New York Driver’s Ed Is a Joke

Want a driver’s license? It’s easy. Fill out some paperwork and pop on over to the DMV to take a 20-question test for your learner’s permit. Then, get in some practice with a licensed driver. (But if you’re over 18, you can just ignore that part!) Then sit through a five-hour course before taking a quick road test, like these people. Total cost: about $50 and a few hours. Once your license expires, you can renew it with a few clicks online.

No wonder the United States has such a high traffic fatality rate.

Compare this to Germany, where people are less than half as likely to be killed in traffic. In a new video, CNET’s Brian Cooley explains German requirements for learning to operate a high-speed, multi-ton piece of heavy machinery.

The process starts with 14 to 20 hours of technical training, sometimes more, Cooley says, including a test with 30 multiple-choice questions that determines whether you know how to react to any conceivable situation in traffic. That’s followed by at least twelve 90-minute training sessions behind the wheel, including four on the Auotbahn and three at night. If your instructor isn’t satisfied, you could be sent back for additional training sessions.

Then there’s another written exam that plumbs the depths of German traffic law. Three wrong answers is an automatic failure. Fail it three times, and you have to go back to the technical training sessions. And if you learn on an automatic transmission instead of standard, your license prohibits you from driving anything but an automatic. The entire process takes three to six months and can cost about $2,500.

Back here in the United States, it doesn’t take much to get a license, and there doesn’t seem to be much interest in changing that. A bill to add more information about interacting with cyclists and pedestrians to driver’s ed failed to clear the New York Assembly this year.

Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, is looking to get a New York driver’s license after going without since 1998. “We’ll rent a car, and my wife usually ends up doing the driving,” he said. “I think she’s getting annoyed.”

White took his five-hour course on Monday. The instructor was 15 minutes late, and let the class out just 90 minutes later. (For those of you doing the math, that’s not even close to five hours.) “It clearly left a lot to be desired,” White said. “Anyone can pass this 15-question quiz, and you take this class from a rinky-dink outfit, and you’re on the road.”

Even though it’s not required for adults, White is looking to spend some time behind the wheel before taking his final test. “Maybe you can tell your readers I’m looking for someone,” he said.

Thanks to @Naparstek for flagging the CNET video.

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