x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Learner drivers must prove grasp of safety

Dubai's transport authority says new theory tests for novices will be ready by late autumn.

DUBAI // The Roads and Transport Authority is putting the final touches to its new "theory" test for learner drivers, saying it will be in place by late autumn. Students will be required to take the test, which focuses on road safety and vehicle maintenance, before they have practical lessons at any of Dubai's driving institutes.

"We want it to be more in line with what other countries are doing," said Ahmed Bahrozyan, the chief executive of the RTA's Licensing Agency. The test, on computer touch-screen systems, will be available in Arabic, English and Urdu. A study guide, to be issued by the RTA, will provide the necessary questions and answers. Students can sit the exam as many times as necessary until they pass. The British company Pearsons VUE, which works with the UK Driving Standards Agency, is advising the RTA on the test and on how best to implement it on the computer-based testing machines it will provide.

The RTA said last month that this was the first time such a sophisticated driver testing system had been delivered to an Arab country. The British theory test consists of questions with multiple-choice answers such as: What is the minimum braking distance from the vehicle in front? What is the legal speed of a car towing a trailer? What should drivers do when vehicles with flashing blue lights are behind them?

The present exam, known as the signal test, only questions the student's knowledge of road signs; there is no comprehensive test that assesses ability to drive safely. Some driving institutes in Dubai make learners sit the signal test before they take the driving lessons; others conduct the test halfway through the course. "I would go for the theory test as well," said Michelle Meida, 26, from India, who has already passed her signal test and will take her practical test in a month. "It would make me and others better drivers."

The theory test would allow her to learn about a car and the rules of the road before she sat in the driver's seat, she said. Peter Richardson, operations manager at Emirates Driving Institute, said that the knowledge gained by the students from the theory test would be invaluable and would improve the standard of driving on the emirate's roads. "In principle, I am sure there is not a driving instructor alive who would not embrace the value of the good, sound knowledge of all the aspects of driving."

Mr Richardson said students should know about the effects of fatigue and other health issues before they begin to drive. "People need to know these things if they want to be responsible drivers, and they can't pick it up as they go along." Mr Bahrozyan said the theory test would begin in September or October and the agency was now in talks with driving institutes on how to standardise the process.

eharnan@thenational.ae