These days, it seems like everyone has their own set of wheels. According to a recent Ward’s Auto report, over a billion people submitted new vehicle registrations around the world. So how do people in the various countries gain the privilege of getting behind the wheel of their vehicles? Here’s to shedding some interesting international light on the driver’s license process:
Getting a Driver’s License
The road to getting your own driver’s license varies throughout the world. Some countries have extraordinarily stringent requirements, while others have relatively lax requirements.
As ironic as it may be for a country that developed the high-speed Autobahn, Germany has some of the strictest requirements for obtaining a driver’s license, according to InterNations. For example, there is a comprehensive written exam that up to a third of all participants fail on their first try. German citizens are also required by law to take driving lessons, which can become very expensive. When it’s all said and done, the average German has spent over $2,000 and put in at least 25 hours of professional instruction and 12 hours of theory before finally obtaining their laminated card, according to German-Way.com.
Getting a driver’s license in Japan is also a stringent undertaking. The vast majority of Japanese citizens attend driving schools, which can cost as much as 300,000 yen, as Michael Mozzhechkov of Alien Times notes. The actual driving test itself is fairly comprehensive and it is not uncommon to fail the first couple of times before finally getting it right.
Meanwhile, the United States does things a bit differently. For instance, it’s the states (which are equivalent to provinces elsewhere) that issue licenses as opposed to any nationwide authority. In addition, the requirements for obtaining a driver’s license are relatively simple to fulfill.
Take Massachusetts, for example. According to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, the only requirements for obtaining a driver’s license is to have the proper documentation confirming your identity and date of birth, pay a $30 fee, take a relatively short written exam and then take an actual driving test. Driving-Tests.org offers plenty of detailed information for those who want to take a practice driving test or obtain a driver’s license in Massachusetts.
What About Tourists?
Not every tourist wants to hire a taxi or take the bus when they get to their desired destination. But with a vast array of drivers licenses from different countries with different requirements, there has to be a way for authorities in any country to know whether or not a tourist or expat has what it takes to safely and legally operate a vehicle in their host country.
An international driver’s license is a workaround to that particular problem. Used in conjunction with the drivers license issued in your home country, international licenses allow drivers to legally operate motor vehicles in over 150 countries, as AAA notes. These licenses also carry essential identifying information translated into 10 languages.
Once You’re On the Road
Getting your license isn’t the only hard part about being a driver in other countries. There are some strange driving laws around the world, so make sure you know them before getting behind the wheel in another country. Some of them make sense, such as the Scandanavian law that drivers must have their headlights on (even in the day), but some some seem completely illogical. For example, it is illegal to drive a dirty car in Russia, according to an infographic from Think Insurance.
According to News Corp Australia, it is illegal to eat or drink anything (even water) in Cyprus. Cyprus laws also restrict drivers who “unnecessarily” raise a hand from the steering wheel. So if you are driving in Cyprus and get cut off by a rude driver, shaking your fist or making a rude gesture could get you a huge fine. In Costa Rica, drivers are legally allowed to drive while drinking alcohol, as long as they are not “drunk.” Although, it may not be a good idea to test this rule.
America has it’s own set of crazy driving laws. CNN reported that in Tennessee, it is illegal to shoot any animal other than whales from a vehicle, despite Tennessee being a landlocked state. Other laws are vague, such as the one in Oregon that states car doors may not be left open “longer than necessary.”