Go Back   British Expats / Usenet Groups / rec.travel.* / rec.travel.europe

Closed Thread
 
Thread Tools
Old Oct 30th 2002, 6:54 am   #1
Caryl Chessman
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Getting a Driver's License Is a Royal Pain in Britain

Getting a Driver's License Is a Royal Pain in Britain

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

By SARA CALIAN and STEVE STECKLOW
Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

LONDON -- When John Plott, who lives near Glasgow, recently passed his
British driving test, he didn't say a word to the examiner, not even
thanks. "Basically I wanted to get out of the motor car before he
changed his mind," he says.

It's easy to understand why. Mr. Plott had failed the test 15 times
before.

Think driving on the left side of the road is difficult? Try getting a
British driver's license.

The "dreaded test," as one car-insurance ad calls it, is a
nerve-wracking process that takes months of preparation and practice
-- and can end up costing $1,000 or more. It also calls for such
maneuvers as driving backwards around a corner and up the street along
the curb. Touch the curb with the wheel and you flunk.

Most test-takers don't cut it. Britain's pass rate is under 44% and
falling. That makes driving tests in places such as New York, where
61% of drivers pass, seem a relative breeze.

Britain's Driving Standards Agency, the government entity that
administers the test, isn't satisfied. While Britain has one of the
world's lowest auto fatality rates, the agency is concerned because
nearly 20% of new drivers get into crashes within a year of passing
the test.

So the agency has decided to make getting a driver's license even
tougher. In addition to a 35-question computerized exam on driving
regulations and a 40-minute "practical" road test conducted in
traffic, starting Nov. 14 applicants also will have to survive a
video-simulation test that measures reaction times to filmed hazards.

Agency officials concede the new video requirement isn't going to make
getting a license any easier, so they recommend applicants take
special classes just for that. "If they don't take any training, you
could see the pass rate tumble quite a lot," warns Robin Cummins, the
government's chief driving examiner.

That's particularly bad news for Americans living in Britain. While
citizens of other European Union countries can exchange their licenses
for a British one, Americans, within a year of moving here, are
supposed to take the test. But many don't, largely because of horror
stories told by people who have tried.

"It's humiliating," says Justine Griffiths, a sculptor from California
who last year took the test at her Welsh husband's urging. She had
been driving here illegally for eight years using her U.S. license.
"I'm 42 years old. I've been driving for 20 years with a clean record,
and I'm a mother of a nine-year-old. I cried because I failed my
driving test. I felt like a failure in life."

Ianthe Kallas-Bortz, a 46-year-old native New Yorker, refers to the
two-year period she spent trying to acquire a British license as "the
debacle." After four failed attempts, she finally gave up. But that
didn't keep her off the road. She continued to drive for eight more
years, without incident, then she moved back to the U.S.

Indeed, because unlicensed drivers in Britain aren't uncommon, they
are becoming a serious concern. Safety experts estimate there are at
least half a million unlicensed drivers on Britain's roads, and many
say it's because of the test. "There are definitely people who become
so frustrated at not being able to pass the driving test that they
drive without a license," says Andrew Howard, head of road safety for
the AA, Britain's largest motor vehicle club.

Another big deterrent is the cost. Applicants first must buy a
provisional license for $45, which is required to practice. Since
secondary schools don't offer driver education, most people enroll in
driving schools, and take a dozen or more lessons at about $31 an
hour.

The computerized "theory" test costs $28. To pass, it helps to study a
book published by the driving agency, since the book contains all the
actual test questions. The cost: $19. The agency also plans to sell a
$20 practice video for the new simulation test.

The road test costs $61, unless you want to take it on a Saturday, in
which case the fee rises to $75. But you can't take the test unless
you have made a booking beforehand. Since test appointments often
aren't available for two to three months, phone operators recommend
calling every day to see whether there's a cancellation.

Naturally if you fail the road test, you have to pay to take it again.

It's little surprise that the Driving Standards Agency, which also
offers motorcycle, truck, tractor and bus tests, last year reported a
$5.8 million surplus, even though the number of people taking the car
test has been falling. But Mr. Cummins, who says anyone who spends
$900 to acquire a license is getting by "cheap," defends the costs,
saying the agency is required to be self-supporting and therefore
needs to be run as a business.

