This Lesson Took A Bad Turn

| CT, USA | Learning | July 15, 2017

(Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand that driver’s-ed teachers have a hell of a job. But I swear my instructor was just making things worse for himself. This is just one example.)

Instructor: “Okay, so, you’re going to make this turn coming up.”

Me: “Okay.” *slows down and moves to turn the wheel*

Instructor: “No! Too soon! Wait!”

Me: “Um… okay…”

(I’ve slowed down quite a bit now because he’s made me nervous.)

Instructor: “Not yet!”

(We’re now half-the-car through the intersection.)

Instructor: “Waaaait…”

(The nose of the car is now almost PAST the intersection.)


(I try to turn, but this is hindered by the fact that we are WAY too far past the turn-off, and the fact that immediately after yelling for me to turn my instructor slams on his failsafe brake, and I end up almost in the grass on the corner.)

Instructor: *turning to me* “So, you turned too wide.”

Me: “…?!”

(Now having been a driver for almost a decade, I have learned that there is, in fact, a window of more than a nanosecond in which you can make a right turn. I give some credit to this instructor for the fact that I’m STILL a nervous driver.)

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  • Souless night

    What the heck? A right turn you always hug the side and go with it I’d understand sort of for a left turn but this is ridiculous either way

    • Bonnie Huffington

      Trick I learned for left turns was to imagine a pole stuck in the middle and swing around that.

      • Holly

        For a right turn in the US? You’d end up going into the oncoming traffic.

        • Bonnie Huffington

          Feel free to point out where I said a right turn.

          • Holly

            My apologies. I misread your post.

    • Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark

      Yeah, I’m baffled — the only scenario I can think of where the driver’s ed instructor isn’t straight-up bat-guano crazy is if the idea was a right turn onto a single-lane one-way street. “Halfway through the intersection” is still too far to start the turn but at least wouldn’t be heading the student into oncoming traffic.

      I’m now imagining this instructor guiding a student through the rotary at the edge of downtown New Haven. It’s the stuff of horror movies.

      • Tuulos

        Other reasonable scenarios would be a pothole, garbage or something else on the road preventing a quicker turn.

        There is also the change that OP just has a slow reaction time which means what he experienced as fast could just have been normal for most other people.

      • New Haven, CT? Which rotary would that be? I don’t recall one in downtown myself, but it’s admittedly been a while since I’ve lived there.

        Edit: I’m also amused that you used “bat-guano crazy,” because that’s one of my favorite terms.

        • Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark

          West of downtown, gas station in the middle, Broadway feeds into it. Nobody warned me the first time I encountered it!

          • Is it still there? I don’t see it in Google Maps, just the parking lot surrounded by one-way streets (one of which is Broadway).

            Either way, I’ve seen some nutty traffic stuff around New Haven. I can certainly imagine getting caught off guard by a rotary you weren’t expecting.

          • Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark

            Y’know, I was told it was the [whatever street] rotary, but on the map, it sure doesn’t look like one. It’s got to be the triangular thingie where Goffe, Elm, York, and Broadway meet.

            I lived in New Haven like 25 years ago, before Google Maps. I spent most of my time lost, trying to figure out how I’d ended up next to a swamp. Visited last spring, got lost less, but Siri had a nervous breakdown.

          • NoobLord

            All due respect, but how hard can it be to follow the instructions from a navigation system?

          • Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark

            It’s not hard… until the navigation system gets it wrong.

            I checked with friends there, and New Haven gives Siri trouble.

          • NoobLord

            Then use something that is not Siri that might not have trouble there.

          • Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark

            Yeah, nope, it’s New Haven.

            The amount of time I spent lost on a 3-day visit is maybe 1/50th the amount of time I would have had to spend on finding this hypothetical device that can navigate New Haven accurately, plus being lost was free.

          • NoobLord

            I’ve just taken a look at New Haven on google maps and it doesn’t look all that bad. I don’t see where all the fuss comes from.

          • Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark

            *dies laughing* You seriously looked up a map to “prove” to people who’ve actually lived there and driven there that it’s not hard to get around? Seriously?

          • NoobLord

            I looked at it and it looks comparable to many a city I have driven in myself, which I found not challenging at all and as such I come to the conclusion that you must be a lousy navigator, I mean, driving by satnav isn’t that hard and no, you should never blindly follow the damn thing.

