Three in four fail Dubai driving test

Failure rate may come from push to raise standard of instruction with 40 small driving schools closed in the last three years.

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More than three quarters of 196,000 applicants failed their driving tests last year in Dubai, a report by the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) shows. The failure rate is up sharply from 2005, when half of the applicants passed. The failure rate may be explained, in part, by the efforts of RTA, in consultation with the police and driving schools, to raise the standard of instruction and examination. In the last three years, for example, it has closed 40 small driving schools whose level of teaching was deemed inadequate.

Building on that progress, the authority is considering a number of initiatives for the coming year, including a rehabilitation programme for drivers who have had their licences suspended after accumulating 24 black points, and special beginner training sessions for driving at night. "This is a very big year for the licensing agency," said Peyman Younes Parham, the director of marketing and corporate communication at the RTA. "You will hear many important announcements in the months to come."

Since 2007, the RTA has been working with VicRoads, a government agency in the Australian state of Victoria, on changes to the licensing system intended to lift teaching standards and the qualifications of instructors and examiners. VicRoads has already trained 32 driving instructors on the appropriate methods of delivering information to trainees, on the correct application of driving and traffic rules and on educational methods of safe and defensive driving.

Later this year, a VicRoads manual is to be handed to all instructors to ensure uniformity in the way driving rules are taught. Examiners are also being trained. The RTA said it may increase the time allotted for testing drivers by 10 to 15 minutes from around 10 minutes at present "to enable the examiner to assess the level of the trainee in a fair manner and ascertain the trainee's skills in professional driving". It may also provide training to disabled people who want to obtain driving licences. A number of programmes are targeted at novice drivers, who are several times more likely to get involved in serious accidents compared with their more experienced counterparts. One idea is to issue all novices who pass the test with temporary permits for an initial period of three years. Another is the course in night driving. Although the RTA report showed that driver discipline still appeared to be a major problem in Dubai, as it is in other parts of the country, there were noticeable signs of improvement. Road fatalities are decreasing, the RTA said. While 24 out of every 100,000 people were road-accident victims in 2005, the figure is 17 per 100,000 today. Meanwhile, applicants face continuing frustration as they get behind the steering wheel for their tests. Denitsa Godeva, 29, from Bulgaria, took the test in November. The owner of a licence issued in her home country, she is still not sure why she failed. "I think it is because I did not check the mirrors often enough, and maybe I joined a main road too abruptly on one occasion," Ms Godeva said. "But the examiner never explained. "I was given a sheet of paper with Arabic text next to some boxes, some of which were ticked off. "She did not give me an explanation; she said to take the paper to the instructor and ask her. If this was Bulgaria, 90 per cent of the people standing for the exam would have passed." Ms Godeva said she saw a woman who was taking the exam for the 14th time. "I do not know why so few people pass,'' she said. "I think they do it on purpose, maybe to reduce traffic congestion or because the driving is so bad here." A 28-year old Indian financial controller for a multinational company said he probably failed because of a misunderstanding. "I was driving for about nine or 10 minutes and the instructor asked me to park the car,'' he said. "I could not see a parking spot nearby and asked where I should stop, if he wanted to me stop by the side of the street. "Maybe it is a mistake from my side; I should not have asked." The man asked to remain anonymous as another exam is pending within days.