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Learning to drive around the world

Published: 27 Sep 2013

Learning how to reverse around a corner or parallel park on a busy high street might sound treacherous and fraught with moderate levels of danger. Possibly even ridicule. But spare a thought for those poor learner drivers over in Brazil.

You see, in Brazil, carjacking is so prevalent, would-be drivers are taught defensive driving techniques should they be set upon Grand Theft Auto style. Makes those pesky hill-starts included in the UK driving test seem easy, right?

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Well, it's not as easy at it sounds. TG staffer Nicola Hamilton is currently the only member of the TG squad to be without a driving licence, and no longer able to deal with continued office-based ridicule, she has taken it upon herself to get a driving licence. Quickly.

You can read about her trials and tribulations - including a one week intensive driving course - on, but while we're on the subject, we decided to look into how the rest of the world deals with learning to drive. And the results are quite surprising...

• In Finland, it takes a minimum of two years to obtain a full, unrestricted driving license. Learners are subjected to skid-pan sessions and night-driving courses. Difficult as it is to compare driving tests, Finland is, anecdotally at least, considered to have a world-class standard of driving.

• Some states in the US can issue ‘driver's permits' to teen drivers as young as 14 and half; for example the Idaho Transportation Department requires the completion of a six-month ‘Graduated Driver's Licence' programme to anyone under 17 who has not been issued a full driver's licence, the terms of which include being accompanied by a supervising person who's at least 21.

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• No country requires you to be over the age of 18 to obtain a driving license, although some US states will not grant you a full, unrestricted license until you are 21. Most US driver's licenses are valid for between four and five years.

• Driving tests in Japan are also conducted off-road, but on purpose built courses with simulated roads, rather than in a deserted car park.

• In Saudi Arabia, women are not permitted to hold driving licenses.

• In some countries it is illegal to drive on a foreign license. The punishment for doing so in Vietnam is a fine of 1000dong, or $9.50.

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• Provisional license holders in France are required to have completed a minimum of two years worth of training, covering no less than 3000km. They are also subjected to reduced speed-limits (110kph rather than 130 on the Autoroutes, for example.).

• In many countries, new drivers are required by law to pass a medical, and must have had their eyes examined by an approved practitioner (In UK, the instructor will informally ask you immediately before the examination to read a number-plate from a distance of approx. 20 metres. You can hold a driver's license in the UK and be legally blind).

• Until recently, India's driving test consisted of driving forwards through a pair of cones, and then reversing straight back through said cones. Some regions substituted cones for painted lines on the tarmac, as they were getting through too many (today, India's driving test is more conventional).

• Only recently has Nigeria made taking a driving test compulsory. Previously, licenses could be obtained for a fee of $30.

• In the Philippines, a full-license is called a ‘Professional License'.

• Australia's Northern Territory limits learners to 80kph - less than 50mph - in all instances.

• Restricted License holders in New Zealand are allowed to drive unsupervised between the hours of 0500 and 2200, and carry only specific passengers like their spouse or parents.

• A Norwegian ‘S' license permits its holder to drive snowmobiles specifically.

• The waiting time for a driving test in some large South African cities is more than four months.

• Some countries require drivers to study first-aid. The Swiss must complete a first-aid course before they're able to apply for a provisional license.

• In Russia (incidentally, one of the very first countries to adopt the driving license), drivers must possess a ‘certificate of mental fitness' and not have a history of substance abuse. Similarly, in Brazil, drivers have to pass a psychological exam before obtaining a license.

• As car-jacking is so prevalent in Brazil, learners are taught defensive driving techniques. Like the UK, Brazil uses a points-based system. Offences are separated into categories, earning the driver anywhere between three and seven points. If a driver accumulates more than 20 points in the space of a year, they are disqualified for between one and 24 months.

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