PHUKET: Obtaining a driver’s license on our island is a paradoxical task.
It is an ostensibly simple process, all done within one building and in eight hours, driving lessons optional – which may rev your confidence up – but it’s fussiness has been known to trip up even those with decades of driving experience.
A mere inch of yellow line-overstepping during the practical test or a confused incorrect selection of a theory exam answer to the same question asked five different ways are obstacles waiting to descend upon unsuspecting applicants.
As you begin to doubt your road knowledge, you witness another driver repeatedly knock over boundary poles for 15 minutes while trying to parallel park, and learn that despite her poor skills she is given a license. Why? Because the examiner pities her – this is her third week’s attempt. And you are reassured. It’s just Thailand.
But let us reminisce upon the times when a 500-baht fee was the sole requirement to be a legal driver in Phuket. This new, though questionable method of assessment is considered progress in comparison – at least we have surfaced from the nonexistence of safety procedures.
One puzzling nature of the test is the possibility of re-sitting the exam immediately after the first failed try, and the unveiling of the correct answers at the end of aforementioned failed try – making the exam much closer to a memory test – with bonus points for deciphering the English.
Despite the generous leeway during the theory exam, the practical part is unforgiving. Never mind that you aced the multiple choice test with 29/30 marks, if you overstep or miss the yellow footpath line as you drive up to the registration booth at the beginning, you’re out.
Sure, feel free to re-take the theory test immediately after being exposed to the answers if there is time remaining, and please do parallel park in vain for 15 minutes; but missing that yellow line by one inch is absolutely unforgivable. Come back next week.
After hurdling such challenges and paying a several-hundred baht fee (depending on what vehicle you are finalizing a license for), you receive the freshly printed legal blessing that you are able to mobilize a vehicle.
Then you hit the road, only to be greeted by law-enforcement officers who are too apathetic to care whether you overstep a yellow line framing a footpath and a legal system in which your license will only be asked for at a standard, static checkpoint, unless in the case of an accident. It is just Thailand.
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