          • New Haven is one of those New England cities that just kind of grew organically, with all the narrow streets and odd twists that are typical of a city that wasn’t originally built for cars. That can throw navigation systems for a real loop, especially when local construction keeps changing routes and the GPS doesn’t keep its maps up to date.

          • STay

            I have been told to turn right onto a oneway going the other way.
            My mom has been told to make a U-Turn when on a bridge (the other part of the road was separated so we would have gone into the water had she tried).

            Never trust GPS with everything, it normally works but it’s fails can be dangerous.

          • I can see people in the area calling that weird triangular thing (a parking lot, as I recall, surrounded by one-way streets with odd traffic flow) a rotary. Not a properly circular one, and it had lights all around, but still a headache to navigate. I’m amused by Siri having a nervous breakdown, though. 🙂

            We haven’t been there since 2011.

    • Bobismeisbob

      Yeah for left turns a lot of people cut the corner too much but this seems like an overreaction and a poor way to convey that combined.

  • Esidara

    I was taught that you turn when your wing mirror is level with, or just after, the centre of the road you’re turning into, if you’re turning across oncoming traffic.

    • Holly

      Do you drive on the right or on the left?

      • Esidara

        On the left. This is for if you’re turning across oncoming traffic, which I felt was the scenario here.

        • 4and20blkbirds

          The story implies that this was a right turn in Connecticut in the U.S., so it was not across traffic.

          • Esidara

            Then this story is even weirder.

          • Holly

            Oh, so I was not the only one who had this interpretation. To me, the first sentence by the instructor sounded like a direction to take a right turn. I only caught on to the fact that it was a left one after the second rereading and after Esidara’s response to my question. All those “half-way through the intersection” do sound like making a left turn.

          • 4and20blkbirds

            True, but the conclusion paragraph is the only place where a direction is stated. The bit where the OP says they’ve now learned they have “more than a nanosecond in which you can make a right turn.”

          • Holly

            Oh, yeah. Yes, it is an even weirder story.

          • Michael Chandra

            In which you can make a correct turn.

          • If they meant “right” as in “correct,” then the story has weird vocabulary choices. Most people I know would say “make a correct turn” like you did, since “right turn” actually means something else to most drivers.

        • Holly

          I replied to your post earlier, but for some reason it was “not approved.” It had no bad words in it, though. All I said is that I had to reread the story the second time to catch on to the fact that it was a turn against the oncoming traffic. I missed it scanning the story for the first time.

  • BamaDan

    We all had a retired military guy that pretty much passed everybody with a 96. All you had to do was drive around the block. Took about 5 minutes and that was it. So, with the luck I have the first time I go to take my test to get my license there’s a substitute there. First thing he makes me do is a 3 point turn on a steep hill. I start rolling forward and panic. I throw it in reverse and hit the gas and hit the curb behind me. Automatic fail. I come back next week and see the same substitute. Take the test and have to do a 3 point turn on a steep hill again. Do the exact thing again hitting the curb. Second try is an automatic fail. I go back the next week. I get almost to his office and see that same substitute. I tell my Mother to never mind and I’ll come back when he’s not here. I wait a couple of weeks and go back. The regular guy was finally back. Drove around the block and I passed with a 96. No 3 point turns.

    • Patrick Mccurry

      So one rubber stamper and one actual tester. Remind me to never walk in your neighborhood. I like living too much.

      • Amber Wilkinson

        I have never in my life had to make a three point turn on a steep hill, so that seems a little arbitrary to me. Of course, my exam didn’t make me parallel park either (about half the kids had to), which was lucky because I can’t. Driving around the block does seem a little light, though.

        • Shaina Clark

          I have. It’s worth knowing, especially if you live in an area with a lot of hills.

          • Amber Wilkinson

            I live in a town called Plano. They picked the name because it’s really flat. :p Our idea of a hill is like 5 degrees.

          • heatherjasper

            Same. I live in Kansas which is known for its mountains and forests and other non-flat entities (not). My mom comes from Pennsylvania, which actually does have mountains and forests. I am a decent parallel parker because I had to do it for school (no actual parking, just streets to park along the curb of). My mom though is a pro.

