Reporter takes Barking driving test to find out why it's third hardest place to pass
PUBLISHED: 12:00 14 June 2015 | UPDATED: 10:04 17 June 2015
I passed my driving test nine years ago and will never forget the look of shock and fear across my parents' faces when I ran home to tell them I could legally drive their car.
In the excitement I reversed into a salt grit bin a few hours later – but who hasn’t.
So after Barking was named hardest place to pass in the UK I contacted a local instructor and asked for a spin around the impossible test route.
I agreed to take another test to see how challenging the notorious patch could be – after checking there was no way my original licence could be revoked if (and when) I failed.
“I can’t remember the last time someone passed here,” said Richard, my examiner for the day.
“Very early on I suggest my students take their tests in Goodmayes, Loughton or Chingford.”
Richard Holdsworth, 60, who lives on Kennedy Road in Barking, said the hardest parts of the test route are the A13 and the A406 roundabout when approaching it from Dagenham.
“It’s a hard spot roundabout and people don’t go around it correctly. “You’ve got three lanes which filter into one and traffic is coming on the roundabout at 50 miles per hour – and that’s part of the test.”
It’s been a while since I’ve been behind a wheel but that’s no excuse for speeding – I was slammed with my first major for going 35mph in a 30 zone.
I realise that’s a difficult one to blame on the test area, but I was thrown by motorists zipping past me at a minimum of 45mph.
Bill Plant driving instructor, Richard, told me another common fail occurs when people are told to follow signs to Stratford from Ilford as “high traffic and positioning on the day can really affect people here”.
But can chaotic roundabouts and busy roads curtail the pass rate so severely? I want to get to the bottom of what makes so many Barking drivers flunk.
“It’s also hard because of the geography of Barking,” Richard said while pointing to a cobweb of coloured lines densely tangled together on a map in his lap.
“And the people who drive around here don’t make it easy. I think the standard of driving in this area is generally poor and on top of that you just don’t get the same levels of traffic in Chingford and Loughton.”
Traffic management systems in Barking are much more technical, Richard added, much to the dismay of one of his former students who failed in the patch 16 times.
I sniggered at this, but after my own test it didn’t sound so absurd.
I came away shaken, dispirited and cluthcing a test sheet with a shameful three majors and a big fat fail.