IT HAS taken 25 years, seven driving instructors, and hundreds of hours of lessons, but a determined learner has finally passed her driving test.

Alex Smith, 42, first got behind the wheel in 1988 as an eager 17-year-old, but a combination of dodgy instructors, crippling nerves and the price of lessons meant she had never felt confident enough to take a test.

Miss Smith, who lives in Chapelfields, Stanstead Abbotts, passed her test at the first time of asking last month, and puts her success down to the patience of Hoddesdon-based driving instructor Steve Dodds.

She said: “I started when I was 17, but ran out of money. I stopped for about 10 years after that when I was a student and couldn’t afford the lessons.

“Since then I’ve picked it up again every three years or so. I would try it for a couple of months and then stop because I wasn’t getting anywhere.”

In the past 25 years, driving instructors in Stourbridge, Sheffield and Reading have all tried and failed to get Miss Smith through her test.

She said: “One of the driving instructors I had was a sexist, racist bigot who told off-colour jokes.

“The next one had a mental break down and another one broke both his knees in a skiing accident.

“When I was learning in Sheffield I nearly went into a brick wall and lost all my confidence so stopped again.

“My grandmother took 13 tests before she passed, so taking a while runs in the family.”

Instructor Steve Dodds said he was not aware of the various problems Miss Smith’s previous teachers had encountered, but could detect nerves from her the first phone call.

Lessons began in September, and after about 30 hours of tuition, Miss Smith booked her test more in hope than expectation.

He said: “She was a very nervous person – ultra nervous.

“When she went for the test, I knew she was thinking she wasn’t going to pass, and she had already booked other tests for the future.

“Normally I get a good indication if someone is nervy or on edge, but I didn’t have any of my butterflies with her. She’s a clever lady and I knew if she pulled herself together she would be fine.

“She had a few tears on the way home after passing, but they were tears of joy.”

Miss Smith said while she may have appeared calm, she was panicking.

She said: “I was terrified but I’m glad I didn’t show it. I was determined to pass.

“I didn’t want to show any fear to the driving instructor.

“When he told me I had passed I ask him to say it again.

“I was blubbing and crying with joy.”

Miss Smith moved to Stanstead Abbotts 18 months ago from Reading, and while her partner commutes to London for work, her inability to drive limited her job prospects.

She said: “I thought I better start learning again as the local transport here isn’t as good as central Reading.

“I have a blue Yaris which has been sitting on my drive for the past 18 months. Every day since I passed I have been out for about half an hour to an hour

“One of the strangest things is being in the car by myself for the first time ever.

“I have no one to talk to, and at first it was totally shocking.

“I’ve taken to singing hymns very loudly – my favourite is Abide With Me.”

Herts Mercury

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