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Jakarta Post

Getting a driver's license the legal way proves a steep slope

  • thejakartapost.com

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, May 26, 2016   /  06:00 pm
Getting a driver's license the legal way proves a steep slope Motorcycle drivers on a main road of Surakarta, Central Java. (thejakartapost.com/Viriya Paramita S.)

As the traffic corps tries to impose stricter tests for driver’s license applicants, people are complaining that the written and field tests are so difficult that they feel they are being subtly encouraged to pay a bribe rather than pass the test normally.

Panji, a Jakarta resident, knows exactly how it feels to follow the rules when getting a driver's license. But in reality, it is not just his driving ability, but his conscience also, that gets tested again and again as he decides between sticking with the heart-crushing tests or securing his license by bribing officers instead.

He has been trying to arrange a new car-driver’s license since March at the Vehicle Document Registration Center (Samsat) at Daan Mogot in Jakarta. However, after two months, he has failed the written test four times, having to wait a two-week interval between each attempt.

He has stumbled on complex questions that are too technical and too unimportant, he claims, to be comprehended by drivers. For instance, "What is the minimum amount of light for a car’s front headlights?’ The options for that question are: 15,000, 16,000 and 17,000 candelas.

At that point, he felt like he was taking an exam to become an auto mechanic.

“Please correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s like table manners and etiquette. We only need to know how to use the cutlery and eat the food properly. We don’t need to know the precise recipes of the food,” Pandji told thejakartapost.com.

Meanwhile, 571 kilometers away from Panji’s house, a Surakarta resident named Priscilla passed the written test but then, just like Panji, got her conscience tested while taking the slalom test.

“The written test was quite easy. It’s just basic questions about traffic rules. But the slalom test was so difficult. Along with around 20 people, I had to perform a zigzagged ride through a very narrow path of cones. None of us passed the test,” she said.

Priscilla went to Surakarta’s Samsat office in March to extend her car driver's license and at the same time to get a new license for riding her motorcycle. She first had to undergo an eye test before going through the written and slalom field tests.

“A friend of my uncle failed three or four times in the slalom test. Hence, he chose to pay some hush money to get his license,” Priscilla said.

She said there were indeed “alternative” options for securing the license, such as by paying Rp 360,000 (US$26.50) to the administration. However, she did not have the money so decided to drop her plan to get motorcycle driver’s license, and only extend her car driver’s license.

The official administrative fee for applying for a new driver’s license ranges from Rp 120,000 for a car driver’s license and Rp 100,000 for a motorcycle driver’s license.

For those who are impatient, providing extra money is the most efficient and tempting way out. Those who pay extra don’t have to take the painful tests, allowing incompetent drivers to get their license and roam the streets.

Road accidents

Every year around the world the lives of approximately 1.25 million people are cut short as a result of road traffic crashes. Between 20 and 50 million more people suffer non-fatal injuries with many incurring a disability as a result of their injury, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) report in 2015.

In Indonesia, the latest Transportation Ministry data shows that in 2014 there were 95,906 road accidents nationwide, killing 28,897 people. On average, there were 263 accidents and 78 resulting deaths a day.

Motorcycles are in the most danger, involved in 71 percent of accidents in 2014, followed by trucks, which account for 13 percent; private cars, 12 percent; buses, 3 percent; and other vehicles 1 percent. Fifty-seven percent of victims of road accidents are teenagers, 41 percent are adults and four percent are children.

The most alarming part is that 57 percent of 2014's crashes involved drivers who didn’t have a driver’s license. Another 22 percent of cases involved drivers with a motorcycle driver’s license and eight percent involved people with their car driver’s license.

Given the fact that 30 percent of 2014 crashes involved driver's licenses holders, we could reasonably ask whether the license holders really know how to drive safely and orderly, or do they all take "alternative routes" to secure their licenses, to avoid the unnecessary-standard tests.

In response to this issue, AKBP Latif Usman, the deputy director of traffic affairs at Jakarta police, said all questions in the written test had been carefully considered. The difficult parts were aimed at ensuring the capability of drivers on the road.

He even called on the government to include lessons about traffic rules in school curriculum for at least an hour a week. “Lessons on safe driving must be included in the school curriculum, so people are more aware of it,” he said.

As for the slalom test, he recommended people practice using a simulation on the National Police Traffic Corps’ official website before going through the real slalom test. That sounds fair, doesn't it?

However, the official website, lantas.polri.go.id, could not be accessed on Wednesday. Even to practice for getting a driver's license in accordance with the rules, it seems one has to be super patient. A solution, and not just an alternative way out, is badly needed here. (vps/ags)

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