          • NoobLord

            It doesn’t matter that you live in an area that is very flat, I can guarantee you that you will eventually be in a place with a lot of hills, I live in the Netherlands (we call a hill that is a 100m high a mountain) but I still have to show that I can stop on an incline and drive away again, and for very good reason.

        • NoobLord

          You should at least be able to do a what I call hellingproef (stop on a steep hill and drive away up the hill again) and if you can combine that with a 3 point turn you sure as h*ll know how to operate a car, it’s not about showing you can do x or y thing, it’s about showing you have control over the 1,5 ton heavy murder weapon that you’re sitting in.

      • BamaDan

        I had already taken and passed Driver’s Ed in school so it wasn’t like I didn’t know what I was doing. I just couldn’t do a 3 point turn on a steep hill. Not sure it’s like this everywhere but around here now if kids pass Driver’s Ed in school they get a card to take with them and they automatically get their license.

        • Which state?

          When I was learning to drive in NY, Driver’s Ed didn’t get you an automatic license, it just got you fewer restrictions on it and a discount on your driver’s insurance. You still had to prove to the DMV that you actually learned something in Driver’s Ed by taking the test (driving around the town where the DMV was located, making right turns and left, reversing out of a parking space–usually the one at the DMV you parked in–parallel parking, and making a 3-point turn, not necessarily on a steep hill).

          • Gnomer Denois

            When I got my license in Texas 20 some years ago, the driver’s ed instructor could tell the DMV that you drove well enough to not need the driving portion or tell them to make you take it. You had to take the written regardless.

          • Ok. In NY, the written exam was to qualify for your learner’s permit (which I believe you needed for Driver’s Ed), but in order to get the proper license, you had to take the driving exam with a DMV employee.

          • BamaDan

            Alabama. Not sure how long they’ve been doing that.

          • Ah, ok. That would’ve been nice.

    • Cathrope

      When I had my driver’s test in 96 I got the toughest person they had, but he just had lunch when I had my test, so I passed the first time around.

  • Kevin Conti

    One thing I remember from learning to drive with my dad:

    Dad: “When you start going down the hill, remember to apply your brake.”
    Me: “Okay.”
    Dad: “We’re going to turn right at this next light.”
    Me: “Okay.”
    Dad: “So don’t forget your turn signal.”
    Me: “Okay.”
    Dad: “Stop saying okay.”
    Me: “Okay.”
    Dad: “D’oh!”

    • Cody Ranney


  • Mechwarrior

    When I first went to get a license at 16, the instructor failed me for “failing to stop” at a yield sign when there was no oncoming traffic. I had slowed.

    • Rachel Schmachel

      I failed my first test for stopping at a stop sign, then rolling forward because I couldn’t actually see the traffic. The examiner told me to stop because she saw the oncoming car before I did and that’s an automatic fail. It made me so nervous, I failed three more times.

      • Novelista

        First time, he said I was too timid. (It’s against the rules to test with your instructor, but I did anyway. I found another tester after that–one that everyone swears by.)

        Second time, my dad took me and forgot to have me practice parallel parking, so I failed before I got on the road. (I don’t remember why my mom didn’t practice with me–I guess she was busy?)

        Third time, my parking was all practiced up and I talked to myself the whole time because the tester didn’t care. (I don’t think she knew she was making minute expressions that cued me in until I said something while I was talking to myself. I still passed. xD )

    • I didn’t fail my first try, but I did get docked points for “getting too close to the car behind which I was parallel parking.” It was in the process of pulling away (no one parked in front of it, so it pulled straight forward out of the parking space), and I didn’t get any closer to it than any of the hundreds of other cars my driving instructor had me practice with during Driver’s Ed, so I don’t know what was up with the instructor. I did everything else fine, though.

    • NoobLord

      Yield sign or stop sign? If it is an actual octagonal stop sign you should indeed have stopped, if it’s just a yield sign, he’s an idiot.

      • Mechwarrior

        It was a yield sign. I had been going through that intersection for years and was very familiar with it. I’m pretty sure the employee was some sort of petty tyrant who liked lording what little power she had over people.

