Thursday, April 27, 2006

Failed your driving test? Come back in 18 months and pick up your car.

Minister Cullen has once again come up with a headline grabbing idea that any idiot could tell him was a non runner. I am beginning to wonder if the problem actually lies with the civil servants in the Department of Transport for not telling him to take a deep breath and think twice before calling a press conference.

In this particular case the proposed solution to the carnage on our roads is to stop people who have failed their driving test from driving.
Reports this morning said Minister for Transport Martin Cullen was planning reforms that would see provisional license holders forced to undergo more tuition and re-sit the test before they are allowed to drive again.

At first glance this seems like a great idea but there are several problems.

Firstly and most obviously it currently takes 18 months to get a test. You cannot take people off the roads for 18 months depending on the mood of a driving examiner. The waiting period for a test should be no longer than 1 month if this idea was to be a runner.

Secondly the government does not provide driving instruction and private lessons are expensive, for example the prices from one major driving school are

1 Lesson - €37
5 Lessons - €175
10 Lessons - €340
Pre-Test Course (4 Lessons) - €135

Young people can’t afford driving lessons so of course they can't drive properly. If you are going to force people to sit a certain number of lessons then the government must provide a cheaper alternative.

Thirdly people seem to pass or fail at the whim of the driving examiner. Some people I know failed for stupidly vague things like "driving too far from the edge of the road". They were not over the white line or even too close to the white line, just not close enough to the edge for the examiners liking. Maybe the examiner was trying to pick flowers or something. Other drivers I know passed despite driving on footpaths during their tests but were told, "you just need some experience, and sure you wont get that without your license". If you are a pedestrian in Ireland you will know that footpaths and pedestrian crossings are not something fully qualified drivers pay much notice to. There has to be a happy medium between the two standards.

Fourthly the Department of Transport that has come up with this idea that could take up to 400,000 drivers off Irish roads is also responsible for the public transport network. A public transport network that is suffering from chronic under funding, laughable timetables, expensive tickets and white elephant projects that cost a premium and service a minimum. Until they provide a decent nation wide alternative to the car, people who have not passed their driving test will continue to be forced to drive, legally or illegally.

And finally driving examination centers do not provide cars. You have to bring your own, either hired for the day or one you own. If after failing the test you cannot drive away from the center until you re-sit your test how exactly do they propose you should get your car out of the center? Should you just park it in their car park and come back in 18 months to re-sit your test?

The carnage on our roads will not be solved by taking away the licenses of one section of the community. They might as well just raise the driving age to 26 and be done with it. This problem requires imagination, investment and ambition, things this government has been lacking in the last few years.

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