head. It knocks the poor guy out cold.

I’ll bet that man laughed at goalies when they started wearing face-masks. I had nothing on that guy.

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