  • Connie McFadden

    One of our high school driving instructors was a real jerk who thought it was funny to hit the gas pedal on his side when one of us (there were generally 3 students in a car, one driving, two others in back seat) was going around a sharp curve. This despite there being a “Slow Down/Sharp Curve Ahead” sign. I feel your pain. OP.

    • My driving instructor was great, but this is why I much prefer Driver’s Ed vehicles that only have the instructor’s mirrors and failsafe brake, rather than full driving controls. They can stop you, but they can’t make you go.

    • NoobLord

      Wait, dude had a gas pedal where you live? He only has a clutch and brake pedal here.

      • Connie McFadden

        Yep. This was in the late 60s. No clutch, though, as our driver’s ed car had automatic transmission. Automatic transmission was a good thing for me since I’m really short (under 5 ft in height) and had a hard time getting the clutch down far enough in the car simulators we used in the classroom.

        • NoobLord

          can’t you then just move the seat further forward? Or was it already as far forward as possible? I’m asking cus my grandma was not the tallest of the bunch (if I have to guess, maybe even shorter than you are) either but could fully depress the clutch.

          • Connie McFadden

            The simulator seat was moved forward as much as possible. We used a 1968 Plymouth Fury for practice driving, which was a full-size car, but as I said previously, thankfully it had an automatic transmission so I didn’t have to worry about using a clutch.

          • NoobLord

            Nah, was talking about a real car.

  • Lord Circe

    Yeah, I’d be yelling at him to shut up and let me drive. Even when I was in driver’s ed. If I mess up, I mess up, but you need to see how I react when I don’t have someone breathing into my ear.

    • Paul Nieuwkamp

      This. Of course, the goal is not to hit anything, and to make the fewest possible mistakes in doing so, but how you react after making a mistake is a lot more important than most instructors seem to realize…

    • Darth Pseudonym

      Exactly! Don’t preempt the mistake. Stop the car after the student makes a mistake, and go over what went wrong, but don’t yell at them because you think they’re about to screw up. The only time to preempt is if the student is about to do something actively dangerous, like hit a street sign or turn the wrong way down a one-way street.

  • EJ Nauls-Poland

    Was this during one of the lessons or the final test?

  • Dkong

    >I give some credit to this instructor for the fact that I’m STILL a nervous driver.

    Why? Nervous Drivers create accidents. Driving too slow, braking at unexpected moments, not moving when they need to.

    You should be a cautious but confident driver. Not a nervous wreck.

    Also that instructor is a nightmare. Right hand turns are really simple.

    • In this case, OP means “credit” in an ironic sense IE they blame the driving instructor for making them so nervous that they haven’t gotten over it. This was not a compliment to the instructor. For some people, continued driving does not inspire confidence, just more nervousness.

  • Vulpis

    …Was the tester European, British, or something? That sounds like the recipe for making a right turn on anything *but* a US road.

    • NoobLord

      Not on your average EU road either, we too drive on the right side of the road.

  • Fenn

    That’s crazy for a right turn. You should turn tight enough to stay in the closest lane you can enter. The only reason to swing wide with a right turn is something is blocking you from entering the closest lane and you have to enter a further lane.

    • Konton

      Or if you have a trailer

  • Gabby Signs

    My driver’s ed teacher made us drive him to Panda Express

    • Hey, if you’re still getting practice….

      • Gabby Signs

        Eh. We drove for 30 minutes once a week and the time was split between 3 people. Less than 10 minutes a person, then stopping for 15 and leaving 3 teenagers in a car during school hours off school property alone…

        • Ah. Well then.

          I took Driver’s Ed during summer school (no room for it in my regular schedule during the year), and driving time was 2 hours split between three students, and almost all of it actually on the road.

          • Gabby Signs

            Lucky. It was only 9 weeks long because the first quarter was spent learning the rules of the road. I drove maybe 7 times due to snow and half days

          • I do think taking it during summer school was a good choice, in my case. I missed out on learning snow-driving, but we got plenty of hands-on practice due to the schedule, since our area was prone to snow-days as well.

  • Cody Ranney

    Luckily I didn’t have a crazy driving instructor like this, I had to worry about my parents, which made the mandatory 60 hours of driving with a permit an absolute h*ll, they would panic for no reason and yell that I wasn’t braking hard enough even though every time I would gently roll up to the sign or the car ahead. It almost turned me away from cars in general, which would be bad because I was and still am a major gear head.