How are young people supposed to afford a driver's license? Mr.
Cummins isn't sympathetic. "Getting a driving license is not a rite of
passage," he says. He adds that teenagers, who can get a license at
17, need to make priorities in their lives and determine, for example,
whether they want to go to college or get a driving license. The
costs, in fact, aren't that far apart; tuition at most British
universities currently is $1,560 a year.

On a recent midweek morning, a small group of drivers assembled in the
waiting room of the driving-test center in Hendon, just north of
London. All of them were accompanied by their instructors.

For reasons only a bureaucrat could fathom, the tests all were
scheduled for exactly 10:44 a.m., and at that moment a group of
examiners bearing clipboards entered the room. One by one they
accompanied the test-takers to their vehicles, leaving the instructors
behind.

For the next 40 minutes, each examiner directed a driver through the
streets of Hendon, issuing a series of commands. "At the next
roundabout" -- British for traffic circle -- "turn left." "Please pull
over just past that car on the left. Now move on when you're ready."

The examiners quietly made small marks on their clipboards, never
revealing how the drivers were doing until the test was finished. But
the test-takers know from their lessons that the examiners watch out
for compliance with some of the peculiarities of British driving
etiquette. Among them: When stopping at a red light, use the
handbrake, not the foot brake. Never cross your hands when turning the
steering wheel. And never, ever, wave to a pedestrian to signal that
it's OK to cross the street. Even agency officials admit that many
drivers ignore these rules as soon as the test is over.

Upon returning to the agency's parking lot, the examiner ordered a
test-taker to turn off the ignition. Then he looked down at his
clipboard as the driver, who has been licensed in the U.S. for 30
years, awaited the verdict. "I'm sorry, but you didn't pass," the
examiner said in a low voice.

He cited two "serious" faults: The driver hadn't pulled completely
into the right lane when instructed to make a right turn at a
"mini-roundabout." And several times he had failed to check his
rear-view mirror before using a turn signal.

Why is it safer to take your eye off the road and look into a mirror
before using a turn signal? Mr. Cummins later explained that the
purpose is to avoid confusing the driver of another car who might be
trying to overtake the vehicle.

But the AA's Mr. Howard offers a different explanation: "It basically
boils down to the fact the driving tests and the driving procedures
were laid down in the 1920s, and the system does still basically
assume that it's surprising that there's anybody behind you."


http://online.wsj.com/article_email/...960871,00.html
 
Sponsored Links
Old Oct 30th 2002, 7:02 am   #2
Paul Robson
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Getting a Driver's License Is a Royal Pain in Britain

caryl.chessman@eudoramail.com wrote:

    >
    > "It's humiliating," says Justine Griffiths, a sculptor from California
    > who last year took the test at her Welsh husband's urging. She had
    > been driving here illegally for eight years using her U.S. license.
    > "I'm 42 years old. I've been driving for 20 years with a clean record,
    > and I'm a mother of a nine-year-old. I cried because I failed my
    > driving test. I felt like a failure in life."

And her psychological problems are the fault of the UK driving test
precisely how ?

I do have a problem with this kind of crap where no-one is allowed to
fail anything, everything must be easy enough so any idiot can pass it,
etc.
 
Old Oct 30th 2002, 7:07 am   #3
Daxx
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Getting a Driver's License Is a Royal Pain in Britain

wrote in message
news:b7924f13.0210292354.4b20069@posting.google.com...
    > Getting a Driver's License Is a Royal Pain in Britain

By complete contrast, getting my US licence was too easy... 20 questions, a
rudimentary eye exam and once around the block and back to the DMV. At least
the examiner knew I could make a right turn...


---
Outgoing mail is certified Virus Free.
Checked by AVG anti-virus system (http://www.grisoft.com).
Version: 6.0.408 / Virus Database: 230 - Release Date: 10/25/2002
 
Old Oct 30th 2002, 7:17 am   #4
Bob Builder
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Getting a Driver's License Is a Royal Pain in Britain

wrote in message
news:b7924f13.0210292354.4b20069@posting.google.com...
    > Getting a Driver's License Is a Royal Pain in Britain
    > Most test-takers don't cut it. Britain's pass rate is under 44% and
    > falling. That makes driving tests in places such as New York, where
    > 61% of drivers pass, seem a relative breeze.

And the result is :-

The UK is one of the safest places in the world to drive.


