After 14 years and 6 learner’s licences this Cape Town man finally has his driver's licence

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Morgan Barton proudly shows off the temporary driver's licence he received this month. (PHOTO: Twitter/@morganreybarton)
Morgan Barton proudly shows off the temporary driver's licence he received this month. (PHOTO: Twitter/@morganreybarton)

Many South Africans are familiar with the sometimes crippling anxiety that comes with taking the K53 driver’s test. Some are able to pass it on their first try while others need a few practice runs, but for Capetonian Morgan Barton the journey took 14 years and six learner’s licence tests.

Morgan says he took the learner's test so frequently he became a pro at it. He understood the theory behind driving, but it was the practical test that kept tripping him up and every time he got behind the wheel, he was reduced to a bundle of nerves.

The last time he booked a driver's test was in 2015 at the Gallows Hill Driving Licence Testing Centre. He felt confident and ready – after all, he'd already passed the learner’s test four times. But when it came to crunch time, like many times before, anxiety overwhelmed him and he froze. 

“Fear washed over me. I started shaking and sweating. It literally felt like I couldn't make myself get out of my dad’s car. After about an hour and a half, I told him I couldn’t do it and we left,” he recalls.

“It was the most soul-crushing moment. I'd spent weeks psyching myself up, and in a moment it was gone. I broke down and cried all the way home. It made me feel useless, stupid and ashamed of myself.”

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Morgan's learner's licence expired after he couldn't take the test, sparking a vicious cycle where he'd study for the test and pass it, only for his licence to expire because he simply couldn't face doing the driver's test. 

Morgan Barton in Cape Town. (Photo: Twitter/@morga
It took the Capetonian 14 years to pass his driver's test. (Photo: Twitter/@morganreybarton)

But he was determined to overcome his fears. Over a period of six weeks from September to November 2019 he sought advice at The Counselling Hub, a free counselling centre in Woodstock, to help him cope with his anxiety. Through therapy and with the support of family and friends, he grew more comfortable and confident.

“Anxiety felt like a unique beast to me that nobody else could possibly comprehend however kind and understanding they were,” he says.

“It was only when I learnt to open up about my anxiety that I realised most people have to deal with it every day in some shape or form. The counselling reminded me that I wasn't alone, and that leaning on and learning from people also suffering with anxiety was key to unlocking myself from its tight grip.” 

This year he decided to try again. His learners’ licence had expired in 2020, but the grace period granted by the government because of the pandemic meant it was valid until March 2022. “I saw it as a sign to finally take the leap and stop putting it off.”

Morgan braced himself for another driver’s test. He booked another appointment at Gallows Hill for 16 March and although he was nervous, he kept his cool and aced it.

“Up until the test started I felt like it was a foregone conclusion that I wasn't going to pass and that I was going to have to do it a few more times. Even when I was at my most confident the anxiety still had a way of planting that self-doubt in my head that I wasn't good enough,” he says.

But the moment he got behind the wheel, “it was almost like my brain flipped a switch, and the nerves disappeared,” he says.

“It's probably similar to the feeling a performer has when they have stage fright right up until the moment they have to go on stage.”

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Aged 31, with six learner's licences under his belt and a temporary driver's licence in his hands, Morgan is proof that perseverance pays off.

“I hope my story will inspire others still intimidated by the driver’s test. I also recommend that people making use of free counselling services,” he says.

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