Am I glad to see that some things have changed in the decade since I went for my own driving test. In 2007, there was no information online regarding signs, markings on the road, the proper driving etiquette, or anything of the sort. I spent about £8 (INR 750) at the the nearby Regional Transport Office (RTO) to get a learner’s permit, spent a month driving my father’s car with a red ‘L’ plate, and then promptly went for the practical “test” at the end of the month. If you want to know how the test went, check out my rant on the abysmal driving conditions in India. Two weeks later, my driving license arrived and I was free to do whatever I wanted (within reason) while driving a car.
Today, in order to get your learner’s permit you have to actually do an online test and get at least 60% on it. The questions range from reading the various signs (that are rarely used on roads), to logical safety-based questions like, “Boarding in and alighting from a vehicle while in motion”. This is followed by a proper practical test that includes most things from the correct adjustment of the rear view mirrors to “Show courtesy & consideration for other road users keeping in mind the road safety”. Only once both these tests have been completed successfully does one get a permanent license.
While it is nice to know that the Government has taken the matter of 400 people dying every day on India’s roads quite seriously and introduced (or re-introduced) the correct driving tests, I see little point in instituting these tests right now. After all, there are millions of Indians currently driving on these roads who have not taken these tests (including me). This has resulted in our current driving predicament. Beyond that, when the people who have actually trained and passed these examinations do drive on India’s roads, they will have to pick up all the poor driving habits cultivated during the span that there was no driving test in order to survive on these mean streets.
The only sure way to make all Indians better drivers is to cancel all the current licenses and get everyone to take the tests in order to drive again. The rules for renewing a license should also change. The current law states that “an applicant may apply for renewal of his/her driving license 30 days before its expiry to the Licensing Authority”; there is no mention of taking a test again. However, the driver should be made to take the test in order to renew their license. This will ensure that people driving actually know how to drive and will follow the rules regardless of enforcement.