Bob
 
Old Oct 30th 2002, 7:53 am   #5
Roy
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Getting a Driver's License Is a Royal Pain in Britain

"Bob Builder" wrote in message
news:apo4pb$oa0$1@newsg2.svr.pol.co.uk...
    > And the result is :-
    > The UK is one of the safest places in the world to drive.
    > Bob
If you can avoid the Americans

Roy
 
Old Oct 30th 2002, 9:11 am   #6
Thur
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Getting a Driver's License Is a Royal Pain in Britain

wrote ...
    > Getting a Driver's License Is a Royal Pain in Britain
    > Most test-takers don't cut it. Britain's pass rate is under 44% and
    > falling.
[snip]

Sounds like The Netherlands, with a succesrate of 44,2% (and 44,6% a year
ago, see: http://www.cbr.nl/corporate/index.html ). And furthermore it's
wayyy too expensive and after spending all that money you'll get a temporary
license for 5 years :-/
Greetz,

*coffee!*
 
Old Oct 30th 2002, 9:14 am   #7
Jaydee
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Getting a Driver's License Is a Royal Pain in Britain

"Roy" wrote in message
news:apo6nt$aom$1@newsg4.svr.pol.co.uk...
    > "Bob Builder" wrote in message
    > news:apo4pb$oa0$1@newsg2.svr.pol.co.uk...
    > >
    > > And the result is :-
    > >
    > > The UK is one of the safest places in the world to drive.
    > >
    > >
    > > Bob
    > >
    > >
    > If you can avoid the Americans
    > Roy
And here I was thinking how poor the standard of driving has become on our
roads:-)

ATB
JayDee
 
Old Oct 30th 2002, 9:18 am   #8
Briane
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Getting a Driver's License Is a Royal Pain in Britain

    > and I'm a mother of a nine-year-old. I cried because I failed my
    > driving test. I felt like a failure in life."

Hey! So go ahead and litigate.
 
Old Oct 30th 2002, 11:54 am   #9
Beefeater
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Getting a Driver's License Is a Royal Pain in Britain

"Paul Robson" wrote in
message news:apo3ss$9ba$1@newsg4.svr.pol.co.uk...
    > caryl.chessman@eudoramail.com wrote:
    > >
    > > "It's humiliating," says Justine Griffiths, a sculptor from California
    > > who last year took the test at her Welsh husband's urging. She had
    > > been driving here illegally for eight years using her U.S. license.
    > > "I'm 42 years old. I've been driving for 20 years with a clean record,
    > > and I'm a mother of a nine-year-old. I cried because I failed my
    > > driving test. I felt like a failure in life."
    > And her psychological problems are the fault of the UK driving test
    > precisely how ?
    > I do have a problem with this kind of crap where no-one is allowed to
    > fail anything, everything must be easy enough so any idiot can pass it,
    > etc.

PADI scuba certification...
Has anyone EVER failed??

beefeater
 
Old Oct 30th 2002, 12:07 pm   #10
R J Carpenter
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Getting a Driver's License Is a Royal Pain in Britain

I thought I heard that some people from Continental Europe go to the UK to
get driving licences because it is easier and cheaper in the UK than in many
other European countries.
 
Old Oct 30th 2002, 12:45 pm   #11
Devil'S Avacado
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Getting a Driver's License Is a Royal Pain in Britain

Have a word with David C...he is an expert in pointless litigation :-)

"BrianE" wrote in message
news:apobjg$3h31h$1@ID-147149.news.dfncis.de...
    > > and I'm a mother of a nine-year-old. I cried because I failed my
    > > driving test. I felt like a failure in life."
    > Hey! So go ahead and litigate.
 
Old Oct 30th 2002, 1:47 pm   #12
Scott In Az
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Getting a Driver's License Is a Royal Pain in Britain

On Wed, 30 Oct 2002 08:53:27 -0000, "Roy" wrote:

    >"Bob Builder" wrote in message
    >news:apo4pb$oa0$1@newsg2.svr.pol.co.uk...
    >> And the result is :-
    >> The UK is one of the safest places in the world to drive.
    >If you can avoid the Americans

And all the Britons who flunked the driving test

---
Life is short - drive FAST!
 
