Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Driver's Ed.

I need to get my license.

I have always relied on an international driver license to keep me legal here in Taiwan, but, alas, mine has lapsed and I need to get a local one to get back on the right side of the law. The test is similar to to the one in the states, at least on the surface: you must first pass a written exam, and then take the practical portion. The driving guide is available online, as is a practice exam. I decided to try the test once, without consulting the guide, so I could judge my baseline competency. I wanted to know how hard I'll have to work to pass this thing. The results were not encouraging, as you can see here:

I believe you need a score of 80 to pass, so I've got some work to do -- that death threat has given me new motivation. I'm surprised they used gallows humor in this case, actually; taking an exam in this culture is a big deal, and many young people do take their own lives if they feel they have let their families down.

Passing on the first try is a rare thing among the expats who have tested and lived to tell about it. The problem is not the written test, although it is bizarrely worded and full of arcane details about fees and fines and special rules for taxis; the problem is with the driving portion, which is as impractical as a practical exam can be. The test takes place on a closed track outfitted with sensors and alarms. The student driver gets behind the wheel of a car trimmed out with tags that trip the sensors, which, of course, set off the alarms, every time you make an error. The driver is tested on his ability to parallel park smoothly (without stopping during the maneuver); to negotiate a set of S-curves, both forward and back; and to back into a space, again without stopping the car while doing so. The course has numbered markers to guide the driver: pull forward until you are even with the #13; turn the wheel two turns to the right and reverse until you are even with the #14; turn the wheel five turns to the left and reverse until you are even with then #15; straighten out your wheels. Yes, this is the practical exam. Perhaps this explains why so many Chinese people require assistance when parking their cars. It's commonplace for whomever is riding shotgun to hop out (often to race ahead and save a space, but that's another story) and direct the driver gently into the slot. It doesn't matter how big the space or how small the car; parking is very often a team effort.

I've heard that you must get a score of 85 to pass the driving portion; each error is worth 10 points. I'm not even going to go there. I'll just chalk it up to new math.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It all sounds pretty straight forward to me. If you can't hang a Louie on the #15.5 with no discernable deceleration, woman, you shouldn't be on the road anyhows.

Thanks for the pic of your test result with the graphic of how you should feel about such a score.

Eryn says if you need a team to parallel park, you're probably also the type to try to eat RICE with two STICKS.