When it comes to getting a driver's licence, not all people are created equal

The day you get your driver's licence is usually the day you start to realise that when it comes to measuring time, distance and space, not all people are created equal.


Within a month, you are cursing and muttering like a veteran. The question of where a person got their licence will frequently cross your mind. Perhaps, what should be asked is how many times they went for their licence.

Getting a driver's licence around the world

The bad…


Besides the fact that in 2007, the minister of transport revealed that 60% of all locals had failed the test in the three years between 2005 and 2007, there is little other information or South African statistics available. (Mind you, it would be fair to say that we have had other things to worry about.)


In other parts of the world, they are more forthcoming. South Korea reveals that the national record is 960 attempts by an individual. In the UK, the debate seems to be about how many times you should be allowed to take a driver's test before trembling. PTSD instructors and examiners can ban you forever.


Anecdotal accounts list the man from Liverpool who took "39 goes" to pass the driving test. Most astounding is the sentence that reads:


"The figures also include the top 20 repeat theory test candidates. Between them, the top 20 have attempted to take the test 1 309 times. Only eight have yet managed to pass."


Topping the list was a 30-year-old woman who sat the theory test 113 times at the Ilford centre. The second spot (at the same centre) was taken by a 40-year-old man with 107 attempts and third place to a 30-year-old man, in Peterborough, who has failed 86 times. (Just a reminder that this is the theoretical test before people get on the road.)


Olivia Baldock-Ward, then-training manager at the Driving Instructors Association, said: "There is the issue of whether people who are failing the theory test 100 times, should be allowed to try again and again. There is an issue of road safety here.


"On average, people might need more than one go at passing the tests. If it is much more than that, then there may be other issues involved."


A classic case of British understatement…Driving is a serious matter – people do die on the roads.


Janine Mars, who is obviously a better construction worker than a driver, admits that after spending more than £5 000 (that's R107 000) on 250 lessons over 14 years and failing four tests, things are still a little puzzling.  


"I think I will learn one day," she said. "I just find there's so much to think about, what with the steering wheel, pedals, gear lever and everything that's happening on the road. It doesn't come naturally." (Go girl, but please don't drive in my neighbourhood.)

The good?


Let's look at the opposite side of the coin. Probably the best way to make sure that people belong on the road is through having a strict testing policy. Take Austria, for example.


Official road accident fatalities in Austria published earlier this year show that in 2006, there were 730 deaths on Austrian roads. This figure has been declining steadily, and by 2018, had dropped to 409.


A look at getting a permit in that country emphasised that "only the first stage of driving instruction in Austria ends with the getting of a driver's licence".


But, to get to the permitted stage, an applicant has to:

  1. Complete 32 hours of theoretical driving instruction;

  2. Pass a first aid course which includes how to do artificial respiration and "closed-chest massage".[*]Have a medical fitness certificate; and[*]Pass three stages of practical driving — Stage one: Six hours of instructed driving on quiet country roads, stage t;o: No set hours but all the skills required to be on the road, stage three: Six hours of driving, including an hour on an Autobahn, one hour on a back road, one hour of night driving and two hours for honing skills and exam simulation.

Within two to four months of getting the licence, you must hone your driving skills in a driving school, and after six to 12 months, complete a second course. But, that's not all, folks!

Extreme driving course…


Between these two courses and within three to nine months of getting a driver's permit, you must "undergo an extreme driving course with a subsequent psychologist's lecture".


"On a specially equipped autodrome, participants will be able to practise emergency braking with ABS, emergency manoeuvring and car stabilisation in case of skidding, and emergency passing procedures."


Be prepared for a nine-hour day and a lecture from a psychologist.


On second thoughts, Austria has an excellent public transport system. Where can I find a No 9 bus?

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