A major reason for Israel's chronic road accident record must be the transport authority's utterly perverse teaching and testing policies. The rules of the road are often the reverse of those throughout Europe and the U.S. Moreover, I've met recent immigrants with a lifetime's driving experience, clean licences and maximum no-claims insurance bonuses in their native countries who seem to have been failed quite unfairly when they take their driving test. Why?
This is unsettling for those wanting a new licence so they can continue driving in Israel for social reasons.
However, it is nothing short of catastrophic for those who need to drive to - and more importantly - for their work. More and more people are beginning to believe that the Israeli driving instructor-examiner system is wrong if not outright corrupt.
One woman has demanded to know why during her test, she was in the car with another candidate and her instructor as well as the examiner. She was reduced to tears when the examiner grabbed the steering wheel from her and that her instructor told her - in front of the other candidate - that she had failed. She was convinced it was her fault, despite having driven safely long before either the examiner or instructor had been born.
Some people laugh when I suggest collusion between instructors and examiners; that perhaps candidates are failed at random so thy are paid for more lessons and the extra revenue then shared. It would explain why candidates claim they are given only one receipt for their final lesson and nothing to prove they have paid for their test.
But I'm not the only one to believe this. By a remarkable coincidence, there have been protests about this on a popular self-help website where a recently failed motor bike candidate voiced similar complaints.
Here's an edited version of the relevant passages (the names and districts have been removed) but I'll provide full details if the authors allow:
"Incredibly, I failed a motorbike test yesterday in ....
"Some background: 15 years on bikes, tens of thousands of miles in town and
highway, UK / Europe. Many advanced courses. I know my stuff - I
wouldn't normally 'big' myself up, but this is one thing I know well.
"My instructor was *very* insistent that I take another lesson before
the test, but I declined, as I understood what to do after our two previous
lessons. I understand that during the short road part, he failed me on
- Being in the wrong lane
- Changing lane so that another vehicle would have to change course
- Not giving way to another vehicle.
"I don't believe I did even one of those; let alone three - something smells incredibly rotten. I believe (but have no proof) that the instructor told the tester to fail me so he could get me to do another test and lessons. But how is somebody supposed to have proof? Nobody takes a video camera on test. Now I'm on a tightrope (if I fail again - it's a full test coming up) and I'm licence-less with my bike sitting in .... I'm Just wondering if (a) I can appeal (b) how paranoid I'm being, (c) what would you do".
A respondent commented:
"I doubt you're being paranoid. My wife had a similar experience when she failed her car driving test the first time. In her case she was unable to find out from her instructor any explanation (whether valid or otherwise) about why she had failed. We have no proof either but are sure the reason involves making more money for the instructors concerned. The second time she passed. One thing she noted was that instructors here teach students some driving practices that are considered completely wrong and dangerous in other countries".
The motorcyclist wrote back:
"... This guy thought I should disengage the clutch when going around slow corners, and when I asked him if clutch-less gear changes were allowed, he looked at me like I'm from another planet. I'm tempted to consult a lawyer (there is one in the family). Somebody has to be accountable for this".
Another contributor added:
"There was a Kolbotech "expose" a few years back about the corruption between the instructors and the testers. I also know quite a few people who failed their first test (after only the minimum three lessons) and had to take more lessons to "polish up" their skills. There is NO WAY to prove it unless someone drives behind you with a video camera. Even then, there is always room for (bad) interpretation of what you do. My suggestions:
"1) SWALLOW YOUR PRIDE. This means when you call the instructor and he starts up about knowing that you needed more lessons, and that he just KNEW you weren't ready for the test, let him talk. Don't argue with him.
2) Schedule the new lessons and ask for the new test to be scheduled as soon as possible.
3) If you are allowed to ask for a different tester for bikes, then do so. You are allowed to ask that for cars ...
4) During the test DO NOT ACT AS IF YOU'VE BEEN ON A BIKE FOR 20 YEARS. Play "first grade" and drive slowly, responsibly and *confidently*. Better to drive the speed limit or a bit UNDER IT, than 5 - 10 KMs over it".
A further comment:
" I'd bet you the price of at least one lesson that he also told to you "trust your mirrors and DON"T look over your left shoulder" as well.
The problem is they simply have different teaching methods here which DO NOT jive at all with the safety we've had drummed into our heads all out lives elsewhere. As far as I am concerned, this explains the high accident rate here. The other problem is you have to do it "wrong" to pass the test. Just play stupid and make a point of having the instructor "practice" you on the three things you failed during every lesson between now and the next test, so you can "be sure you are ready".
"If you fail a second time, your instructor will look bad, as he signs off that you are ready, in his opinion (supposedly), so don't expect to fail again, as the first failure sounds like it's part of the (not so nice and unfortunately too common) game here. Take the advice of others: act like a newbie during the exam (go slower, make a point of doing everything the Israeli way, even mention that this is how you were taught here). Unless you are in a small area you are not likely to get the same examiner. But if you can, ask for a different one, it can't hurt. If they all know each other, it won't make much difference anyway".
By a further (only partly related) coincidence a contributor to the letters page of the latest edition of the Israeli English-language ESRA Magazine commends fellow readers to "Better Place" where visitors learn about the "future of the motor car, cleaner air and improving health in the community". While there, they are also invited to drive an electrically operated car. Israel is due to be the first country in the world to receive a delivery of such cars at the end of 2011.
Hmm! I'm not a driver. So there'll be no wheel spinning or "back seat" advice from me. I wonder though, what the rule is for drivers who plough into a traffic island, hurtle innocent pedestrians several feet into the air and then attempt to drive away from the scene of the so-called accident.