    Edit: thanks for making me have to copy paste my message into a new comment because I can’t say h*ll. I have worse things that I want to say to the site admins who can’t take 5 minutes to write guidelines for the comments.

    • Rebecca Jones

      And some of those worse things are perfectly acceptable for you to say!

    • Learning to drive with my dad in the car was…a bit stressful. I limited most of my practice time to my mom just because my dad and I have similarly short tempers. I do distinctly recall one time when I was driving down a residential street in our town, and passed a kid on a bike who was hugging the curb. Just as I was passing him, my dad slammed his hand on the dash and yelled “you just hit that kid! You didn’t give him enough clearance and you hit him!” He didn’t mean literally, he was just trying to get across the importance of giving cyclists proper clearance, but it stressed me out and one of my parents took over driving the rest of the afternoon. My mom lectured him later and he apologized, at least. I get the point he was trying to make; he just went about it ham-fistedly.

      The other major incident was when he was trying to teach me to drive standard. I’d never even tried before, but my parents felt it would be good for their kids to learn. I stalled the car a whole lot while trying to drive down our back country roads, with my dad getting frustrated the whole time, until finally I just stopped on the side of the road and we ended up having a shouting match because I was also frustrated. He ended up driving us home because I refused to, and I actually still don’t know how to drive standard.

      And lest anyone think this was my dad’s “normal,” it wasn’t. We actually get along really well. Both instances were just rather stressful for us, that’s all.

      • Cody Ranney

        Wow that’s pretty crazy, but the learning manual part, I understand the frustration, it took me about 3 drives before I could begin to competently drive stick because my dad kept getting frustrated at me getting frustrated, making a vicious loop. In the end it was worth it because I can drive a manual and I drive one daily now, I think it’s fun and I might be masochistic.

        • It’s a useful skill, I’ll grant. My dad was much calmer when teaching my younger sisters (I’m the oldest, and thus their first driver), and they all know to some extent at least.

  • Emma

    I got my license a bit later so I spent part of a summer getting driving time with instructors from the local school. It was a nightmare. I had 3 different instructors throughout who taught in completely conflicting ways. My least favorite was a crabby old woman who got angry at me when I didn’t blindly follow her orders without checking the way myself first.

  • NoobLord

    The only turn that might be difficult (strong emphasis on might) is a left hand turn, in which case you just wait until the dashboard lines up with the edge of the sidewalk on the left side of the car, turn then and you execute a perfect left hand turn. At least here in the Netherlands that is.

  • Kitty

    Rule #1: Don’t yell at the driver. Especially when it’s a student, who may already be super nervous about the test. Unless you are trying to make them fail. My mom’s teacher for driving hated women. And foreigners. And intelligent women. My mom was all three of those. One time, she’s driving down the road…
    Teacher: How fast may you go on this street?
    Mom: As fast as I dang want.
    Teacher: The sign back there said “130 km/h”
    Mom: “WHEN WET”. (The street wasn’t wet)
    Teacher: *fuming*

    • NoobLord

      Lemme guess, Germany.

      • Kitty

        What tipped you off, that it said km/h? XD

        • Katrin Schirmer

          that could be anywhere in Europe probably. what would make me guess Germany would have been the “as fast as i dang want” part. lol

          • Kitty

            I only wrote it cause I wasn’t sure if disqus would allow the actual word she used.

          • Katrin Schirmer

            yeah, disqus has rather strict filters it seems. i was more going with, the lack of a speed limit, which i know there are roads in Germany that meet that criteria.

          • I’m fairly certain it’s NA* specific filters, not Disqus in general, since I’ve seen swearing and whatnot on other Disqus-enabled sites. I figure they just decided to blanket-ban all swears and website links to cut down on spam and vitriol. (Not that swear-blocking stops vitriol; it just forces people to be more creative.)

          • Katrin Schirmer

            they allow memes, all you have to do is turn your swears into memes to post them. lol

  • Bill Mesker

    I’m learning how to drive with a friend of mine and he was a former driving instructor. I feel a lot more comfortable with him than I do with the driving school because even though the driving instructor is calm, I’m still nervous. And one other issue is the cars that the driving school uses make me claustrophobic because they’re just too small inside and it makes me nervous. My friend has a bigger vehicle that I feel comfortable in so it makes things easier on me.

