Enough to drive you to distraction: Spanish driving test
Our expat blogger Sal de Traglia takes the Spanish driving test
The Road to a Spanish Driver's License (Part 1 of 2)
There are few things in life as difficult or intimidating as getting a Spanish driver's license. It's a bit like trying to solve Fermat's last theoremwhile sitting on death row in a Texas prison. If you don't believe me, just ask anyone who has been through
For purposes of comparison, let me describe the process by which I obtained my driver's license in the US.
I sauntered into the Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles facility two days after my sixteenth birthday. I took a short multiple choice exam in which a perfect score was assured by simply choosing the most conservative answer to each question.
I then proceeded to the behind-the-wheel exam, which entailed a ten minute drive through a parking lot with lines painted on it to simulate a real street.
The road test concluded with the ever-difficult manoeuvre of pulling up to a curb.
A hearty handshake and quick photograph later, I walked out with a warm driver's license tucked into my wallet; secure in the knowledge that the State of Pennsylvania deemed me fit to propel a 3,000 pound hunk of mechanized metal wherever and whenever I pleased.
The entire process took forty-five minutes and cost me $30.
With this benchmark in mind, let's turn our attention to the finer points of obtaining a driver's license in Spain.
THE DRIVING SCHOOL:
First, you must join a driving school. This is required whether you are a first time driver or, like me, had been driving in another country for nearly twenty years.
The reason is that you'll need their car. Spanish authorities require that examinees take the behind-the-wheel portion of the driving exam in a car that has a second brake, accelerator and clutch on the passenger side.
I don't know about you, but there's no vehicle fitting this description parked in my garage. Fortunately, for a fee of multiple hundreds of Euros, any driving school will be pleased to lend you its car and will toss in a study guide and some lessons (both theoretical and practical) to boot.
THE MEDICAL EXAM:
Once you've enrolled in a driving school, you must then get a medical and eye exam.
There's a cottage industry in Spain for doctors - some of whom may have even received their medical degrees from non-Caribbean countries - who specialize in medical exams for prospective drivers.
They advertise as much on their front doors. With regard to my own exam, the doctor certified me as fit because I was able to open the door to his office, and as having good eyesight because I was able to grasp the doorknob without first feeling around for it with my fingertips.
THE WRITTEN EXAM:
Now, the *real* fun begins. The written portion of the Spanish driving exam consists of forty multiple choice questions; at least thirty-six of which must be answered correctly in order to pass.
The scope of its questions goes well beyond the standard rules of the road.
Questions pertaining to automobile mechanics, first aid, and technical specifications for vehicles ranging from scooters to quads to automobiles to delivery trucks are not only fair game, but are fairly common.
Little wonder that the study guide I received from the driving school was over two hundred pages long, and densely packed with facts, definitions, formulae and statistics; all of which had to be memorized and memorized well!
And to make matters worse, each multiple choice question has at least two possible answers that you would swear - on your grandmother's life - must be correct. Having taken both the State of Illinois Bar exam and the Spanish drivers' written exam, I can say with certainty that I walked out of the former feeling
much more confident that I had passed.
But don't take my word for it. Here are some authentic exam questions taken from www.todotest.com and translated into English for your infotainment:
SAMPLE QUESTION #1: You are driving an automobile on a road that has more than one lane for certain directions of traffic. What is the maximum speed that you are permitted to drive?
(a) 100 km per hour, but only in the direction that has more than one lane.
(b) 90 km per hour, in both directions.
(c) 100 km per hour, in both directions.
SAMPLE QUESTION #2: You are driving on a road that has two directions of traffic and three lanes separated by discontinuous, longitudinal lines. When can you use the centre lane?
(a) Only for making a left-hand turn.
(b) For passing, making a turn or making a U-turn.
(c) For passing or for making a left-hand turn.
Do you see what I mean? The term "hair-splitting" comes immediately to mind, doesn't it?
Imagine answering forty questions like these while seated at an uncomfortable, government-issued desk while row after row of fluorescent lights hum incessantly over
With this background in mind, perhaps you won't laugh quite so heartily when I tell you that I - after four months (FOUR MONTHS!) of diligent study and memorization -nonetheless failed the damn thing on my first try.
I did, however, squeak by with a passing score on the second try. Countless others have not been so fortunate.
[Coming in two weeks...the Behind-the-Wheel Exam!]