The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Steep curve ahead for global licence
- Driving tests to become stringent for applicants headed abroad

New Delhi, Nov. 22: If you are planning to get an international driving licence before you go abroad, here’s the bad news. The testing procedure will soon get tough.

Time was when you popped into the local automobile association’s office, plonked down a couple of hundred rupees and your driver’s licence and, a couple of days later, got the licence that would allow you to tear down the autobahns of Germany and the highways of the US in Mercs and Lincolns.

All you speed fiends — who got your licences through dubious means — can say goodbye to all that.

A notification issued recently by the government says applicants will soon have to undergo stringent tests on left-hand and right-hand drive cars.

One tiny blooper — miss a road sign, fluff a turn or goof up on right-of-way procedure — and you can forget about laying your hands on that precious international driving licence which, like always, will be valid for only a year.

The fee for the international driving licence is being capped at Rs 500. At present, the fee differs across states. The new process is expected to come into force in December.

The drive to tighten the testing procedure follows reports that several countries like the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and non-Commonwealth nations have stopped issuing driving licences to Indians because of the suspicion that they got the licences in India without undergoing rigorous testing.

International driving licences can be acquired in two ways: either in India through the regional transport authority and the automobile associations, or from the relevant transport authority abroad. Usually, Indians prefer to get these licences in India where they virtually undergo no tests.

After the new testing procedure is in place, Indians travelling abroad will no longer have to fear any harassment from police officials abroad for driving cars with an international licence issued by Indian authorities.

“It is a fact that we are not trained properly before we get our driving licences. Plus, there’s always a suspicion that you have managed to get the licence through other means,” admitted a senior official in the ministry of road transport and highways while justifying the need to streamline the testing procedures.

“Countries like the UAE and a few non-Commonwealth countries, which follow the left-hand drive norm, have stopped issuing driving licences based on the Indian licence. When we pass our tests in India, we still are at an amateur level of driving. We know how to drive, but we have not been tested in real and differing circumstances,” he said.

In most countries, an applicant for a local or international licence has to take a pre-final and final test in actual driving conditions.

“They make you drive at all speeds, on all terrain, and go through crowded areas. You make one mistake — fail to see a road sign, or stop your car with the hazard lights on when you see someone crossing the road — and you will be disqualified. The tests are very tough and the issuing authority is uncompromising,” said sources in the ministry.

It isn’t unusual to find someone who has failed a driving test abroad upwards of 40 times. That is an indicator of the rigorousness of the testing procedures which Indians have not faced before.

The new international driving permit will be grey in colour with a photograph; the reverse will be in white. The licences will be issued with details in two languages — English and French. This will help those travelling to countries like Canada and those in the European Union.

The ministry of road transport and highways has already issued guidelines to regional transport authorities asking them to strictly follow the testing procedures before issuing international driving licences.

The ministry has also asked state governments to cooperate in computerisation of records to reduce the delay in issuing international licences.

Those who have a licence issued in one state will be able to get an international licence in another state within a few days once all the 763 RTOs are computerised. Currently, only a hundred are computerised.

While the online issue of international driving permits is likely to take a few more years, the ministry of road transport and highways is serious about reducing the time taken to issue local and international driving licences and weed out touts in the system.

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