Traffic is a nightmare at the best of times, so imagine doing all those checks at a stop sign or traffic light? I propose the test be revised. People must learn how to drive in the real world. Drivers must be taught how to swerve out of the way safely; how to apply brakes effectively; what the correct following distance is; what the proper driving position is and how to negotiate a traffic circle. Instructors must compel and rigidly teach drivers to focus on the road and drive-awareness instead of remembering that all-important mirror-check.
I was chatting to an 18-year-old who had received his licence. To my astonishment, this young guy had neither driven on a highway, nor in peak hour traffic and had not even driven his car at night! Nevertheless, because he knows how to park between cones and can check his mirrors when he stops, he’s considered fit to drive on our roads?
Let’s take Finland as an example. To obtain a driver’s licence, a person is required to drive with an instructor for 18 hours, complete 19 theory lessons after which they must complete a computerised theory test and a driving test in city traffic, for a minimum time of 30 minutes. Once this is all done, their licence is given to them, but it carries a two-year probationary period. During the two-year period, should any more than two traffic violations be noted, they will lose their licence.
I’d never propose such a system here because - let’s be honest - the simplistic version we have is already a painstaking process with the traffic department. My point is that people who do get their licences here are not prepared for the real driving world. A system where they could learn what it’s really like to drive in South Africa would help - I think.
There’s a movement in the pipeline, suggesting that Driving Instruction become a subject in schools. Even though a lot of people will never be able to afford a car, straight away, the fact that they’re able to drive may instil a sense of aspiration within them when, one day, they’d be able to use their school-obtained driver’s licence to potter around in their own vehicles.
To address our immediate situation I’ve recently heard that there’s been an alarmingly high failure rate at the learner licence level. This has led many to believe that the syllabus being used is not the same as is prescribed.
The Southern African Institute of Driving Instructors (Saidi) has come out to expose this inherent problem. It has cited that the tests being conducted are not within the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) standards for learners licence testing.
I was forwarded an e-mail from someone who had just failed the test and had suggested that some of the questions had not been covered in the manual, K53 Pass Your Learners Easy. A potential solution to the pain of the learner’s licence is a computerised version of the process which is faster and more efficient.
Head of the Saidi, Pat Allen, said: “We are 100 percent in favour of the computerised learner’s licence, but the prescribed syllabus is clearly not being complied with. The many requests for the questions which fall beyond the syllabus to be removed, which we and many others have submitted, continue to be ignored.”
Allen also brought up an issue with regards to the translation of the learner’s licence in to ethnic languages “Ethnic translations have been translated by university students which has made the language too formal for the ordinary person to understand,” she added.
Allen also went on to discuss the problem of feedback from examiners. “Applicants are given the failure results and dismissed without explanation, which costs them money, time and time again, lost days at work and months of delay, ” Allen concluded.
What was your experience like when obtaining a licence and what are your suggestions to improve the current situation?