  • Annie

    While my hired driving instructor was scattered, shrill, annoying and entirely useless (6 lessons w/a “licensed” instructor are mandatory here in CA for under-18s), I am always hard-pressed as to which of my actual driving “teachers” to name the absolute worst: mom or dad.

    There’s Mom, who absolutely hated having to take me for driving practice & dumped it on dad any chance she could. One of the few times she was “forced” to do it the weather was especially terrible. Instead of doing the logical thing (taking us home), she had me keep driving.

    The rain quickly worsened to pouring buckets and zero visibility. I didn’t know how to turn on the windshield wipers: neither one of them ever showed me how (or any of the other car functions for that matter; only the wheel, brake & accelerator).
    I was 16 and very timid in general: especially with my parents, who often outright frightened me.

    So I can’t see literally anything through the windshield, I’m driving as slowly as I can, hoping not to run into anything, not knowing what else to do, and mom is sitting in the passenger seat observing all this and doing nothing; just staring at me. For several blocks.

    All of a sudden she starts yelling and berating me: apparently I’d just run a stop sign.
    Well what else could I have possibly done with ZERO VISIBILITY through the windshield and the supposedly responsible licensed adult sitting next to me doing nothing!? (Except apparently waiting for an excuse to engage in her very favorite stress-relief activity: yelling at me.)

    Then there’s Dad, who was impatient to the point of pushily ordering me to “Well, go! Go already!” at a left turn when I was taking the basic precaution of checking for oncoming cars first (since they have unquestionable right-of-way and all that…).

    I went ahead on his order.

    There was an oncoming car (the road it was coming from had a slight bend, making it harder to see oncoming cars).

    The oncoming car plowed right into us, at about 50m/ph.

    Luckily no one was hurt, but our car was near-totaled, and of course we were considered at fault (the one turning left is always at fault no matter what…)

    The cherry on top of the cake of this: I discovered a day later that my parents were particularly upset about the accident because through some omission, I WASN’T LISTED ON THEIR CAR INSURANCE.

    Therefore there would be a great deal of trouble with getting the insurance to pay up for the many thousands of $$$ of damage to our (and the other driver’s) car.

    My parents, BTW, were the ones literally forcing me to get my license; which, yes, they could do since I was a minor. I myself had never wanted to learn to drive and objected many times.

    Instead of having been in the least bit responsible when they decided to make me learn to drive, and calling the insurance company to correct the omission, they did nothing; and after the accident proceeded to make me feel extra guilty as if the whole entire mess was my fault.

  • Big Daddy

    OK, the instructor was bad, but there comes a point when you have to take ownership of “being a nervous driver”. 10+ years later, your attitude is yours to control.

  • aeacus

    i swear i’ve had this same instructor. he pulled this stunt on my first driving license test as we were turning onto the highway. still made me, a now crying kid, drive on the highway all the way back to the center. then he bragged about it to my mom while i was still there upset (i was one of those high achieving kids who never failed anything in grade school). he offered us a retest for a fee and my mom immediately said ‘nope, we’re going to the dmv and fight the lines’. passed with flying colors there.

  • chickenface

    My first time ever behind the wheel of a car was rush hour, downtown, right before a sports game, 3 blocks away from the sports arena. If my driver’s ed instructor hadn’t had a brake on his side, I would’ve rear ended someone within the first 5 minutes. I got the brake and gas confused and hit the gas when the car in front of me hit the brakes to make a turn. (Also, there should really be a little race track for people to get used to brakes and gas before just sticking them on the road).

  • Sadies Ariel

    When I took my license test the first time the guy failed me because I was driving 50 in a 55 (the test area was an area I had never been to before so I was unfamiliar with where all the streets and such were and didn’t know when he was going to be telling me to turn) and because I slowed down even more to turn (according to him I should have been able to do 90 degree angle turns going 55 mph no problem). – sorry, I wasn’t trained to be a NASCAR prodigy.
    Needless to say I went to a different location to retest, the guy took me once around the block, said I go a little too fast when I turned and to slow down a little (this area was about 40 mph so I made sure to go at least 40 the whole test despite not knowing the area either) but passed me anyway.