Driving Test Success
Apologies for my relative silence lately, especially with so many interesting things going on in the world. I’m working on a couple of posts about the U.S. Dollar and the Renminbi, as well as the next installment on my trip to North Korea. But I’ve been preoccupied the past few days with studying for the driver’s license test here in China, which I can happily report that I passed (on my first try!) this morning.
It used to be nearly impossible for a foreigner to get a driver’s license in China, but not anymore. If you already have a license from your native country, you just have to take a written test. It’s 100 questions, half multiple choice, half true-false, and you need 90% correct to pass. It’s not rocket science, but it’s not easy either. There are 1,400 questions they can ask, and besides sensible questions on sign recognition, rules of the road, and handling emergencies, you have to know all kinds of minutiae about the traffic law, like all the fines they charge for all different variations and combinations of infractions (drunk driving a mere US$30-300), how often a car needs to be inspected (once every two years for the first 6 years, then annually until it reaches mandatory retirement at 15 years), and what the unmarked speed limit is on a rural road with no center line when sand renders visibility less than 50 meters on a Tuesday night in odd years when the moon is full (30km/hour, by the way). Like I say, there are over a thousand of these gems of valuable knowledge. Hey, at least I now know the correct way to jump out of an overturning car (opposite to the direction it’s turning — imagine that!).
The funny thing is that the test is way more about theory than practice. It’s almost like a exam on what people do not do. Flash your turn signal before changing lanes? What, and tip everyone off so they can block your way? The test booklet says Chinese motorists must stop and yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk. Really? Because I’ve never seen that happen, unless “yield” is broadly interpreted to mean any intimidating action short of actually plowing someone over. To be fair, I’m told that, given the number of pedestrians on China’s busy streets, if you actually did yield to them you’d never ever get anywhere — which I think is probably true. So I have to say, I’m still pretty intimidated about getting on the road. When that does happen, I’ll be sure to report.