Old Oct 30th 2002, 2:24 pm   #13
Bruce Bowe
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Getting a Driver's License Is a Royal Pain in Britain

The reason for that is this: We like to have a bunch of really crappy
drivers on our roads--and we do. That way, all of our cities and states can
make more money from traffic tickets. It's an industry that, at least IMO,
exists only in the U.S. I really don't think it has much to do with
driving safety. It turns a lot of our highly trained policemen into revenue
collectors most of the time. Damn shame.
Maybe I'm blind, but I can't remember the last time I saw a cop giving a
traffic ticket in the UK or Europe...
------------------------------
Bowe Custom eCommerce
Santa Rosa, CA
www.santarosa.nu
"Daxx" wrote in message
news:WqMv9.30562$fa.593360@twister.tampabay.rr.com...
    > wrote in message
    > news:b7924f13.0210292354.4b20069@posting.google.com...
    > > Getting a Driver's License Is a Royal Pain in Britain
    > By complete contrast, getting my US licence was too easy... 20 questions,
a
    > rudimentary eye exam and once around the block and back to the DMV. At
least
    > the examiner knew I could make a right turn...
    > ---
    > Outgoing mail is certified Virus Free.
    > Checked by AVG anti-virus system (http://www.grisoft.com).
    > Version: 6.0.408 / Virus Database: 230 - Release Date: 10/25/2002
 
Old Oct 30th 2002, 2:56 pm   #14
nightjar
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Getting a Driver's License Is a Royal Pain in Britain

wrote in message
news:b7924f13.0210292354.4b20069@posting.google.com...
....
    > LONDON -- When John Plott, who lives near Glasgow, recently passed his
    > British driving test, he didn't say a word to the examiner, not even
    > thanks. "Basically I wanted to get out of the motor car before he
    > changed his mind," he says.
    > It's easy to understand why. Mr. Plott had failed the test 15 times
    > before.

A good reason to impose a maximum limit on the number of times you can sit
the test. Anyone who takes that many tries to achieve the low level of
skills needed to pass the test will probably never be a safe driver.

....
    > It also calls for such
    > maneuvers as driving backwards around a corner and up the street along
    > the curb. Touch the curb with the wheel and you flunk.

Those are very basic vehicle handling skills. You don't even have to be able
to park in a restricted space. While that was fine when I took my test -
there were not many places outside the very centre of London where you could
not just draw up to the kerb - it is a necessary skill in most places these
days.

    > Most test-takers don't cut it. Britain's pass rate is under 44% and
    > falling. That makes driving tests in places such as New York, where
    > 61% of drivers pass, seem a relative breeze.

This is a typically meaninigless use of statistics. The difference between
the pass rates in Britain and those in New York might be a measure of the
relative toughness of the tests, but it could also be that New Yorkers don't
take a test until they are much better prepared than the average Briton. One
thing not mentioned is the relatively high number of UK tests where the
examiner has to take action to prevent an accident.

....
    > So the agency has decided to make getting a driver's license even
    > tougher. In addition to a 35-question computerized exam on driving
    > regulations and a 40-minute "practical" road test conducted in
    > traffic, starting Nov. 14 applicants also will have to survive a
    > video-simulation test that measures reaction times to filmed hazards.

Sounds a lot more scientific than knowing that the examiner will hit the
dash with his clipboard as soon as you get up to any speed on a clear road
with no traffic behind you.

....
    > Another big deterrent is the cost. Applicants first must buy a
    > provisional license for $45, which is required to practice. Since
    > secondary schools don't offer driver education, most people enroll in
    > driving schools, and take a dozen or more lessons at about $31 an
    > hour.

If you hope to pass, it should be a lot more - at least one hour per year of
age, with a minimum of 20 hours is recommended.

....
    > How are young people supposed to afford a driver's license?

Same way I did when I was 17 - get lots of small jobs to bring in extra
money so I could afford the lessons.

...
    > Why is it safer to take your eye off the road and look into a mirror
    > before using a turn signal?

It would be better to turn into the path of another vehicle you didn't know
was there?

Colin Bignell
 
Old Oct 30th 2002, 3:05 pm   #15
Bob Builder
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Getting a Driver's License Is a Royal Pain in Britain

" Bruce Bowe" wrote in message
news:PQSv9.1294$322.112015624@newssv...ws.prodigy.com...

    > Maybe I'm blind, but I can't remember the last time I saw a cop giving a
    > traffic ticket in the UK or Europe...

The UK is covered with fixed roadside speed cameras that
read your number plate and send out fixed penalty notices
for £60 ($100) plus 3 penalty points [12 and you get a driving ban].


Bob
 
Closed Thread

Go Back   British Expats / Usenet Groups / rec.travel.* / rec.travel.europe

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


 

All times are GMT. The time now is 4:25 am.


Powered by vBulletin: ©2000 - 2014, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
© 1999-2010 BritishExpats.com