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New Turkish driver's license changes spark traffic concerns

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News | 7/14/2010 12:00:00 AM | Sera DE VOR

A new Education Ministry proposal to change the rules governing driving courses has raised concerns that obtaining a Turkish driver’s license will become too easy.

A new draft from the Education Ministry to change Motor Vehicle Driving Course regulations has raised concerns that obtaining a Turkish driver’s license will become too easy.

"This [traffic] terror, resulting in at least 12,000 lives lost and 200,000 injured every year, is now a national problem," said Onur Sezer, chairman of the Victims of Traffic and Traffic Safety Institute.

Given such high accident rates on Turkey’s roads, many have suggested that drivers should be better-educated to prevent accidents and deaths, yet officials are standing behind the new regulations, which reduce classroom instruction from 63 to 44 hours, Sezer said.

"The Ministry of Education needs to share with the public what benefits these changes will bring," said Sezer, adding that he questioned what scientific research and academic inquiry had been conducted before cutting the time spent in class.

According to the draft, the written portion of the driver’s license exam will be modeled on a central examination system similar to the university entrance test and the public personnel selection exam.

[HH] ‘New exam system open to abuse’

The new system is far too “exam-oriented,” according to Professor Dr. Süleyman Pampal of Gazi.

Pampal, who served as the head of the Gazi University Department of Traffic Planning and Implementation from 1994 to 2009, was part of a survey that tested drivers on their knowledge of traffic signs.

"According to our survey, only 35 percent of drivers knew the meaning of traffic signs," Pampal recently told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

The remaining 65 percent did not know the meaning of signs "but had passed the exam and had been given their drivers licenses."

"People learn the exam rules, but not the traffic rules," said Pampal, emphasizing that people cannot obey rules they do not know.

New drivers will also be able to take the exam online, but the "e-exam" also poses a problem because "the aim is to pass the exam, so people will find a way around it," according to Pampal.

"Thirty individuals were caught posing as students, taking the July 3, 2010, Motor Vehicle Drivers Course exam for other people," Sezer said, adding that cheating could become easier once the exam leaves the classroom.

As such, the new regulations are not a solution, according to Sezer, who said the changes would only contribute to an increase in traffic fatalities.  

Taking an opposite view, Ankara Deputy Gov. Fahri Aykırı, who also serves as the vice president of the Ankara Traffic Foundation, told the Daily News that the criticism was unjustified.

"I do not agree with the view that the new regulations make it easier to obtain a driver’s license," he said, adding that changes were "positive" and that the former motor classes were "too technical and difficult."

Noting that driver’s licenses should be given to "those who deserve it," Aykırı said educational projects were being conducted by the Ankara Traffic Foundation in elementary schools to prevent problem drivers at a young age.

Meanwhile, the motor vehicle classes taken at the mandatory course for a class (B) driver’s license will now also be part of the "vehicle technical" class. At the same time, the required 16-hour technical class will be reduced to eight hours.

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